Since 2002 and the release of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, many powerful directors have forgotten the responsibility of great storytelling when it comes to bringing any known superhero to the screen. While there have been a handful of true classics in the genre (The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United), the blunders and critical "boos" have far outscored the standing ovations any of our previous comic book adaptations have received.
The Teens find us moving into another decade that, much like the 2000s, will be dominated by Marvel and DC Comic books coming to life and living inside our multiplexes. The interesting conceit is that we're not getting new superheroes, per say, but instead, a number of reboots and reinventions from just the past teen years alone. Soon, we will see a revisionist take on Fantastic Four, a new stab in the dark at Daredevil, and an Untitled Batman Reboot less than a few years after Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale call it quits this summer with The Dark Knight Rises. But first, on the ten year anniversary of Raimi's original Spider-Man, we are getting a whole new revamped take on Peter Parker and his amazing spider-like abilities.
Though a great film, one that pleased the trifecta of fans, general audiences, and critics alike, the story of Spider-Man is known by even the most causal passerby. The origins of Parker and the radioactive spider that bites his hand had already been told copious times, in all mediums, before Raimi ever got a hold of it. It's as well known as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and The Bible. Back in 2002, the idea of sitting through this origin yet again, even told on the big screen by the best special effects of the time, seemed like a chore. A necessary chore that we, as audiences, had to endure to get to the meat of some really great story telling. We took it in stride, and were rewarded with Spider-Man 2. Though Spider-Man 3 may not have lived up to expectations, genre enthusiasts were anxious to get to the next chapter of this grand cinematic saga with Spider-man 4.
That would never come to pass. Tobey Maguire grew old. Sam Raimi grew disinterested. And so Sony Pictures wiped the slate clean, bringing in a whole new cast and crew to, not continue telling this story, but start over from scratch. Which means that we once again have to suffer Peter Parker's origin story. It's something that has turned off even the most closeted fanboy. Because we are all simply bored to tears with it. We want new Spider-Man stories. Not a regurgitation of a movie we've seen a million times, and an origin story we've been told a billion times. Let's face facts. We can all recite it as scripture.
In a smart and welcoming move, Sony Pictures has acknowledged this aspect of rebooting such a well-known property. And now, they are using just that to sell the movie. The Amazing Spider-Man promises to be more than the same old origin story rehashed for a "seemingly" new audience, one that knows this exploited backstory just as well as any old man versed on the subject. Instead, they are selling this summer adventure as the "Untold Story" of one of the greatest superheroes ever created.
The Amazing Spider-Man exists within the same timeline as Spider-Man, but will delve into the never-before-heard backstory of Richard and Mary Parker, Peter's parents; ripe grounds for cinematic exploration an exposition. Here is a tale we've rarely seen, except for in a handful of comic books and an episode or two of the old animated series. It has sparked great interest within the genre community, and that enthusiasm is starting to leak to the masses. So much so, that Sony is now building their entire marketing strategy around it.
Today, February 6th, 2012, five months before its release this July 3rd, Sony has unleashed a huge campaign spanning the globe, offering select audience members a chance to see 7-minutes of footage, which "begin" this Untold Story of the iconic wall crawler.
Here, Marc Webb has created a film that is equal parts big budget special effects extravaganza and an honest follow-up to his critical indie darling (500) Days of Summer. Its about heroes and villains. It's also a love story, one that looks at a high school romance and the relationship between a boy and his surrogate parents. Through that, it looks to be more meat than sauce. While Sam Raimi did a great job of exploring the connection between Peter and Mary Jane, selling those films as a romantic superhero adventure, Marc Webb seems more intent on deriving great emotion from Peter's love for his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Maybe not so much in the comics, but in the original film this relationship was a footnote and a hurdle to getting our Spider-Man on screen and involved in some action. With Marc Webb's reboot, we are going to get an emotional drama that will drive home how impactful and gut wrenching the death of Uncle Ben truly is. It will act as the corner stone to this re-launching franchise.
The Amazing Spider-Man's big sell though, in terms of must-see summer fare, will be its long-stretching action sequences rendered in 3D. As promised by Marc Webb, the web-slinging through New York moments found here are a visceral treat not unlike an amusement park ride. There is a spark to the action that is unfounded and not quite like anything we've ever seen before. That said; the more intimate moments don't play quite as well in 3D. The 7-minute sizzle reel was presented in 2D with unfinished EFX work, and while the thrilling POV shots that take us through Manhattan demand to be seen on a giant theater screen, they don't quite have the same effect in 2D. It's the reverse for the other half of the film, though. Weirdly, the 2D plays better during scenes of Gwen (Emma Stone) and Peter (Andrew Garfield) interacting. It's more intimate. There is a moment in both the trailer and the sizzle reel that finds Parker sitting down to dinner with Gwen and her father Captain George Stacy of the NYPD. They argue over Spider-man's intentions. They disagree about his place as a crime fighter. In 3D, this moment is rendered distracting. In two 2D, there is no extraneous flare, so it plays as solid drama. In terms of the film's dimensionality, it's a mixed bag.
The trailer, which will debut February 7th at midnight (so you don't have long to wait) sets up the story that will unfold throughout the film. Nothing is really left to the imagination, and its all clearly laid out on the table. Marc Webb has gone the Christopher Nolan route, making Peter Parker a brooding sort of chap who lives in a dark hued world. Even the bright and poppy red and blue of Spidey's suit is dusted with a greasy coat of grime. Peter is a nerd of today, confident and self-righteous in his actions. He presents himself as deserving, entitled, and not in the least bit intimidated by his peers. When Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) demands that Parker snap a few photos of him bullying another student, Peter flatly refuses, and gets the stuffing beat out of him. He doesn't back down, he's just simply weaker than is opponent.
In the few moments that we see Flash, it seems as though he is being set up as a major player in this proposed trilogy, much the same way James Franco was used in the original films. Like Parker's parents, here's another character that hasn't been explored to his fullest cinematically. Flash's bullying isn't done with a comic book thrust. It's real, aggressive, and very mean spirited. Its what's happening in schools today. In terms of emotion and action, Marc Webb isn't playing around. There is no candy colored cloud surrounding these images. Its brutal in its honesty and realism, and until we get to the Manhattan web-slinging scenes, The Amazing Spider-Man doesn't even really feel like a comic book movie.
It does feel big, though. The overall scope is way more expansive than what we've seen coming from Marvel's The Avengers, and in terms of rich detail, it's cinematography is more engaging that what we've seen coming from The Dark Knight Rises. The Spider-Man scenes are going to get a lot of people really excited, because this isn't the CGI cartoon we know from Sam Raimi's triple feature. He doesn't ever not look like a real human being in a suit. And it's this tangibility that brings the biggest thrill in watching this first-look footage
We are, however, still getting an origin story. No matter how they color it. It's just not the same origin story we've seen countless times before, and it hinges greatly on Richard Parker's long forgotten briefcase. The contents of which lead Parker to the front door of Oscorp, where he befriends Dr. Connor, aka The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). It is here in the Oscorp Labs while revealing his identity to Connor, not while on a field trip, that Peter has his encounter with a radioactive spider. Dr. Connor, a reptile specialist, is trying to regenerate his missing arm the way a lizard might regenerate its lost tail. This leads to a mutation in Connors, and yes, his Lizard looks exactly like the toys we've seen. Also, in the quick moments we're introduced to, it looks as though Parker creates his webbing while working for Connors at the lab.
There are a lot of moments in the coming trailer that are given over to the fight between the Lizard and Spidey. If we're to judge this book by its trailer, we're in for some pretty nasty brawls between the two. The big 3D money shot finds Parker falling onto a skyscraper during one of these scuffles, nearly being smashed by a falling radio tower. There are also some neat shots of Spider-man utilizing Peter Parker's skateboard in a way we've never seen before in the comics or in the past movies. The action is fresh and raw, and so are the more dramatic elements, which seem to be bringing a nice ebb and flow to this retelling of the myth.
Parker doesn't play nice when he exacts his revenge on Flash in the high school, and there is some genuine chemistry between Gwen and Peter. It's all-believable, and the movie seems to be firing on all cylinders. It appears to be doing what a reboot is supposed to do, and that is to rejuvenate a flailing franchise. There is a buzzing energy here that is exciting. We can only hope that it's sustained through the movie upon its release.
The "Untold Story Beings" Worldwide event brought some guests with it, though a lengthy Q&A wasn't in the cards. Here in Los Angeles, we got director Marc Webb, whose sole question was, "What are you doing new with this franchise?" His response was what we've seen thus far seen in this new marketing strategy. The Amazing Spider-Man is new because it is giving us a thus far untold story about Peter Parker and his Parents' mysterious disappearance. And it's in 3D. And it has the Lizard.
Next, Emma Stone, who was being streamed live on the big screen from Rio de Janeiro, was asked what makes her Gwen Stacy different from the previous films' Mary Jane. Her answer was simple, "Gwen falls in love with Peter Parker, and MJ fell in love with Spider-man. Also, Gwen has a great relationship with her father. MJ had the exact opposite." Finally, Andrew Garfield appeared in NYC, home of Peter Parker, where he was asked why he wanted the role. His reply, "Who wouldn't want the role?" He then placed his hand on his heart, as if reciting the pledge of alliance, and explained that, "This role does not belong to me. It belongs to all of us. I am just the person in the suit, like Tobey Maguire before me, and hopefully an actor of half-Puerto Rican, half-African American decent after me." He then crossed his fingers and waved to the audience in a bit of wishful thinking that garnered quite a bit of applause.
Fans not at the event today will be able to see the full trailer when it is released worldwide tonight, Monday, February 6th, at midnight, though they'll have to wait for its theatrical debut to view it in 3D, which is the true definition of a must-see (in fact, I'd encourage you to wait for it in 3D, but I know you won't be able to contain yourself). If The Amazing Spider-Man keeps up the momentum seen in this just released footage, it will be the superhero flick to beat at this year's box office.