With The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers soaking up internet traffic worldwide, The Amazing Spider-Man seems to have disappeared completely from the public consciousness. Sony Pictures tried to do some damage control today by giving a ten-minute sneak preview of the film, with director Marc Webb and co-stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans in attendance across the world, simulcast from theaters in Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro and London. The goal was clearly to get word of mouth started for Amazing Spider-Man, which opens in just a few months, on July 3. Did it work?
Yes… Kinda. It was alright.
I’ve seen the footage, some of it culled from the San Diego Comic Con preview that utterly failed to impress me last summer. It looks perfectly fine. A lot of it looks really fun. I’ll describe it in just a moment, but suffice to say that I’m certainly more encouraged than ever before that Amazing Spider-Man could be a very fun, well-made Spider-Man movie. What they failed to do at the publicity event was explain why this movie was even necessary in the first place.
Batman Begins, for example, was necessary. Warner Bros. had run the previous franchise thoroughly into the ground thanks to rampant product placement and misplaced goofiness. There was no saving the existing Batman franchise. Batman, cinematically at least, was broken. They had to go back to square one and redefine the character in the medium of film. Spider-Man didn’t have that problem. Say what you will about Spider-Man 3, but it didn’t kill the character of Spider-Man. Spider-Man was just fine. He had a lackluster sequel – everybody gets one – but to the public Spider-Man hadn’t lost his overall appeal. So rebooting the franchise, even if Amazing Spider-Man really is, well, amazing, doesn’t fix anything.
In the extremely brief, fluffy Q & A following the screening of the new footage, Marc Webb was asked what they had brought to the Spider-Man mythos that we’d never seen before. His response was Spider-Man’s parents. We’d never seen them before, had we? No, we hadn’t… because he’s an orphan. They influence his psyche but not his teenaged or even adult life in any meaningful, direct fashion. It’s just a detail that the Sam Raimi film hadn’t fleshed out. That’s fine, go ahead and include it, but let’s not pretend that it’s anything akin to a game-changer. Amazing Spider-Man retells Peter Parker’s origin, and from the footage screened clearly integrates his origin into the complete film better than the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man, but it’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s just a different wheel. It’s hard to get excited about that.
What we saw (I’ll warn you when serious spoilers are ahead): Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) at school with his camera. He apparently works for the school newspaper. Flash Thompson – or his near equivalent – is beating up a kid and insists that Peter takes his picture doing so. Peter refuses and gets beat up in turn. On the grounded, beaten, Peter says, “I’m still not taking the picture.”
After a brief clip of Peter pushing Flash against some lockers, a scene played in which Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) tries to impart a life lesson about using power for petty revenge, before intentionally embarrassing Peter in front of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). What followed was a clumsy but successful flirtation. Later in the footage, Peter web-swings onto Gwen Stacy’s fire escape and claims he climbed up 20 stories because her doorman was scary. A particularly awkward dinner scene included a conversation between Peter and Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen’s father, who throughout the footage seems adamant about bringing the vigilante Spider-Man to justice. Peter goes to bat for this “Spider-Man” character, which does not win him bonus points with his girlfriend’s dad.
Further Gwen Stacy footage – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT – finds Stacy caring for Peter after what appears to be a particularly brutal fight. So we can assume she finds out he’s Spider-Man at some point. She explains to Peter that every time her father goes to work, she’s not sure if he’s coming home, so presumably Peter’s about to go do the same thing. He seems to blame himself for creating The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), but we didn’t see too much of the creature in this footage. The bulk of the action between them seems to take place atop a big radio tower. At one point an energy pulse is emitted from the top, not unlike the end of Bryan Singer’s original X-Men. So I assume The Lizard has a grander plan beyond, well, being a lizard. One of the cooler action moments occurs when Spider-Man is surrounded by police officers and unmasked, forcing him to beat them up quickly to avoid being identified. END MAJOR SPOILERS.
The web swinging looks as fun as ever, and once again we have a goofy montage of Peter trying to figure out how to use his spider-powers. There are also several shots of Peter inventing the web shooter, and when he actually uses it there’s a bright red LED light activated on his wrist, presumably to call attention to the action during the copious night scenes.
Everything else we saw involved random bits of action – debris flying about, beating up muggers, etc. – or scenes we can infer from the original trailer, such as Peter investigating his father’s mysterious suitcase. Apparently his father worked closely with The Lizard years ago, and Peter is able to help finish the work they started… which clearly backfires.
In short, there’s nothing in the footage that implies that Amazing Spider-Man won’t excel as a Spider-Man movie, but there’s also nothing that makes it stand out from the previous films besides the obvious, more naturalistic tone. I complained that the Comic Con footage looked unnecessarily dark and moody, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem now. The footage was textured with shadows but easy to make out through the 3D glasses, which is very reassuring. Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t quite look amazing, but it looks like a worthy addition to the Spider-Man film franchise. But nothing we’ve seen so far justifies the need to reboot the franchise as a whole, aside from a desire to recast Peter Parker as a younger actor.