The Amazing Spider-Man teaser trailer (which you can see here) has given us our first look at next summer’s reboot of Marvel’s flagship character, and it’s our best opportunity to see what the film’s actually going to be like. Let’s see what conclusions we can draw from it…
Back to the beginning
It’s clear that director Marc Webb’s reboot isn’t just setting the story in the “high schooler with superpowers” period that Raimi’s films glossed over – it’s going right back to the start of his story.
There’s more than enough material here to prove that Spider-Man’s origin will be a major part of the film, rather than the subject of an Incredible Hulk-style summary retelling. We see Peter in some kind of (Oscorp?) research lab. We definitely see the spider bite that gives him his powers. And we see the tentative discovery of those powers.
In many ways, it seems a risky decision. Virtually everyone who sees this film will know Spider-Man’s origin story. Perhaps that was true when Raimi did it, but he had the advantage of being the first person to do it on the big screen. No one vouches for the iconic status of Spider-Man’s origin story more than me – but do we really want to see it done again so soon after the last cinematic interpretation?
Admittedly, studios have groomed us to accept reboots of huge franchises in recent years, with the likes of Batman Begins, Casino Royale and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. But The Amazing Spider-Man is a test case of sorts. Can a character (and story) be recycled so soon without confusing, boring or otherwise alienating the audience?
By the time The Amazing Spider-Man hits screens next year, it’ll be fewer than ten years since Raimi, Maguire et al told their version of the character’s origin. If you’ll excuse some amateur demographic analysis, that suggests that the majority of the cinema-goers watching The Amazing Spider-Man will be same ones who were in the audience for Raimi’s films. Will they take kindly to being sold a story they’ve already seen?
Interestingly, the trailer clearly shows us two characters who were left out of Raimi’s version of the origin story – Richard and Mary Parker, Peter’s biological parents.
At the start of the trailer, we see Richard insisting to a youthful Peter that “It’ll be safer” for him to live with his aunt and uncle, and telling him that “There’s something your mom and I have to do”. Peter’s narration at the end asserts that “There are two kind of secrets – those we keep, and those that are kept from us.”
The strong implication, then, is that a component of this film will be Peter investigating his parents’ death. This has the potential to send the film in a very different direction to the Raimi era.
In the Marvel Universe, Peter’s parents were secret agents who died on a mission investigating the Red Skull. In the Ultimate Universe, Richard Parker was a scientist who created a prototype of the Venom symbiote as a cancer cure, but died in a suspicious plane crash after his project was taken away to be used as a weapon.
It seems likely that The Amazing Spider-Man will adapt one of these plotlines – probably the latter, given Peter’s discovery of something belonging to his father in the trailer (though it’s difficult to say what. Something related to web-shooters/web-fluid, perhaps?). It’s probable, too, that the film will tie Richard’s research to both Peter’s transformation and the appearance of the Lizard, the way the 90s Spider-Man animated series did.
Perhaps the most surprising feature of Webb’s teaser trailer is just how downbeat it is. Raimi’s Spider-Man might not have been the wise-cracking motor mouth of the comics, but his films were consistently light-hearted and funny. Raimi never forgot that Spider-Man isn’t just a burden to Peter, it’s also his (and our) escape from drudgery. Webb’s version of the character seems to be darker and more brooding. Surely, no one would be daft enough to think that just because dark and brooding worked for Batman, it’d work for Spider-Man?
And yet there’s Garfield, doing his best Robert Pattinson impression, all cheekbones, pout and staring into the middle distance as if concealing some deep emotional turmoil. Raimi’s Spider-Man may have been goofy, but that’s half the point of Peter Parker. He was never cool, he was the weird, geeky outsider. In publicity shots, Garfield’s Peter Parker looks more like the missing cast member of Scott Pilgrim than the nerdy, uncomfortable outcast. The teaser does little to dispel that appearance.
What we didn’t see
Perhaps the biggest indication that this is a teaser rather than a full trailer is the lack of any real look at the character in costume. Our best glimpse comes at the end, when a first-person sequence (Spider-Man by way of Mirror’s Edge) ends with his image reflected in a window.
Leaving aside how well you think that sequence works, it’s hard to accept this as the trailer’s selling point. After all, it’s barely four years since we last saw Spider-Man in costume on the big screen. Presenting it to us as if it’s a big deal is optimistic at best. Compared to Raimi’s teaser, which felt bold, original and exciting, this one falls flat (although, to be clear, it’s impossible and wrong to judge the overall film itself from just a trailer).
Mary Jane is also notably absent from the trailer. It seems that Gwen will be the primary love interest (we catch a brief moment or two of what appears to be Peter Parker eating dinner at the Stacy Family’s table), so where does that leave Spider-Man’s traditional beau? She’s definitely in the film, but perhaps not as much as we expected. Similarly, there’s no glimpse of The Lizard.
There are a few lines that might yet be attributed to a megalomaniacal Connors (“Are you ready to play God?” and “Do you have any idea what you really are?” – again, making Spider-Man seem more like a refugee from Twilight than a superhero) but it appears the true nature of Spidey’s foe is being saved for the full trailer. Fair enough.
Perhaps the most interesting thing we didn’t see in this trailer, however, is much influence of Ultimate Spider-Man. A lot of early speculation about the film suggested that the reboot would use that comic book rework as its inspiration, but between the “classic” take on Gwen Stacy, the inclusion of her family and the use of The Lizard as villain, rather than the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, there’s very little to delineate it as inspired by Ultimate Spider-Man.
Whether you think it’s a good or bad thing, it seems that Marc Webb’s Spider-Man is very much its own thing.
Next spring, we’ll find out just how true that is.
There’s lots more to read about The Amazing Spider-Man here.