Marc Webb Talks ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, The Film’s Big Scope, His Involvement with the Franchise Moving Forward, and More

By March 19, 2014
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Earlier this week, I was invited to join a handful of entertainment press on the Sony lot in Culver City to see some early footage of this summer’s superhero sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Director Marc Webb was on hand to introduce the footage and stuck around for a Q&A session afterwards, and while I won’t get into excessive detail about what the footage contained (I’m always of the mind that clips are better left seen in context of the actual film instead of in isolated segments), I’ll give you some broad strokes and the highlights in case you’re itching to find out what happens to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in his next adventure.

I will admit this right up front: I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of seeing some early footage from this movie. I figured the clips would be ho-hum, and the Q&A with Webb would be the real reason to trek across town. I was experiencing a major case of marketing fatigue (how many photos, trailers, clips, and images have already been released?) combined with a half-hearted reaction to the Webb’s first film. But holy crap: you guys, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks really, really good.

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We got to see the action-packed opening sequence, which delves into the mystery of Peter’s parents, something that the first film hinted at but never adequately explored. (It seems that many of the lingering questions from the first movie will be answered in this one.) That transitions into a great scene of Spider-Man’s first encounter with Paul Giamatti’s pre-armor Rhino during a police chase through New York City, which showcases some truly spectacular aerial shots of Spidey swinging through the city, and his trademark wit as he outsmarts and outmaneuvers the lumbering villain. This is crosscut with Gwen Stacy’s graduation speech, and Peter races back across the city to make it to the ceremony in time to accept his diploma.

Next, there was a scene of Peter and Gwen reuniting after some time apart, and the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is absolutely magnetic. They’re such a charming naturalism to the way they interact with each other, and fans who loved their relationship in the first film will likely be swooning for this couple all over again this time around.

Then we saw one of the film’s biggest setpieces, in which Spidey and Electro go at it in Times Square. The whole sequence looks terrific and the action is just about perfect for a Spider-Man movie, including moments in which one of Peter’s web shooters breaks and he has to think on his feet in order to save a group of pedestrians from being crushed by a car and electrocuted, respectively. You get a snippet of that in the film’s final trailer, which was released this morning.

 

Finally, there was a scene in which Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn interacts with Jamie Foxx’s Electro at the Ravencroft Institute, which should certainly have comic book fans excited about the possibilities of what might result from such an interaction.

Marc Webb stuck around after the footage to answer our questions, and I’ve compiled his responses for you below. He talks about incorporating The Daily Bugle, bringing on a team of comedians to write Spider-Man’s witty one-liners, his involvement with the Spider-Man cinematic universe going forward, and much more.

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About the classic Spidey elements that he didn’t get to include in the first movie:

Yeah, we’re developing the Daily Bugle. Obviously you’re going to get a little hint of Norman Osborn in this film, and the Daily Bugle is part of it. The big thing that I wanted to nail this time was the suit. I wanted to return to the iconography that we knew from 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 and we really did think about this in a longer format. Things like The Daily Bugle and the Norman Osborn story, we’ve been very selective about how to tease that out.

On Electro’s motivations:

To understand Electro is to understand Max Dillon. As Jamie [Foxx] has said – and Jamie’s been a great proponent of this and has been a great partner in trying to generate this in the movie – Max Dillon is a character that’s been sort of ignored by the world. Forgotten by people. He’s an outcast, much in the way that Peter Parker’s an outcast. He chooses to react to that in a little bit of a different way. There’s a wonderful pathos that Jamie enables at the beginning of the film – you haven’t seen that part yet – but you really feel for him, but there’s also a psychosis. There’s something mad about him, and that eventually gets the better of him.

On the film’s comedic elements:  

One of the iconic parts of the character that we chose to embrace, even in the first movie with that scene in the parking lot, but this one – something fundamental about Spider-Man, as you guys know, is his wit and his quips. But it’s also part of his character. It’s how he provokes villains in particular, it’s how he puts them on their heels. I think with Rhino, it’s particularly convenient, because he’s such a dumb villain that he can provoke him in that way. You always try to think about it in the nature of the scene and the nature of the character – that’s where the comedy emerges.

We did something that sometimes big comedy movies do, which is you get a roundtable of comedians and have them spit jokes out, and we would use that and try them out with Andrew and see what works. At the beginning of the process, we got some of the best comedians – it’s sort of like a private thing, you can’t really tell who’s in it – but these amazing, really brilliant comedians, many of whom are comic book fans, come in and help us come up with jokes, one-liners and clips that are part of Spider-Man’s universe.

On his involvement with the future of the Spider-Man franchise, including all of those spin-offs:

Myself and my partners at Sony and Avi [Arad] and Matt [Tolmach], we’ve been trying to figure out how to develop a larger universe. There are some very exciting things coming around the corner with The Sinister Six and with Venom and future Spider-Man movies, and I want to be involved in any way I possibly can. We were already talking. We’ve had these really wonderful discussions with – there’s been some announcements: Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci], and Drew Goddard, and a lot of these really brilliant minds who are young and emerging who are helping us develop something a little bit more elaborate. It’s just been a blast, sort of a dream come true. We kind of had fantasies about what we could do, and they’re slowly coming to reality. I’m really excited about that.

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About the decision to have Peter and Gwen graduate from high school in this movie:

Our actors, frankly, they’re getting a little bit older. To play around with that for too long would get to be absurd. We’re also trying to find stations in life. Important moments for them to emerge from. We did spend the whole first movie in high school, and it’s not that much further in their future. To be honest, there’s a thematic resonance with people moving on, with graduation, that felt very potent to us. It’s something that, the graduation speech [delivered by Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy] was a way to introduce the universe and the themes of the movie in an interesting way, and that just felt right. They were getting to that age. It’s about a gradual teasing of information, but it felt appropriate to watch that important moment in so many people’s lives.

Explaining “The Untold Story” tagline from the first film:

It’s a tricky thing, because [“The Untold Story”] was a marketing term and that was part of what we were trying to establish. Of course it was going to be teased out over…we had a plan about how to let that unfold, sort of the long shadow that was cast over Peter Parker’s life. We knew how this was going to emerge – 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 is developing into more and more interesting and nuanced things that I think the fans are really, really going to enjoy.

On juggling all of the characters and storylines, and the film’s runtime:

It’s going to be over two hours. I actually don’t know the exact number. We’re very careful to invest in the characters while keeping the story moving forward. There’s no one more acutely aware of that than me. I am, at times, impatient, but I also really value richness of character. That requires spending some time and being thoughtful about it. There is a value to understanding the first movie, but it’s certainly not imperative to enjoying and experiencing the holistic quality of the second film.

On the time frame concerning the development of the spin-offs:

Originally, it was conceived as a trilogy. We were thinking about three movies. Then we started messing around with this second movie, and there’s such an enormous wealth of information, with The Sinister Six, with Venom in particular, and we were just like, ‘We can’t cram it all into one movie. There’s too much richness there.’ So when we were talking about the beginning of the second film and plan out all the emerging storylines, it just started to make sense to invest in other stories. Venom, in particular, and The Sinister Six was something we always talked about, but we were just like, ‘How do we plan this out?’ and that’s where it started, the beginning of the second movie, in terms of developing the universe.

Why Electro being the main villain in this specific film works with the overall plan for the universe:

On the first film, I had an idea of how these characters were going to evolve, and I wanted to use Electro. There was purely a cinematic opportunity there that I thought was awesome, given where we’re at with visual effects and technology, that I thought we could do in an interesting way. Which I didn’t think existed until recently. There was an opportunity there that I thought was fantastic. So it was part of that that led into it. Then, when we were trying to crack Electro’s story, thematically, there was a resonance between Max Dillon’s character and Spider-Man. What is that villain going to bring out in your protagonist? How is he going to make that character more heroic?

But really, it was about this movie. It was about finding an adversary that was interesting, powerful, strong, but had a thematic resonance that was related to Spider-Man. That idea of an outcast, which you get a little tease of in this information, but it was really – villains and heroes often are foils for each other, and there are many layers to that. But thematically, it had a lot to do with Max Dillon and a lot to do with Electro as an incredibly visual villain. He needs to be seen, which is at the heart of his character. That has a relationship to Peter Parker’s theme and Peter Parker’s journey.

On the big scope of this movie, and whether he feels pressure to deliver huge spectacle action because of the other Marvel films:  

There’s always a 12-year-old kid inside of me that just wants more. Ten, no, fifteen, no – let’s get 80 cop cars and crash them all. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you do it. That also goes into the playfulness of it. It became known on set as the Blues Brothers sequence because of what you were talking about. It’s something that was fun. I wanted to start the movie in a more playful way, especially given the opening situation with the plane, because I wanted to bring it back to the playful part of Spider-Man that also felt big and action-driven. There are opportunities in action for certain kinds of comedy that you just don’t get anywhere else. But yeah, there is a pressure to do it, to let it be big and have fun with it. There was a joy that we really wanted to embrace, especially at the outset of the film.

How much of Norman Osborn we can expect, and whether or not we’ll find out who was talk at the end of the first film:

Yes, to your second question. Norman Osborn, who’s played by Chris Cooper, has a really interesting component, but 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, so it’s trying to make that cinematic experience for everybody at home really special, I’m going to withhold that answer from you.

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About the tracking shot showing Spidey’s perspective in Times Square:

It’s about the audience feeling what Spider-Man feels, which is why those point of view shots came up in the first movie. It’s a philosophy of filmmaking. It’s trying to get people as closely aligned to what Peter Parker and Spider-Man experience as possible. That was a cinematic type of language I wanted to use in order to induce that feeling: what’s the visual representation of the spider sense? It happens in a split second and he’s aware of the impending physical trauma or violence, and he’s able to react to that and that just seemed like the right way to do it. There’s a little tease of that in the beginning with the bus as well. But it’s part of a bigger thing, which is I want the audience to feel what Spider-Man feels.

How he uses the story’s iconography as a tool for what people already know:

I think it’s crucial. You have to think about the story just on its own, irrespective of what people’s expectations are first and foremost. 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 in their life, and a lot of people have, so first and foremost you just think about the story itself. And then along the way, there are certain teases and hints and acknowledgments that hopefully engender a level of engagement from the superfans. Because they’re always close to us, I talk to them every day and am aware of that and I want to make the experience rich for them. So there are certain references I guess you would say that we planted for people like me who are fans and interested in the universe.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens on May 2nd, 2014.

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.