Sony’s got high hopes for its superhero sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2: In advance of the movie’s May 2 opening, the studio invited a collection of writers and bloggers to the studio lot this past Monday to check out fifteen minutes of footage from the film introduced by director Marc Webb. But though those scenes contained plenty of web-slinging and villainous schemes, the real action may be yet to come: Sony is planning to expand the Spider-Man universe so that it can generate one sequel or spinoff per year, and Spidey 2 is the cornerstone of that new strategy. What do you need to know about this brand-new installment? Here are seven notable things we learned while watching all that footage (and the film’s latest trailer, which debuted online today).
1. Many of the new characters appear only briefly.
Fans fretted that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had bitten off more than it could chew by including baddies like Electro (Jamie Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti), and Goblins-to-be Norman and Harry Osborn (played by Chris Cooper and Dane DeHaan), and Webb admitted that his first goal was to quickly assemble the Sinister Six, a collection of villains that battle Spider-Man all at once. “Originally … we were thinking about three movies,” Webb said. “And then we started messing around with the second movie and there was such an enormous wealth of information with the Sinister Six — with Venom, in particular — where we were just like, ‘You can’t cram it all into one movie. There’s too much richness there.’ And so, when we were talking about it at the beginning of the second film, trying to plan out all the emerging storylines, it just started to make sense to invest in all the other [films].”
Once Webb knew he had more room to grow these characters over a criss-crossing network of films, he kept Norman Osborn — typically this franchise’s archnemesis — contained to a cameo that would pay more dividends later, and focused more attention on Electro and Harry, with the Rhino playing only a brief role in two sequences. “We really did think about this in a longer format, so things like the the Daily Bugle or Norman Osborn’s story, we’re very selective about how to tease that out,” said Webb, who also showed us an action-packed prologue about Peter Parker’s parents, paying off the backstory hinted at in the previous installment: “We didn’t want to blow everything out in the first movie.”
2. Webb has planted several hints about … you know what.
If, by chance, you’re going into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 utterly unspoiled with no idea what’s to come for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, then good for you! You should just skip on ahead to the next item (and also, stay off the internet for the next few months if you can help it).
For the rest of us, though, there’s a very big moment in Gwen’s arc that fans have been curious about ever since Emma Stone was spotted on set wearing a costume taken straight from the comic book in which Gwen Stacy … well, you know. The cover of that particular issue was actually one of the slides Sony had up on the screen before the footage began, and the studio has all but confirmed that they’ll be adhering to one of the most famous (and tragic) Spider-Man plotlines ever. In fact, one of the first scenes we were shown features Gwen giving a valedictory speech about how precious a life is because it ultimately ends. Are the filmmakers having fun with all that foreshadowing? “I think it’s crucial,” said Webb. “You have to think about the story just on its own, irrespective of what people’s expectations are, first and foremost. Along the way, there are certain teases and hints and acknowledgments that hopefully engender a level of engagement from the superfans.”
3. The leads’ romantic chemistry is still the best thing about the reboot.
Webb can very ably juggle an action sequence, but the (500) Days of Summer director feels most at home drawing out the tentative romance between Peter and Gwen. The real-life chemistry between Garfield and Stone received high marks in Webb’s first Spider-Man movie, and the two are back to their old tricks in the sequel, where Peter is trying (and failing) to stay away from Gwen, on her dying father’s orders. They can’t remain parted for long, and when the two of them meet up in Times Square as the prelude to an action sequence, Peter confesses to Gwen that he’s been secretly following her every day. At that revelation, she smiles. Only Andrew Garfield could make serial stalking seem so charming.
4. Webb’s got a terrific new way to convey Spider-Sense.
Of course, Peter and Gwen’s romantic tête-à-tête doesn’t last long: He’s called away to battle Jamie Foxx’s levitating Electro, who’s blasting cop cars right and left in a Times Square action sequence that sees its fair share of vehicular carnage. “It became known on-set as the Blues Brothers sequence,” laughed Webb. “There’s always a 12-year-old kid inside of me that just wants more. More cop cars? How about ten, fifteen? No, let’s get eighty cop cars and crash them all. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you do it.”
At one point, fleeing innocents are running up a row of bleachers to avoid Electro’s lightning bolts, and time comes to a halt as we move through the frozen scene from Spider-Man’s perspective: In the midst of the melee, several people are about to touch a railing that’s been electrified by the supervillain’s powerful touch. “What’s the visual representation of Spider-Sense? It happens in a split second,” said Webb. “We want the audience to feel what Spider-Man feels.” So after the camera darts to and fro, picking up each passerby who’s about to be electrocuted, time unfreezes and Spidey slings his webs to pull all of them back from the brink. It’s nifty.
5. Electro’s a bit one-note.
Not everything we saw in the footage worked, however. Though Jamie Foxx is completely invested in his performance, they’ve given Electro some really simple-minded dialogue. Before he’s bestowed with the power to toss lightning bolts, Electro is Oscorp flunky Max Dillon, an anonymous nobody whose mother forgot his birthday. All Max wants is to be seen and validated, and this movie will never, ever let you forget it. Early on, Spider-Man saves Max in the middle of a Rhino rampage. “You noticed me!” he murmurs to his web-slinging savior. Later, lit up as Electro, he sees his glowing face appear on a host of Times Square television sets. “They see me!” he says. And then, even later, when Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is trying to bust Electro out of prison with a pep talk, only one thing matters to this sensitive bad guy: “You need me!” We get it, Electro. We get it.
6. The movie is a lot more comedic than you might expect.
“Something fundamental about Spider-Man is his wit and his quips, but it’s also part of his character, how he provokes villains, how he puts them on his heels,” said Webb. That might explain why Spidey’s more of a yukster than ever in the footage we saw, although some of his jokes lean a little Catskills: “You can call me ‘Spidey,’ you can call me ‘Amazing,’ just don’t call me late for dinner,” he tells one villain. If you say so, Spider-Man! “We did something that sometimes big comedy movies do, which is you get a roundtable of comedians, and you just have them spit jokes out,” said Webb. “We would use that and try them out with Andrew and see what works.” Not every punchline arrives via dialogue, however: At the close of his battle with the Rhino, Spider-Man shoots some webbing at the baddie’s crotch, yanks his pants down, and exposes some cartoonish boxer shorts.
7. Andrew Garfield is getting older … and so must Peter Parker.
When Sony rebooted the Spider-Man franchise after three movies led by Tobey Maguire, the studio teased more adventures set in high school … so it’s a bit of a surprise when the second movie picks up on the day of Peter Parker’s graduation. Was the timeline advanced a bit now that the still-youthful Andrew Garfield has turned 30? “Listen, our actors are getting a bit older,” laughed Webb. “To play around with that for too long would get absurd.”