At a small press event in New York, Sony Pictures invited about twenty members of the media to check out the first 15 minutes or so of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, plus an additional ten minutes of footage from the movie, equaling about three full scenes in all (we also watched the new trailer in 3D). The film debuts in the US on May 2, 2014, but press for it has been considerable.
Director Marc Webb introduced the footage, telling us what we’d be seeing – it would start with the very beginning of the movie, then jump about a year into the future, and finally finish off with a pivotal moment from late in the second act or early in the third of the film. After the footage, Webb did a brief Q&A, chatting frankly and intimately with the small group in a large theater.
SPOILERS ON for the footage! We’ll mark in bold when they end, as Webb’s Q&A wasn’t very spoilerish.
The movie starts in the past, and not with Peter, but with Richard Parker. Still at Oscorp, Richard deletes files off a lab computer, then destroys several tubes full of research. That research just happens to be several genetically engineered spiders.
Escaping the lab while alarms go off and areas get locked away from his access, Richard is next seen at the home of Ben and May Parker. His wife, and Peter’s mother, Mary is telling Ben and May some last minute notes about Peter. Young Peter tries to keep his parents from leaving, and Richard doesn’t say “I love you” or “I’ll miss you;” he just says “be good.”
When next we see Richard and Mary, they’re on a plane (comic book fans know where this is going!). Richard establishes a satellite link with his laptop, and begins uploading data to a secret location he simply calls “Roosevelt” (the island maybe?). The co-pilot emerges from the cockpit with literal blood on his hands, and Richard tries to get the data off in time before getting attacked. A fight sequence leads to Mary shot and the data upload interrupted. Richard tries to stabilize Mary and starts the upload again, but their attacker gets up – not quite as knocked out as he looked. In an act of desperation, the plane already in a dive, Richard gets the gun and shoots out a window to distract the assassin. He gets the data completely uploaded just before the screen goes black in their firey crash.
The Spider-Man emblem shows up on the black screen, and zooms out to show Spider-Man in his costume-rippling dive, seen in many of the trailers and TV spots. Spidey gets word of a police chase, as a truck carrying plutonium from Oscorp has been hijacked (by the still-just-a-thug Paul Giamatti as eventually-Rhino). An extended action sequence sees the truck chased throughout the streets of New York while Peter also chats briefly with Gwen Stacy – who is waiting for him at their High School graduation.
After the day is saved, Peter arrives at the graduation just as his name is called, collects his diploma and gives Gwen a big, dipping kiss on the stage.
Fast forward one year, and the pair have been broken up that entire time, as revealed by Webb. They meet outside in New York’s Union Square, and there are instant sparks between them once again (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a real-life couple, as well, for those not in the know). They talk about trying to be friends, “finally,” and just as Gwen drops a bomb about an upcoming life change, Peter’s Spidey sense starts screaming (with a nice audio cue), and we see the clearly just-transformed Electro starting to sap power from Times Square. Spider-Man arrives on the scene just after Electro blows about 30 police cars high into the air. His powers are shown to be used in multiple ways, both as simple lightning strikes, but also as almost magnetic beams (he lifts a truck with one and flips it over his head). Just as it seems Spidey has reached Electro and talked him down, a sniper fires, and he goes nuts. Electrical discharge everywhere, a fight between the pair ensues with some slow-motion moments meant to show Spider-Man’s point of view and highlight some very creative uses of his webshooters and webbing. The crowd is notably behind Spidey, cheering him on the whole time. After the fight, we see Spidey and Gwen talk very briefly, and he walks away as the screen faded to black once more.
Finally, we saw a brief scene between Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and a captive Electro (Jamie Foxx). Harry is beat up and scarred, and has a mad-on for Spider-Man. He’s breaking Electro out so that he can help get him into Oscorp, which has been sold out from under him. Electro displays a new power, the ability to turn himself completely into discorporeal electricity, and the two agree to work together.
Overall the footage was very impressive, with a notable score by Pharrel, Hans Zimmer, Johnny Marr (of the Smiths), and Junkie XL. The effects work is more intricate than the first film by this team, with greater detail in every effect shot – the electricity crackles, and any metal or water sees it reflect as it is drawn to them. Spider-Man’s suit ripples and bends much more naturally, and the webbing looks more like it’s drawn in comic books – there were some sequences that looked like an old MacFarlane drawing come to life, with the little offshoots off the web, instead of just a plain, smooth line. The action is exciting and the quips came quickly and naturally. And the chemistry between Peter and Gwen is better than ever – it’s clear that she will have a major part to play in how he develops, and in the challenges he’ll face.
During the Q&A session after the footage, Marc Webb was first asked by Newsarama about the use of multiple villains, and what he felt made it important, and what made it work for Spider-Man in particular.
“Different parts of the character are challenged by different adversaries. Villain is sort of a simple word,” Webb said. “One of the great things about the Marvel Universe is the complexity of the villains. There’s a domestic factor, like there is with Harry Osborn, that makes those conflicts more emotional, and deeper. That makes it worth exploring.”
The first film gave Webb and his team a leg up on this movie, allowing him “to see all the eventualities that come our way.” He said that especially shines in the “scope of the effects,” using the suit as an example.
“In the first movie, I tried to think, okay, how would a kid make this suit? So that’s why he used glasses for the eyes. I think in some ways, that was a mistake. Hardcore fans have such a connection to the specificities of the suit. I sensed that and wanted to go back to something more iconic – it’s a little more the Ultimate than the Amazing style with a couple things,” Webb said.
He also said the chemistry between him and his stars opened them up a lot for the sequel. They wrote the script with “how funny Andrew is” in mind, and used the fact that Emma is “a wonderful actor, has a lot of depth.”
Webb said that looking at Electro in the comic books made him think “the cinematic possibilities of that character were just extraordinary.” He wanted to make him “explosive and interesting visually, but emotionally as well.” There’s a focus on Max Dillon as a character early in the film, and Webb gave a lot of credit to Jamie Foxx in the development.
“To understand Electro, you have to understand Max Dillon, and Jamie did an extraordinary version of him. He walks the line of giving us this intense pathos for this character, but also a madness there – he’s psychotic and dangerous. But he was an outcast, he was ignored by the people that should have loved him, which is the same story as Peter Parker,” Webb explained. “How they react to their situations define their character.”
Webb also praised Giamatti, and said he’s part of the “very careful plan of how things will unfold.” The actor actually said on Conan O’Brien’s talkshow that he was a big fan of The Rhino, and they wrote it into the script with him in mind.
Webb made a concerted effort to make this movie feel more like a comic book, with more spectacular effects and varied camera angles.
“The powerplant sequence at the end, you haven’t seen it, but we unhooked the camera and just let it rip. It’s so much fun, it’s what I wanted to do.” Webb said that the character work was taken care of by the talent of the actors, so he could focus on the spectacle that the “12 year-old kid” in him thought was so cool.
He worked with much of the same team, and animators in several different locations. The effects look better, Webb said, not mainly due to new technologies, but more because he was able to give them the sequences at a much earlier point in development, thanks to increased confidence in how to play things out.
“The visual effects people were working earlier, so they had more time to complete it,” Webb said, noting that the rippling on Spidey’s back alone took “16 days to animate,” but was the extra detail that made it feel real, that “made the character come alive.”
He also said the animators have “huge walls with Spider-Man comic book art, full of his poses. Whenever we could, we’d glom onto a certain kind of pose and give that to the animators to use in a sequence.”
Knowing he’s now playing in a larger universe has Webb excited. He said it’s “challenging but it’s fun” to work within the plan of the Spider-Man movie universe expanding. Particularly, Webb teased, “there’s some really exciting stuff coming up with the Sinister Six that I’m really enthused about.” He said working with the Spidey Braintrust is “so f***ing awesome!” but that they’re being careful in how they plan things out.
Looking at the women in the movie, Webb said he loves the character of Gwen Stacy because she’s “so smart and such a firecracker.” He also said that Sally Field’s Aunt May plays a “really important role, especially at the end of the film.”
“When you have someone like Emma and Sally working with you, you have to give them something to do!” the director said.
The music by Hans Zimmer and Pharrel came because Webb wanted a mix of iconic themes and a “contemporary” feeling.
“I wanted people to leave the theater and feel like, thanks to the music, that movie world existed in the real world.”
Zimmer actually called in Pharrel to collaborate, and then brought in Johnny Marr and the DJ Junkie XL, and pulled all of them into his studio for “about ten days, and just jammed.” He said that it’s a “new process for a score,” and the music aficionado was clearly excited by it. In fact, the director called working on the music his favorite part of making the film. “I had such a talented group of people that I get to take all the credit for,” Webb joked.
There’s also a use of music specifically with Electro, which will show voices inside his head. It helps to demonstrate “the balance between Max Dillon’s psychosis and his pathos,” Webb said, and credited Pharrel for figuring that out. The musician wrote “notebooks full” of these rambling lyrics that are meant to be the voices in his head, and “the music literally became part of the character, and helped with the narrative.”
Secret identity is a big theme of the film. He said he wanted to have Peter tell Gwen in the first film, because “it didn’t feel real to me, to hide that.”
“He didn’t realize in the first film why he needed a Secret Identity. But he learns in this one…” Webb also teased that while Dillon’s civilian identity is introduced, he truly “transforms” into Electro and leaves a lot of that person behind. “Harry is a slightly different story, but I’ll leave that for you to see later.”