SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains a thorough description of "Amazing Spider-Man 2" footage screened during a press event.
Amid the heat of Los Angeles on what should have been a cool late winter's day, a select number of journalists were able to bask under the theater air conditioner at Sony Pictures. Those lucky few were treated to 20 minutes of footage from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," Sony's fifth addition to their licensed, ever-lucrative Marvel franchise and the anticipated sequel to the 2012 reboot.
There are many questions Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) wants answers for following the first film, and one of those is shown to audiences within the first few minutes of the new installment. The story starts with Peter's parents Richard and Mary quickly trying to cover their tracks, hiding their mysterious research and leaving New York City. We see a young Peter Parker, confused about what's going on and ultimately left under the care of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). It doesn't stop there.
The movie cuts to Richard and Mary sitting in a private jet, trying to send off the last bit of computer information they need so they can begin their new lives, hidden away from the world. Before Richard can let the last file send, he comes to discover that there's an assassin on board who kills the pilot and hopes to do the same with the couple. A short fight breaks out on the plane, but nobody is left alive. As the plane nosedives towards the ground, Richard Parker is able to send out the mysterious "Roosevelt" file before accepting his fate.
Eager fans were curious about Sony Pictures and director Marc Webb's decision to conceal the story of Peter Parker's parents in the original "Amazing Spider-Man." It was hyped up in the marketing for the film, but audiences didn't get a proper explanation of their fate.
"We had a plan about how to let that unfold, sort of the long shadow that was cast over Peter Parker's life," Webb told reporters at the event. "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. 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."
The next scene showed Spider-Man swinging around New York City, catching wind of a police dispatch radio alerting them to a robbery. Viewers then see the first glimpse of the incredibly pissed-off Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti, the movie's Rhino), spitting out Russian with his own heavy rock music theme playing in the background. Spider-Man quickly catches up to our newest villain, who's snagged quite a few plutonium tubes from Oscorp and tries to talk him down to no avail. It doesn't help that Spider-Man is being his usual witty self when talking to Aleksei, which brings out the comedy aspect of our web-slinging hero.
"Something fundamental about Spider-Man, as you guys know, is his wit and his quips," Webb said. "It's also a part of his character. It's how he provokes villains -- in particular that's how he puts them on their heels, particularly with Rhino. It's particularly convenient because he's such a dumb villain that he can provoke them in that way."
Webb continued, "We 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, is that you get a roundtable of comedians and you just have them spit jokes out. We would use that to try them out with Andrew and see what works." Another part that works is the spectacle, the grand scale of this sequel when the fight to stop Aleksei continues as Spidey tries to wrap this up in enough time to attend his own high school graduation. Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is calling him, worried that he won't be able to make it in time. While she's on the phone with him, Spider-Man looks over at a cop and sees Gwen's dead father, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), but quickly snaps out of it.
One aspect about "The Amazing Spider-Man" franchise that stood out for many was the idea of having a younger, fresh set of faces to play the lead characters. With Peter and Gwen graduating high school in the sequel's first 15 minutes, some might argue the idea of keeping these characters young has been abandoned, but Webb says that's not the case.
"Listen, our actors are getting a little bit older," he said. "We're also trying to find stations in life. Important moments for them to emerge from and we did spend the whole first movie in high school. It's not that much further into their future but to be honest, there's a thematic resonance with people moving on, with graduation, that felt very potent for us. The graduation speech was a way to sort of introduce the universe in an interesting way, and it just felt right."
Before Spider-Man captures the villain, he saves the life of the meek-looking Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). Spider-Man says a few words of encouragement to him, making Max extremely happy, and runs off. The scene ends with Spider-Man hilariously pulling the pants off of a furious Aleksei and running back to his graduation. At one point Peter almost forgets to take his mask off, in which fans are treated to the customary Stan Lee cameo. We see the Marvel legend sitting in the audience of proud parents, quickly getting out of his seat and saying "I think I know that guy!"
The next scene brings us to the halfway point of the film, where our hero and Gwen have been spending some time apart. When Peter looks across the street and sees Gwen for the first time, he's lost in a daze. The two have a flirty conversation, but a few streets over Max Dillon is having his own problems as he begins to discover his new powers as the villain Electro; the film's primary antagonist.
"It was about finding a villain, 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 bit of a tease of it -- but it was really villains and heroes often are foils for each other, and there's layers between layers of that," Webb explained. "It had a lot to do with Max Dillon, and it has to do with Electro and he's an incredibly visual villain. He needs to be seen, which is the heart of this character, and has a relationship to Peter Parker's theme and Peter Parker's journey."
Electro makes his way over to Times Square and begins to drain the electricity out of the jumbo television screens. When the NYPD try to stop him, Electro blasts them away. Peter's spider-sense begins tingling, and before he could reconcile with Gwen and tell her not to move to England, he's ran off. Spider-Man saves a couple officers then attempts to calm Electro down, but doesn't know that somebody's filming him nearby. When Electro gets a good look at himself on the jumbo screens across Times Square, he believes Spider-Man is out to get him and begins attacking everybody left and right, accompanied by dubstep music.
The long battle continues as Spider-Man saves a number of people on a staircase, mere seconds from getting electrocuted by our villain. The film transitions to a 360-degree shot of each person, and how they're saved within seconds thanks to Spider-Man.
"It's about the audience feeling what Spider-Man feels, which is why the point of view shots came from the first movie," Webb said. "It's that philosophy of filmmaking, it's trying to get people as closely aligned to what Peter Parker and Spider-Man experience as possible, and that was a cinematic type of language I wanted to use in order to induce that feeling and get what's Spider-sense. It's the visual representation of spider-sense, and it happens in a split second. He's aware of impending physical trauma or violence and yes, he's able to react to that."
The battle against Spider-Man and Electro isn't over yet, but our hero is able to save quite a few people in the process. Then we see our last scene where a beaten up Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) persuades Electro to join his side in order to defeat Spider-Man. Electro doesn't care about Harry's ulterior motives, only the opportunity to possibly gain a friend who won't betray him the way Spider-Man did, which Harry understands.
Marc Webb provided a little bit of detail as to audiences feeling sympathetic towards Electro: "To understand Electro is to understand Max Dillon, and as Jamie [Foxx] has said ---and Jamie has been really a great component in this and a great partner in trying to generate the movie -- Max Dillon's character has sort of been ignored by the world. Forgotten by people. He's an outcast, much in the way that Peter Parker is an outcast. He chooses to react to that in a little bit of a different way. There's a wonderful pathos that Jamie enables in the beginning of the film, and you haven't seen that part yet - you really feel for him but there's also a psychosis. There's something bad about him, and that eventually gets the better of him."
The remainder of the scene contained the last 15 seconds of the final trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," released earlier today. Webb has already signed on to direct the third "Amazing Spider-Man" film, but many are curious about his involvement in the future films, including the spinoffs.
"Myself, my partners at Sony, Avi [Arad] and Matthew [Tolmach], we've been trying to figure out how to develop a larger universe," he said. "There's some very exciting things coming around the corner with the Sinister Six and future Spider-Man movies. I want to be involved in any way I possibly can. We were already talking, we've had these really wonderful discussions with them and there's been some announcements with Alex [Kurtzman] and [Robert Orci] and Drew Goddard and a lot of these really brilliant minds, young and emerging who I think who are helping us develop something a little bit more elaborate and exciting. It's just been a blast. It's really a dream come true. I've kind of had fantasies about what we could do, and they're slowly coming to reality. I'm really excited about that."
Webb also addressed Chris Cooper's role as Norman Osborn -- the most famous Green Goblin and Spider-Man's traditional archenemy -- but declined to divulege too many details on the character's role.
"Norman Osborn is played by Chris Cooper, who has a really interesting component," Webb said. "We have to be very careful about what we reveal, and we get a lot of flack sometimes for talking about too many things, but we also got to enthuse people to see the movie, and so in keeping with trying to make that cinematic experience for everybody at home really special, I'm going to withhold that answer."
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is scheduled to open on May 2.