No offense, Captain America. When it comes to superheroes with a Part Two reaching theaters this season, Spider-Man – for my money – has you beat by a costumed nose.
If you pay the slightest bit of attention to CinemaBlend, you know the deep admiration I personally hold for Marc Webb’s initial foray the comic-book universe, 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. In tone and texture, this was the Spider-Man movie I’ve been waiting for. Andrew Garfield personified the Peter Parker I pictured when reading Spider-Man comics as a kid. He was cocky, stubborn, determined, overwhelmed, and he used that biting sarcasm to hide the vulnerability and hesitancy that makes Spider-Man relatable. I thought Webb nailed the origin story, and with that film out of the way, I anxiously awaited his next steps.
This morning, Sony invited me to a local theater to screen 30 minutes of footage from Webb’s upcoming sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Similar events already had been held in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Our own Eric Eisenberg has filed outstanding coverage of these presentations, even dedicating the latest episode of the weekly video show Hero Blend to his reactions to the footage.
But I had to write something. I mean, the footage blew me away. Completely fried my brain. My expectation levels were at a 10-out-of-10 for this sequel as of yesterday. Now, they’re somewhere near a 25-out-of-10. There were so many little touches that Webb seems to be bringing to the sequel that solidify the fact that he has a firm grip on these cherished characters, this precious superhero franchise. Basically, if you don’t like what Marc Webb is doing with Spider-Man, then you don’t like Spider-Man, at all. Here are five things I witnessed today that convinced me fans should be in theaters on opening day for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Naturally, this thing is packed to the gills with spoilery conversation, so please bail if you don’t want to dig deep into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 discussions!
1. This is the best Spider-Man action we’ve ever seenWe saw three long scenes from Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, starting with the film’s opening sequence. I’ll discuss what happens before the title card in my second point, but for now, let’s dig into the action. After a brief prologue, Webb plunges us into a car-chase scene that has been featured prominently in trailers and TV spots. Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) has stolen something valuable from OsCorp, hijacking one of the company’s trucks. He’s now using it as a battering ram, and Spider-Man (Garfield) is swinging behind in hot pursuit. Some of this has been hinted at in the many (MANY) trailers and featurettes teased by Sony, but Webb has perfected the art of putting us in Spider-Man’s POV as he soars over Manhattan.
But Spider-Man’s hilarious interactions with Sytsevich in the truck, his rescuing of Max Dillon from a hurtling taxi cab, his prevention of a city bus smacking into innocent tourists… we haven’t seen action of this scale in a Spider-Man movie, yet. The pace is fast and furious. The visuals are fluid, to match Spider-Man’s movements. Webb’s first film was light on massive action set pieces, containing three lizard fights – the longest of which being the battle in the school. Go back even further, though. Compare the action on screen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to the Green Goblin’s parade attack in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man. It’s like comparing an iPad to an abacus. This is Webb’s appetizer, and it gets The Amazing Spider-Man 2 off with an explosive first step.
2. Richard and Mary Parker are addressed immediatelyAnd in a very clever way that reaches back to the first film.
Remember how The Amazing Spider-Man opened? With adolescent Peter Parker playing hide-and-go-seek with his father (Campbell Scott)? Only that game was disrupted by… a break in? How did the family not hear that? Where was Richard when that was going down? Was he even aware, up to that point, that OsCorp might be targeting his research?
Yes. To most of that. Webb opens The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with the story of the Parkers, and alludes back to that opening scene, wisely filling in some gaps (and maybe acknowledging that the foundation of the mythology needed a little bolstering if we are to move forward). We see Richard furthering experimenting with spiders. We see him trying to upload a very important file to something called "Roosevelt." And we learn the fate of the Parkers. Or, what we think will be their fate.
The dangling plot thread of Richard and Mark was one of the flaws critics pointed out about The Amazing Spider-Man. As was often the case in the books, the shadow that they cast over Peter’s life was present. But in a film, when you raise questions tied to a growing mythology, audiences tend to want answers. (Ask Damon Lindelof.) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins to give you some VERY important answers, and right away.
3. The Peter-Gwen chemistry is heartfelt (and will be heartbreaking)The second long scene Sony screened leads into Spider-Man first confrontation with Electro (Jamie Foxx) in Times Square. But before that, Webb gives Garfield and Emma Stone time to maneuver a wonderful conversation between Peter and Gwen about where their relationship stands, and where it might be going. These two are an item off screen, and their tenderness comes across in this scene. There’s an underlying tragedy to this duo that Raimi never conjured between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Webb wisely includes a snippet of Denis Leary during the opening car chase, reminding us of the promise Peter made to the late Captain Stacy to keep Gwen safe… a promise he likely won’t be able to keep.
Sony hired Webb off of the outstanding romantic comedy 500 Days (of Summer), and it is these intimate moments between two loving young characters that remind you why he’s a valuable asset to a franchise like this. We have to believe in Peter and Gwen’s love… because that way it rips us to shreds if – and when – he loses her.
I’m projecting here. I didn’t see all of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But I saw enough – and listened to the words of Gwen’s valedictorian speech, to predict that things will go bad for Ms. Stacy. And I realized, watching this footage, that eliminating Stone will be an incredible loss for this series. Is there any way they can kill Gwen, but keep Stone? Ghost Gwen for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and beyond? So long as the effervescent and adorable Stone is in the role, I’m on board.
4. Electro is an incredible accomplishmentSpider-Man has been lucky enough to have some incredible villains over the years, from Alfred Molina’s sinister Doc Ock to Thomas Haden Church’s underappreciated Sandman (who made no narrative sense, but was a terrific effect). From what I was shown, Electro is a fantastic addition to this criminal ensemble.
Foxx is unrecognizable as Electro, a neon-blue skinned shimmer of raw power who looks like he can do serious damage when cranked to full volume (which we see at the end of the Times Square sequence). The currents running through Electro seem deadly. At one point, Spider-Man tries to prevent him from stepping over a metallic grate, and you realize how dangerous this individual is simply by existing. Later in the footage, we learn how Max is contained in Ravenscroft, and that set up also speaks to his tremendous power.
The photo I picked above wasn’t part of our footage, but I think it suggests what Electro will look like when he is at full power (pun intended). It looks remarkable on screen, and will make for a memorable villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
5. The heroic score beautifully sets the tone of the actionYou can hear it in the clip I featured on the first page of this feature. Hans Zimmer worked on the score, recruiting amazing musicians like Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr and Michael Einziger to help. And the end result is majestic.
There is a moment in the footage shown where Spider-Man has to save people in Times Square from Electro’s blast. The villains power has lifted a police car, which is about to land on a stand full of innocents. In addition, members of the fleeing crowd are reaching out to touch a railing, which has been electrified. Watching Spider-Man twist and maneuver to protect these New Yorkers sold me, once again, on Webb’s ability to convey what it takes to BE Spider-man in a movie. But when Spidey "ticks the landing," so to speak, and completes the task, the score swells, and sells the moment.
You can hear a sample of the score below, and pre-order it on Amazon right now.
The Amazing Spider-man 2 footage was everything I hoped it could be. More, even. The movie opens in theaters on May 2.