Earlier today, I had the chance to watch 20-30 minutes of completed scenes from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I also had the opportunity to chat with director Marc Webb about what I saw. So I’ll start with my spoiler-free impressions, and then we’ll get to Webb’s remarks.
1. Spider-Man looks better than ever.
Those that were skeptical of the visual effects in this film- which used to include me- have nothing to fear. It’s clear that the images we’ve seen- which some looked “video game fake”- were not indicative of the final product. The film looks stunning, and Spider-Man himself looks incredible. The physics of his web-swings around New York have never looked more realistic in any of the previous 4 Spidey films.
This one is going to be a feast for the eyes.
2. Spidey has a theme!!
The score is excellent. Hans Zimmer continues his streak of great work. From the snippets I heard today, it’s clear Zimmer brought the same A-game that he gave to Man of Steel to this flick. The modern, unorthodox touches provided by his collaboration with Pharell are also quite cool and add to the character of this film.
It was also cool to find out that the man behind the trumpet when Spidey’s theme plays is Cuban musical royalty Arturo Sandoval.
3. When Webb said in an earlier interview that he was embracing the spectacular, he meant it.
This film is bigger, more vibrant, more driven by the larger, bolder adventures found in comic books, than the first one was. This includes the tone of the film itself. In contrast to what we saw The Amazing Spider-Man– where there was some Twilight-level emo stuff, and darker imagery, this one has more of a sense of humor a more electric energy to it.
But that comes at a price.
Webb and Co have sacrificed realism for comic book movie-ism. So, to a certain extent, you’ll have to check your brain at the door. Which probably won’t be a problem for general audiences. But for viewers like me, it could prove troublesome. If you’re someone who gets pulled out of a movie by odd tonal shifts, lines of dialogue that are too on-the-nose, and you examine how natural something feels, then you may have trouble with this movie. For example, this is the kind of thing you’ll need to be able to overlook:
A massive crowd of New Yorkers, who’ve never seen Electro before, see that he’s got otherworldly powers and that he has the ability to bring down a 100 foot jumbo-tron down in the middle of Times Square. Spider-Man narrowly saves the police officer that was almost crushed by the screen. Do these people react the way real people would, and get the hell out of there and flee to safety? Nope. They stand around like fans at a pro wrestling show, cheering Spider-Man on instead of thinking, “Hey, that dude with the electric bolts shooting out of his hands is 30 feet away. I should get out of here.” If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, you’ll be fine.
As for the tonal shifts, I’ll use the same sequence. A mere seconds before this scene, Peter and Gwen were having a very serious conversation with very powerful implications. It was an emotional, almost life-changing talk for Peter. But then his Spidey sense goes off and he has to run. Does any of what happened a few seconds ago impact the way he handles Electro? No. Despite the fact that his heart is in a million pieces, we see him delivering wise cracks in costume a mere secondslater. This dulls the impact and dramatic weight of an otherwise masterful scene between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
And speaking of Garfield and Stone…
4. Of all the sequences shown today, the one that had my jaw on the floor didn’t involve a single special effect.
Unless you consider chemistry a special effect. My god. There’s a scene in this film that could serve as a master class in fine acting and chemistry between two leads in any kind of film. In a crowded comic book landscape, where we’re often TOLD that Super Hero Guy and Female Lead are in love because they’re supposed to be…Garfield and Stone show us what love actually is. The scene was so real, so genuine, so beautifully acted by two people that clearly have a special connection that I felt myself mouth the word “Wow” silently to myself in the theater.
5. You’re going to see the most inventive use of Spider-Man’s webs yet.
No real elaboration needed other than that. His web shooting abilities go way beyond what we’ve seen so far on the big screen.
6. The tone is not campy.
With the design of Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and the few glimpses we’ve seen of his Max Dillon characterization, many were worried we were getting another Jim Carrey Edward Nigma from Batman Forever. And with the bright colors used in this movie, it’s understandable that you’d think this film would have more things in common with Joel Schumacher’s Batman flicks. But no, the humor isn’t over-the-top campy. There is plenty of humor, but most of it comes- as it should- from Spidey’s quips. He’s got very loose lips in this one, and the jokes fly fast and easy out of his mouth whenever he’s in action.
I will say that there was a slight Looney Tunes-ish feel to his first encounter with Paul Giamatti’s Aleksei Systevich, but I’m hoping that’s the only instance of that.
7. The film looks like it will be a vast improvement over the first one.
No need to dwell much here. This movie looks great, has a greater sense of adventure, excellent performances from it’s leads, it dives into some of the mysteries that were annoyingly dismissed in the first (we’ll finally get that “untold story” involving his parents!), and looks a lot more sure-footed than it’s predecessor.
I skipped TASM in theaters. I won’t be missing this one.
Afterward, Webb came out and chatted with all of us about what we’d just seen. The director was incredibly gracious and excited to dive into the film’s themes and ideas.
My question to him revolved around the more larger-than-life feel of the film:
It’s clear that your philosophy has shifted between this one and the first film. Where you wanted something a little more grounded the last time around, you’ve said that you’re embracing the spectacular for the sequel. Was there something specific that lead to you shift in philosophies?
“There are just so many visual possibilities. I remember the feeling of reading the comic book. When you’re walking into the Spider-Man universe you’re walking into a dream world. There’s people made of electricity. Figments of the subconscious that are just jumping at you. It’s magnificent. I didn’t want to be bound. It’s very important to keep the emotions grounded, to keep the characters in a real place. And Andrew and them are so good at that. Sally Field is great at that. Jamie Foxx is good at that. So that was taken care of. But I wanted that spectacle. There’s the 12 year old kid in me that’s like ‘This is awesome. What can I do to have fun?’ and I just wanted to embrace that.“
He also spoke candidly about how his attempts to keep things grounded in the first film, in some ways, were a mistake. Specifically with regard to the suit, he admits that trying to retool it in a way that made it more practical was wrong. He realized later that people have such a connection with the way the character looks, and that he shouldn’t mess with that. This explains why we see a much more classic Spider-Man costume this time around.
Webb also addressed the topic of having multiple villains. He says his reasoning behind it in TASM 2 is because each villain is a metaphor for very different obstacles in Peter’s life. They all symbolize different challenges and they impact him in different ways. So as the writers look for ways of upping the stakes, they find villains that push several of Peter’s buttons at once so that he’s facing threats that are both huge and personal.
On the topic of the spinoffs, Webb couldn’t sound more excited. He spoke effusively about how fun it is to sit down with this great team of writers, and to map out this massive world. He said it doesn’t add pressure for him, to think of having to make a film that fits into- and builds– a larger landscape. On the contrary, he said that’s what makes the process exciting for him. They’re building a world, not just a common sequel. Webb loves that.
Overall, Webb says that the greatest part of all this- as he prepares to make the third film his final Spider-Man movie- is working with such a great team. The actors, the writers, the musicians, the effects people, etc. The spirit of collaboration, and the chance to create this vivid world together, are the things that he’s enjoyed the most.
And if today’s snippets were any indication then that joy, that fun, and that excitement is going to be contagious when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swings into theaters on May 2nd.