Even with barely any footage to show, The Amazing Spider-Man made the biggest splash at San Diego Comic Con last summer thanks to a surprise, heartfelt appearance from Peter Parker himself, Andrew Garfield. But with one of the most anticipated movies of the summer to promote, Sony staged their own version of Comic Con again today, staging 13 live events around the world in which fans (and press, of course) were invited to get an early look at the new trailer and a sizzle reel of footage, some of it unfinished, for the film itself. The trailer premieres at 12 am PST tomorrow morning, and the sizzle reel had a lot in common with the footage shown off at Comic Con over the summer. But there were also a few surprises in store for the screaming fans, many of whom started lining up at 7 a.m. this morning to get a look at the footage.
The surprise here in New York, appropriately enough, was Andrew Garfield himself, who's in town while deep in rehearsals for his Broadway debut in Death of a Salesman. Wearing a ski cap and T-shirt, looking visibly nervous but grinning widely, he admitted "I'm terrified right now," and explained he took the role "Because I'm not an idiot. It's a thing that everyone in this room wants." Streamed in by satellite from Los Angeles, director Marc Webb explained some of the ways the film sets itself apart from the previous Spider-Man films, including an emphasis on Peter's parents and "the emotional consequences of what it means to be an orphan." Webb seemed especially excited about Gwen Stacy's role in the movie, and speaking via satellite from Rio de Janeiro, Emma Stone gave a pretty concise explanation of the difference between Gwen and Peter's other great love, Mary Jane: "Gwen falls in love with Peter Parker, and Mary Jane falls in love with Spider-Man, which is a different thing."
So… the footage. You'll see the trailer for yourself soon enough, so I'll leave that to the imagination, but the sizzle reel was all new to me, since I missed out on the Comic Con panel over the summer. The only new footage seemed to be that of Rhys Ifans as the Lizard, the primary baddie of this story who also has deep ties to Peter Parker's father. Peter discovers a briefcase that once belonged to his dad and it sends him on a hunt for Dr. Connors, who worked with the late Mr. Parker and now seems to be on a mission to replace his missing right arm. As we all know, that experiment turns him into the mutant The Lizard, and the most action-packed scenes showed off Spider-Man going head to head with The Lizard, first on a bridge packed with innocent citizens and then (in what I assume will be the film's grand finale) on top of Oscorp itself. The most dazzling shot, which is also in the trailer, shows the spire on top of Oscorp crumbling, and Spider-Man struggling to keep his grip on the top of the building as it collapses around him. A lot of the shots in the sizzle reel didn't have finished effects, but that one looked glorious and perfect-- a nice, vertigo-inducing promise of things to come. The Lizard is revealed in the trailer in brief moments, so you'll be able to see for yourself what he looks like soon enough-- really, he looks fine. It's a CGI villain facing off against a CGI version of Spider-Man, and especially with the effects unfinished, it's hard to predict how that will play out. What we saw of Ifans's performance in the sizzle reel looks promising, so here's hoping that comes through in the mo-cap lizard as well.
It's hard to find Webb, who goes from the heartfelt indie (500) Days of Summer straight into this superhero epic, in the details of The Amazing Spider-Man, though a goofy and endearing scene in which Peter very awkwardly asks Gwen Stacy on a date comes close. And while the tone of the trailer is very high-drama, action-packed and maybe even a little too generic, the scenes included in the sizzle reel play a lot funnier and more human-- the Gwen Stacy scene is probably the highlight, but there are several scenes of Peter trying out his new powers that are similarly gawky and gregarious. Garfield may be even older than Tobey Maguire was when he first started playing the character, but he seems to better understand Peter Parker as a teenager, a little resentful when Uncle Ben tells him off, a little sassy when a criminal gets talkative, and maybe overly excited about his newfound superpowers. The sarcastic, clever Spider-Man of the comics seemed to be lost in the Raimi movies, and Webb and Garfield may be putting in the effort to bring him back.
But speaking of Raimi… it's hard to keep those films out of mind when watching footage from The Amazing Spider-Man, because it just hasn't been that long since we say Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. New York doesn't look all that different, technology hasn't changed that much, and for all the ways Webb may make the film tonally different from Raimi's films, seeing disjointed scenes like the ones in a sizzle reel, it all just looks so similar. To be fair, that really might not be a bad thing-- Raimi's films, until they went off the rails with the third one, were fantastic, and if The Amazing Spider-Man is the leaner, more energetic alternative to the Spider-Man 4 they were all developing, then we all win. But come July, no matter how good The Amazing Spider-Man is, the shadow of Sam Raimi will still be lurking-- it doesn't seem Webb is trying to reinvent things too much, so the best we can hope is that he's standing ably on Raimi's shoulders and moving things into the future.
During his brief Q&A moment, Garfield humbly described his role as "Just the guy wearing the suit," acknowledging his predecessor Maguire and expressing hope that next time, "It'll be a half-Hispanic, half-African American actor." That's a shoutout to the current run of Ultimate Spider-Man, in which the teenage Miles Morales has taken over the role of Spider-Man. It's also evidence that Garfield is very, very aware of his audience, respectful of the power of fans and maybe even a fan himself. Is that just canny marketing, right in line with the enormous fan event and the sizzle reel that highlights only the good stuff from the movie? Sure-- but it also feels like evidence of an enthusiastic, overjoyed heart behind The Amazing Spider-Man, a group of people handed an opportunity to reboot a franchise maybe a bit too early, but giving it all they have anyway. This Peter Parker might be mouthy and sarcastic, but he doesn't seem cynical-- and that, more than impressive effects or anything else, might be what I'm looking forward to about The Amazing Spider-Man.