While not a lot is known about the actual plot of the new film we do know that the filmmakers promise we will see the “untold story” of Spider-Man. But after fifty-odd years of comic books, countless cartoon series, and three blockbuster films, exactly what aspects of Spider-Man have yet to be told? From the previous trailer, and what we’ve heard so far from the actors and filmmakers at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con and March’s WonderCon, we know that the film will follow Peter as he discovers his new found powers and tries to unravel the truth about his missing parents, which is something that was not touched upon in the previous films. As far as we know, gone are the wrestling-based origin story, Mary Jane Watson, organic web-shooters, The Daily Bugle, and Harry and Norman Osborne, although OSCORP seems to play an important role in the plot. What has been added in addition to Peter’s parents, Gwen Stacey, and the Lizard, are Spidey’s sarcastic attitude, an overall conspiracy, mechanical web-shooters, an Ultimate Spider-Man inspired costume, and 3D, which marks the first time a Spider-Man film has been shown in the popular format.
Yesterday, I was invited to the Sony lot on behalf of IAR, along with several other members of the press, to screen the new trailer and speak with director Marc Webb about his upcoming film. The trailer definitely did not disappoint and has gotten me very excited about the film’s release in July. We had a chance to watch it in 3D and I think the impressive visual effects, as well as an opportunity to see our favorite wall-crawler swing off of the screen, will really blow audiences away. The trailer sets the stage for the overall conspiracy revolving around the disappearance of Peter’s family and his search for the truth. In fact, in one scene we see a shadowy figure ask the Lizard, “Did you tell the boy about his father?” That scene leads me to believe that there is actually a larger villain in the film instructing the Lizard what to do (think the evil Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back).
The new trailer also gives us plenty of chances to see Spider-Man in action and utilizes his sarcastic attitude, which is reminiscent of the character from the comics. It’s heavy on action, so Stone’s Gwen Stacey is not as prominent here as she was in the last trailer, however there is plenty of Denis Leary (TV’s Rescue Me), who plays her father, police Captain George Stacey. We also see quite a bit of Peter’s father, played by Campbell Scott (Dying Young), in flashbacks but not much of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) or Aunt May (Sally Field). The preview concludes with the mention of a biological attack on New York and a skyscraper high battle between Spidey and the Lizard. Fans will also be excited to watch the new trailer as it gives us our first full look at the Lizard in all of his scaly and slimy glory.
After the trailer, we had a chance to speak with director Marc Webb about it and the overall film. One of the criticisms of the first trailer was that it utilized too much Spider-Man P.O.V. and not enough of the actual Spider-Man, so the director discussed that issue. “We were still in production when we made that (first) trailer. So that was a very early rendering of some of the CGI. I wanted the P.O.V. stuff because part of the fun of this was to create the movie thinking about subjectivity, meaning getting to feel what Spider-Man feels,” Webb explained. “I thought that 3D was a really interesting way to exploit that. We spent a lot of time refining and just making that shit better. So there is that in the movie, but it’s a much more refined version of what you had seen before. It’s interspersed throughout the film. It’s not like the third act is all point of view…although that’s an interesting idea but I’m not that bold.”
When asked about the mysterious villain in the trailer that seems to be working with the Lizard, Webb simply said, “You’ll have to see the movie.” But he followed that comment up by talking about the difficulty of bringing the famous Spider-Man villain to the big screen for the first time. “There’s a lot that goes into it. I mean there was a combination of things. Big John, who was this guy that was literally a big guy named John, did a lot of the interactive stuff, because when you’re trying to interact with Andrew, you need someone grabbing him and to do those things,” he explained. “We would then replace him with a computer generated Lizard. But the performance capture was done with Rhys and we would shoot him in a similar environment and get his facial composure, trying to incorporate his performance into the Lizard itself. That takes an enormous amount of time.”
“In the comics there are different incarnations of The Lizard,” Webb continued. “There’s the (Todd) McFarlane one, which has the snout, and then I was interested more in finding something that could relate to human emotions, because I wanted to keep Rhys’ performance in that creature. Pixar does it extremely well, creating those emotional qualities within characters that are, essentially, computer generated. So Rhys’ performance is giving that nuance, getting the eyebrow tics and the looks. Creating an armature that can actually speak and lips that make sounds, it’s a very detailed and frankly tedious process. I wanted him to have a face that had a feeling and that’s the way I chose to do that. Then there are the physical components of it. I wanted to make him very powerful, and I wanted to make him stronger than Spider-Man, that was a really important part (for me).”
Spider-Man has always been one of the most down-to-Earth and relatable superheroes in comic books but with all of the spectacle that the film clearly possesses, Webb was asked about his approach to balancing the movie’s action with its emotional characters and their storylines. “That's the thing for me, the access point. I was always a Spider-Man fan, but I was a bigger Peter Parker fan. When you see the movie, I don't think anybody will be worried about the emotional part of it. There is an incredibly innocent and tender quality to Peter Parker. He's not a billionaire. He's not an alien. He's a kid and he doesn't have money. He has trouble with the people that raise him and he has trouble talking to girls. There's that intense relatable quality that's all throughout the movie.”
“I wish you were in the editing room with me,” Webb continued. “I could show you scenes that would describe it, but I think you guys have all by now seen the hallway stuff. That's the texture, for me, and it’s really intuitive. It's just something that I love in movies, that particularly romantic dimension. It's something that I'm very familiar with, girls and being made nervous by women. But again, there's that relatable quality. The interpersonal relationships that Peter Parker has are so simple and so domestic that it's a very fun dichotomy to play that big, massive spectacle alongside those very small moments. There are very real moments and in a very small way there's a small, intimate little Independent movie at the heart of Spider-Man. That was my access point. In the trailer, you want that spectacle and you want that energy because I think there's an expectation surrounding that, but as we get closer to the release, there will be scenes that show the more intimate parts of Spider-Man and show where the heart is.”
Director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man featured some great moments when Peter was first discovering his powers and Webb was asked if his movie also has that and how the director made those elements of the film different than what’s been done in the past. “There are elements of that. Listen, I wanted to do things differently. If we've seen the origin of Spider-Man, maybe we haven't seen the origin of Peter Parker,” the director teased. “There are certain iconic elements of Spider-Man that I felt obligated to honor. But, again, I wanted to build something with a different tone, a different attitude and do things in a little more of a practical way, especially at the beginning of the movie. There are elements where we spent a lot of time engineering and designing, sequences that existed within the camera that we just shot practically with him swinging on chains to help create that sensation and feeling of joy and fun, which is always a great part of these movies.”
Webb was also asked about his approach to Peter as a character and the choice to make him more of a sarcastic teenager like he was in the comic books. “That's something from the comics that I've always been really a fan of. Humor's a tricky thing because it's always very subjective. Everything in this movie, the first domino, is Peter getting left behind by his parents. I thought to myself, what does that do to somebody? How does that change your view of the world? To me, that creates a little bit of a level of distrust,” he explained. “It's a brutal thing to have happen to you. That's, to me, where he gets that outsider status. Then there's a sarcasm that comes from that. I think you guys have seen some of the car thief scene where that attitude comes out. That, to me, is generated from this chip on his shoulder. He's a little bit mean and he's a little bit snarky. But that’s an attitude that we can all understand and relate to. I think it comes from a real genuine place. That was fun to explore the humor but my point is that the humor comes from a very human real emotional place and it’s not just slapped on.”
The director went on to discuss his impressive cast, which includes two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field as the iconic Aunt May. “When you cast someone like Sally they come with a certain level of awareness and real genuine affection, which I think for Aunt May is an incredibly important thing to have. We all love Aunt May but I wanted to create a tension between Aunt May and Peter because once again, what is the reality of the situation. I thought, what would happen if you were someone who was in charge of taking care of a kid whose had a lot of tragedy in his life and who goes out late at night and comes back fucked up? You would be concerned! If he’s got bruises on his face what happens in that moment? That can create some tension but you want there to be love there and that is what someone like Sally Field gives.”
Webb also talked about his unusual casting choice of comedian/actor Denis Leary as Gwen’s father, George Stacey. “He plays the authority figure that he has made fun of for his entire career,” the director answered. “We all trust Denis Leary. He’s got this attitude but we love him. In this movie he puts pressure on Peter Parker. He’s on Spider-Man’s case. But you understand him. Good drama comes from competing ideas on what’s good. People have different ideas on what that is but if you put that together and they collide, and there is an honest difference in opinion, then there is something really interesting that happens there. I wanted to explore that as much as possible.”
In the comics, Uncle Ben’s death is really the catalyst for Peter becoming Spider-Man, but the trailer leads you to believe that in this film, his search for the truth about his parents is the true catalyst, so I asked Webb specifically about Uncle Ben’s role in the film. “The first domino in the story is the search for his parents. He goes out looking for his father and finds himself. That’s my tagline. But, Uncle Ben, of course his death… well you have to see the movie,” teased the director. “But, there are three elements that Marvel was very protective of and I think are very important parts of the Spider-Man origin story. Uncle Ben’s death transforms him and has a huge impact on him. That’s an incredibly important part of the mythology. I would never subvert that. That’s I’ll say about that.”
Since we were on the subject of casting, I followed up by asking Webb what it was like working with legendary actor Martin Sheen. “That was so cool. It was a dream. In between takes he told stories about Terrence Malick, about Apocalypse Now, Fellini, it was spectacular. That was one of the really joyful parts of making this movie was getting to work with Sally Field and Martin Sheen… and Denis Leary. They’re such pros. Again, with Martin Sheen, you think about President Bartlett (The West Wing) and he has that sense of benevolent authority. There’s something else that’s important in terms of the dynamic that I wanted to explore with Peter’s relationship with his absent parents. May and Ben are street wise, blue-collar people. They’re not scientists. Peter has this incredible scientific ability, which creates a little bit of a gap between him, Ben and May. I thought that was a really interesting thing to explore. What Martin was able to do, was to embody this blue-collar guy. There was some break between the two that was developing. Even though there was a great love for him, he knew he wasn’t the father that… he wasn’t Richard Parker. That crack in Peter’s world, that missing piece in his life was a fun thing to start off with.”
One of the most iconic aspects of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was of course the upside down kiss between Peter and Mary Jane, and Webb was asked if he felt any pressure to add such a moment to his film. “It's hard to compete with that first Spider-Man. So, that wasn't my primary objective. I wanted to make a movie that to me is about the chemistry (between Peter and Gwen) and that's the thing you rely on. Those things can happen, but I didn't want to use that language. I wanted to create a language of my own." The director also denied a recent rumor that the film’s final running time is only around 90 minutes actually confirming that “it's right around two hours.”
Webb was also asked, outside of the main story of the film, how much of a global view do we get of Spider-Man’s overall universe? “We spent a lot of time with the writers, coming up with a back-story and a world that could hold different stories if the series is ongoing,” he explained. “We plucked stuff from Ultimate Spider-Man, we took some stuff from the Amazing Spider-Man comics, and the we invented certain other things to make it interesting. Like, Gwen Stacy, for example, I looked more towards the Amazing Spider-Man because I just like the texture of her character in those rather than in Ultimate Spider-Man. I thought it was more appropriate for Peter. Whereas the body language in a lot of the (Mark) Bagley art I thought made really great reference points in terms of creating the physical identity of Spider-Man.
Finally, with the movie just a few months away and the possibility that it will give birth to another blockbuster Spider-Man film franchise, the director was asked if he has been involved at all with script development for a possible sequel. “I've been so deeply immersed in this one that I haven't really even touched anything,” admitted Webb. “There's talk, or whatever, but it's all just talk. A lot of that just has to do with schedules. I literally have been spending eighteen hours a day editing the movie. So, I can't give you any interesting scoop there. I wish I could.”
The Amazing Spider-Man swings into theaters n July 3rd.
To watch the new The Amazing Spider-Man trailer, please click on the video player below.