As you are likely well aware, by now, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 showcases Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his most epic battle yet with villains Electro (Jamie Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and even his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who we know turns into the Green Goblin at some point during the story.
Beware, there may be spoilers throughout the rest of this story, so if you don't want to know how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens, then stop reading right now. The rest of you, proceed...
One of the complaints about The Amazing Spider-Man was that it didn't really show much of this "untold story" they kept hyping, an issue that is addressed right away in the opening scene, which features Peter's father Richard (Campbell Scott), deleting files from a computer mainframe and destroying what appear to be radioactive spiders before swiftly leaving the building. We then see Richard at home, recording a video, when his young son Peter calls to him, and they both discover their house has been trashed, which leads to Richard and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) dropping Peter off with Aunt May (Sally Field).
We then cut to Richard and Mary flying on a private plane, discussing how life as they know it is now over, and they will have to be constantly looking over each other's shoulders. Before long, one of the "pilots" confronts Richard, and a fight ensues (he clearly works for OsCorp in some capacity), while Richard tries to upload a secret file known only as "Roosevelt." The file upload completes just before this private plane goes down...
Seamlessly, we're taken from that scene to present-day New York City, as the camera keeps slowly pulling back from the blue...Revealing Spider-Man's suit as he free-falls towards the street below before swinging into action. His "Spidey sense" picks up a hijacking of an OsCorp truck full of plutonium by none other than Aleksei Sytsevich, a.k.a The Rhino (Paul Giamatti). It's quite a wonderful chase scene, with Spider-Man literally popping up on Aleksei's driver's side, offering slices of his trademark wit while trying to put a stop to this chase.
At the same time, we get our first look at Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), carrying a number of blueprints through a crowded New York City sidewalk, and just before Rhino's truck is about to kill him, Spidey swings over and saves the day. We get a great scene where Max is in awe of Spider-Man, not only because of his heroic abilities, but because he's actually interacting with him, calling Max by name after seeing his OsCorp badge and retrieving his blueprints. After the self-loathing Max calls himself a "nobody," Spidey calls him his "eyes and ears on the street," before swinging back into action to stop this chase. Without spending much time at all, we get a very clear sense of who Max is before he turns into Electro.
While Peter was off making friends with Max, the chase is still ongoing, with a number of NYPD cruisers in hot pursuit, and, on top of all that, the plutonium capsules are falling out of the back of this truck, with a humorous and fast-paced scene of Spidey-using his web shooters to retrieve them all... when he gets a phone call (his ringtone is the iconic Spider-Man theme) from Gwen (Emma Stone), who is across town at their high school graduation ceremony, just before Gwen is about to give the valedictory address. The scene then intercuts between her speech and Spidey battling with Rhino (which ends rather humorously), with Peter showing up just in time to receive his diploma. Overall, it's quite an effective opening sequence, chocked full of action and wit that kept me thoroughly intrigued throughout.The second sequence, which Marc Webb explained is after a year of Peter and Gwen being apart, starts with Peter entranced by Gwen's presence across the street from him, as he wanders into oncoming traffic to cross the street. They chat and catch up, with Gwen saying she wants to be friends, although Peter has a few "ground rules." For instance, Gwen has to come up with another laugh, because hers is too adorable. We also see Electro wandering towards Times Square, literally causing every car alarm on the street to go off, as he keeps drawing power from the vehicles, before getting back to Peter, who admits that he's been spying on Gwen, to make sure she's safe, because it's the closest thing he gets to being with her. Sparks fly (figuratively) and he's about to kiss her when Gwen tells him she's going to move to London if she gets this scholarship at Oxford. However, before they can discuss it more, sparks fly (literally) at Times Square, with Electro accessing the main power grid, and Spidey is gone in an instant.
Before Spider-Man arrives, Electro displays his immense power by using the electrical current flowing through his body to lift a huge truck over his head. Electro is erratic and confused, claiming this isn't his fault, before, in a fit of rage, he causes a number of cop cars to flip over, with Spider-Man jumping in to save one cop from getting crunched by this car. Once Spidey arrives, Electro is visibly upset that Spider-Man doesn't remember him, as all of the video screens in Times Square are changed to live footage of Electro/Max Dillon getting what he's always wanted: to be noticed. After an eager sniper takes a shot at Electro, an impressive fight sequence begins, highlighted by Spidey saving a big group of people from touching electrified metal railings in an incredibly elaborate, super-slo-mo sequence that I can't wait to see again. Enraged that all of the monitors have switched to Spidey, Electro sucks all of the power out of Times Square, before Spider-Man shuts him down with the help of a fire hose and FDNY firefighters. This entire sequence should be worth the price of admission alone when this opens in May.
The final sequence isn't nearly as long, but it looks to be rather important in the grand scheme of things, even though we're not quite sure where exactly in the story this takes place. This scene shows Electro in custom-built restraints at the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, getting an unexpected visit from Harry Osborn himself. Harry says he'll break Max out if he can get Harry into OsCorp, since the company his father founded betrayed them both. After Electro breaks free from his restraints, we see that he now has the power to become completely invisible, as our sneak peek came to a close.
Back in 2012, Marc Webb held a similar presentation for The Amazing Spider-Man that I was very impressed by, although, when I saw the actual movie, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Although I won't know for sure for another few months, I don't think that will happen with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The proverbial ante is upped with the fantastic action sequences with a multi-layered story that expands this world exponentially, with so much left to be uncovered, such as the mystery behind whether or not Gwen will survive, how Harry's father Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) fits into the story, and how much Peter will learn about what really happened to his parents.
After the footage, Marc Webb returned to answer our burning questions in a Q&A session with the assembled press corps, which you can check out below.Can you talk about the classic Spider-Man elements you wanted to include in this movie, that you couldn't include in the first one?
Marc Webb: We're developing the Daily Bugle. You're going to get a hint of Norman Osborn in this film, and the Daily Bugle is a part of it. The big thing I wanted to nail in this one was the suit. I wanted to return to the iconography of the comic books. The Daily Bugle is an emerging force to be reckoned with. That's one of the fun things about delving into a universe like this. You can take more time with these things. We really did think about these things 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.
Max seems to be driven by this overall need to be needed by society. Can you talk about exploring that theme and how it manifested itself?
Marc Webb: To understand Electro, you have to understand Max Dillon. Jamie has been a component of this and he's been a great partner in the movie. Max Dillon is a character who has sort of been ignored by the world, forgotten by people. He's an outcast, much in the same way that Peter Parker is an outcast. He chooses to react to that in a bit of a different way. There's a wonderful pathos that Jamie embodies in the beginning of the film. You haven't seen that part yet, but you really feel for him. There's also a psychosis, and that gets the better of him.
You've really ramped up the comedy and the wit. It was there in the first, but you really took it a step further, so can you talk about developing that?
Marc Webb: This goes back to the other question as well, it's one of the iconic parts of the character that we chose to embrace even in the first movie, like that scene in the parking lot. Something fundamental about Spider-Man is his wit and his quips, and it's also a part of his character. It's how he provokes villains, puts them on his heels. With Rhino, it's particularly convenient, because he's such a dumb villain, to provoke him that way. We always try to think about it in the nature of that scene, that's where the comedy emerges. We did something that, sometimes, big comedy movies do, which is get a big roundtable of comedians and just have them spit jokes out. We would use that with Andrew to see what works, coming up with jokes and one-liners that are a part of Spider-Man's universe.
We already know there's The Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2016 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018, and spin-offs with Venom and The Sinister Six. How much are you involved with the extended universe as it is?
Marc Webb: Myself, my partners at Sony and (producers) Avi (Arad) and Matt (Tolmach) have 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. We've already had these really wonderful discussions with Alex (Kurtzman) and Bob (Orci) and Drew Goddard, these really brilliant minds who are helping us develop something a little more elaborate and exciting. It's been a blast. We've kind of had fantasies about what we can do, and they're slowing coming to reality. I'm really excited about that.One criticism people had of the first movie was you were promising the 'untold story' and we didn't really get to spend much time with the parents. In this movie, with that opening sequence, was that always the idea, to explain what actually happened with the parents?
Marc Webb: Yes. It's a tricky thing because that was a marketing term, and that was part of what we were trying to establish. We had a plan about how to let that unfold, this long shadow that was cast over Peter Parker's life. We had ideas about the pathways of these characters, but we didn't want to blow everything out in the first movie. Again, it's about creating a more elaborate universe, which I think the fans are really going to enjoy.
Can you talk about when the spin-offs were pitched to you, and how that affected you developing this movie?
Marc Webb: Originally, it was conceived as a trilogy, and we started messing around with the second movie, and there is such an enormous wealth of information. We can't cram it all into one movie. There's too much richness there. When we were talking at the beginning of the second film, we were trying to plan out all the emerging storylines, and it just made sense. Venom and The Sinister Six were something we had always talked about, but how do we plan this out? That's where it started, the beginning of the second movie.
You clearly have a plan for where you're going. How and why does Electro in this film works with that plan?
Marc Webb: In the first film, I had an idea of how these characters would evolve, and I just wanted to use Electro. There was purely a cinematic opportunity that was just awesome, given where we're at with visual effects and technology, I thought you could do it in an interesting way. There was an opportunity there I thought was fantastic, so that was part of what lead into it. When we were trying to crack Electro's story, there was a resonance between Max Dillon's story and Spider-Man. What is that villain going to bring out in your protagonist? But really, it was about this movie, it was about finding an adversary who was interesting and powerful, strong, but had a thematic resonance that was related to Spider-Man, the idea of an outcast. Villains and heroes are often foils for each other, and there's many layers to that. Electro is an incredibly visual villain. He needs to be seen, and that relates to Peter Parker's theme and his journey.
The scale of this is really enormous. The opening action sequence has a Blues Brothers amount of cop cars. Do you feel the pressure to go really big?
Marc Webb: There's always a 12-year-old kid inside of me that wants more. More cop cars. 10? 15? No lets get 80 cop cars and crash them all. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. That also goes to the playfulness to it. That actually became known on the set as the Blues Brothers sequence, because of what you're talking about. It's something that's fun, and I wanted to start off the movie in a more playful way, especially given the situation with the plane, because I wanted to bring it back to this playful part of Spider-Man that also felt very action-driven. There are opportunities in action for comedy that you just don't get anywhere else, but yeah, there is a pressure to let it be big, and have fun with it. There's a joy we wanted to embrace with it.We didn't see Norman in this footage. Can you talk about his role in the film? And will we find out who was talking to The Lizard in the final sequence of The Amazing Spider-Man?
Marc Webb: Yes, to your second question. Norman Osborn, played by Chris Cooper, has a really interesting... but we don't want to reveal a lot. We have to be very careful about what we reveal, and we get a lot of flak for sometimes talking about too many things, but we also have to enthuse people to see the movie. To try to make the cinematic experience for everyone at home really special, I'm going to withhold that answer.
In the Times Square sequence, we see this really intricate, slow-motion tracking shot that seems to be showing us a bit of Spider-Man's perspective, and how he sees things. Can you explain some of what you're doing with that sequence?
Marc Webb: That's very perceptive, and exactly right. It's about the audience feeling what Spider-Man feels. It's trying to get people as closely aligned to the Peter Parker/Spider-Man experience as possible. It was a cinematic type of language I wanted to use like 'Whoa, what's Spider Sense? What's the visual representation of Spider Sense?' It happens in a second, he's aware of impending physical trauma, and he's able to react to that.
Listening to Gwen Stacy's speech, we clearly hear hints of what comic book readers will think is either a tease or a way to subvert these expectations. In dealing with a character like this, to what effect can you use the iconography as a tool, for what people already know?
Marc Webb: I think it's crucial. You have to think about the story just on its own, regardless of what people's expectations are. The story has to work on its own. People have such a varying degree of understanding of this universe. Some people have never read a Spider-Man comic book, and a lot of people have. First and foremost, you think about the story itself. Then, along the way, there are certain teases and hints and acknowledgments that hopefully engender a level of engagement from the super-fans. They're always close to us. I talk to them every day, and I want to make that experience rich for them. There are certain reference that we have planted for people like me, who are fans and are interested in the universe.
That wraps it up from my day at Sony for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which hits theaters May 2. I was beyond impressed with the footage and director Marc Webb's ability to expand the scope of the action and the story in ways that will surely delight fans new and old.