PREVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

That time director Marc Webb showed us 30 minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

There are a lot of questions surrounding The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and director Marc Webb is prepared to answer at least some of them. Webb was on hand earlier this week on the Sony Pictures studio lot to introduce around a half-hour of footage from the new film to an eager group of journalists, including your faithful reporter for Den Of Geek. Webb took questions after the screening, discussing the scenes we were shown, the rationale behind the choice of villains in the movie, and how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 impacts the future of the franchise – and his own involvement with it.

But first, you want to know all about the footage, of course. We were shown three sequences, starting with the opening 10 to 12 minutes of the film. Surprisingly, the movie begins with Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidz), Peter’s parents, leaving their son with his uncle and aunt – sort of a restatement of a scene from the previous film. Richard leaves a recorded message (online?), and he and Mary are next seen on board a private plane, where Richard is fixated on uploading a file associated with the name “Roosevelt.” But the plane is a trap, someone has boarded the plane to kill them, and the couple get into a fight with their enemy that ends in a fiery plane crash.

That’s just the first half. We cut immediately to Peter (Andrew Garfield) swinging happily through the city in his Spider-Man costume before hearing of a truck full of plutonium that’s been hijacked from Oscorp. Behind the wheel is one Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), screaming and ranting in a thick Russian accent. As the truck careens through the city, police cars follow in hot pursuit and pile up in massive crashes behind it. Finally Spidey catches up, takes a minute to save poor Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) from getting run over, fastens himself to the top of the cab and goes into battle with Sytsevich. The scene ends with Spidey pantsing a howling Sytsevich and leaving him raging, while Peter leaves the scene and makes it to his high school just in time to pick up his diploma – it’s graduation day.

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The second sequence is the complete Times Square attack that we’ve seen pieces of in trailers and clips. It begins with Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) meeting for the first time in what appears to be a while, hiding their emotions behind banter until Peter admits he’s been following Gwen and making sure she’s safe even when they were not together. But soon enough his spider-sense starts tingling as Max, now fully in Electro mode, makes his way into Times Square and begins sucking power from a conduit under the street. Mass destruction ensues as first the cops and then Spider-Man engage with Electro, with Spidey first trying to reach out to him by recollecting the time he saved his life. But then a police officer takes a shot at Electro and turns the scene into carnage. Webb uses slow-motion tracking camera shots to give us a sense of how Spider-Man sees the action, which work effectively in the 3D image.

The final sequence gives us Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) as he visits Electro – restrained in some sort of lab at Oscorp – and commences a long dialogue scene in which he convinces Electro to team up with him and go after Spider-Man. Harry breaks Electro out of his restraints just as security officers show up, and we see that Electro’s powers have now expanded to the point where he can turn himself into pure electricity, disperse and reassemble at will. This last scene was followed by a trailer-like montage of shots from the rest of the movie, including several of Harry in Green Goblin mode, additional footage with Peter and Gwen, the Rhino armor (although we don’t see Giamatti himself in it), and more.

Footage strong points: Garfield’s Spider-Man is wittier and funnier this time around. Jamie Foxx looks pretty cool in the new Electro designs they’ve come up with. The action sequences feel massive – more so than the first movie – and really pile on the chaos and destruction. Footage weak points: the action sequences tend to get a little too busy and quick with more of that ADD editing that plagues so many modern films. Overall, there seems to just be a LOT going on in this movie – we’re not sure how this script is going to balance Electro, Harry, Rhino, Oscorp, Gwen, Peter, and the potential set-up for future films even if it does run two hours and 20 minutes.

After the lights came  up, Webb reappeared and took questions for about 15 minutes. Here are the highlights:

On incorporating more classic elements like the Daily Bugle and Norman Osborn:  “Yeah, we’re developing The Daily Bugle. Obviously, you’re going to get a little hint of Norman Osborn in this film. The Daily Bugle is part of it. The big thing that I wanted to nail this time was the suit, and I wanted to return to the iconography that we knew from the comic books, and The Daily Bugle is an emerging force to be reckoned with, and that’s one of the fun things about delving into a universe like this. You can take more time with these things, and we really did think about this in a longer format, so things like The Daily Bugle and Norman Osborn’s story, we were very selective about how to tease that out.”

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On making this film a bigger spectacle: “There is always a 12-year-old kid inside of me that just wants more. More cop cars. I want 10, no 50, no, let’s get 80 cop cars and trash them all. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you do it. But there is also the playfulness of it… I wanted to start off the movie in a more playful way, especially given the opening situation with the plane, because I wanted to bring it back into this playful part of Spider-Man that also felt big and action driven. There’s opportunities in action for certain kinds of comedy that you just don’t get anywhere else.”

On bringing more comedy into the movie: “Something fundamental about Spider-Man is his wit and his quips, but it’s also part of his character. It’s how he provokes villains, particularly it’s how he puts them on their heels. I think with Rhino, it’s particularly convenient because he’s such a dumb villain that he can provoke him that way, and we always try to think about it in the nature of the scene and the nature of the character. That’s where the comedy emerges. We did something that sometimes, you know, big comedy movies do, which is you get a roundtable of comedians and you just have them spit jokes out, and we’d use that and try them out with Andrew and see what worked.”

On Electro’s motivation: “To understand Electro is to understand Max Dillon…Jamie’s been really a great component of this and he was a great partner in trying to generate this in the movie. Max Dillon’s character has been sort of ignored by the world, forgotten by people and he’s an outcast, much in the way that Peter Parker is an outcast, and he chooses to react to that in a little bit of a different way. There is a wonderful pathos that Jamie enables at the beginning of the film and you really feel for him, but there’s also a psychosis. There’s something mad about him and that eventually gets the better of him.”

On how much he’ll be involved with the Spider-Man franchise beyond this film and the third one: “Myself and my partners at Sony, and [producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach], we’ve been trying to figure out how to develop a larger universe and there are some very exciting things coming around the corner with the Sinister Six, and Venom, and future Spider-Man movies. I want to be involved in any way I possibly can, and we’re already talking. We’ve had these really wonderful discussions and there’s already been some announcements, with Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci], and Drew Goddard, and a lot of these really brilliant minds who are young and emerging are helping us develop something a little bit more elaborate and exciting. It’s just been a blast. It’s sort of a dream come true. We’ve had fantasies about what we could do, and they’re slowly coming to reality. I’m really excited about that.”

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On revealing the fate of Peter’s parents: “We had a plan about how to let that unfold. It was sort of the long shadow that was cast over Peter Parker’s life, and we knew how this was going to emerge. We had ideas about the pathways of these characters, but we didn’t want to blow everything out in the first movie, because again, it’s about creating a more elaborate universe, which is developing into more and more interesting and nuanced things that the fans are really going to enjoy.”

On expanding the universe and introducing elements like the Sinister Six: “Originally, it was conceived as a trilogy. We were thinking about three movies, and then we started messing around with the second movie, and there was such an enormous wealth of information, and we were just like, ‘We can’t cram them all into one movie!’ There’s too much richness there, and so when we were talking about the beginning of the second film, trying to plan out all of the emerging storylines, it just started to make sense to invest in other stories, and then in particular, the Sinister Six is something we’d always talked about, just like how do we plan this out. So, that’s where it started, beginning of the second movie, in terms of developing the universe.”

On whether we’ll find out the identity of the mysterious figure talking to the Lizard in his cell at the end of the first movie: “Yes.”

And there you have it. With this preview and today’s arrival of the final trailer, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now entering the homestretch as it hurtles toward its May 2, 2014 release. Will this be Spidey’s greatest battle, as advertised? The footage we saw this week certainly hints at it. We’ll find out in six weeks…

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