One only need to skim the message boards for anything related to this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man to know what a marketing challenge Sony Pictures has in front of it. For every fanboy or fangirl who is already (mentally) standing in line to see director Marc Webb’s reboot of the masked web slinger, there’s another who is equally incensed by the notion that the world needs another Spidey origin story just 10 years after the last Spidey origin story, and five since the last Spidey film. Sure, awareness of the franchise likely couldn’t be higher, but whether audiences will make this new Spider-Man as big of a blockbuster as the last Spider-Man remains an open question.
So when you’ve got to make a big impression, swing for the fences. Today, at a global event simulcast across three continents, Sony unveiled the new 3-D trailer for the film, as well as a nearly nine-minute long, 2-D sizzle reel that featured an extended look at the electric chemistry between stars Andrew Garfield (as Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy). We also got our first look at the reptilian alter ego of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), i.e. the Lizard. Each of the main principals from the film were on hand in a different city for the event — Garfield in New York, Stone in Rio de Janeiro, Ifans in London, and Webb in Los Angeles — and after the trailer screened, they answered some softball fan questions with panache. The event was coordinated with a viral, quasi-guerilla promotional campaign that led to many locations running out of the free tickets within minutes. In Los Angeles, at least, that meant lines stretching from the mall multiplex hosting the event onto the street a good quarter mile away. So many people showed up, the event coordinators had already decided to keep screening the footage until everyone who’d signed up to see it had had their chance.
So let’s talk about the trailer. If you have a chance to see it in 3-D when it hits theaters this weekend, you definitely should, because it makes the best case for a live-action movie needing to be in 3-D since Avatar. You feel like you’re wooshing through the Manhattan skyscrapers along with Spidey — the camera never slips into the first-person, video-game-y perspective highlighted in the film’s first trailer — and the shots of Parker finalizing his web-slinger technology have an extra zap to them as the strands fly towards the screen. The two and a half minute preview focuses mostly on further establishing Peter Parker’s relationship with Dr. Connors — turns out the one-armed scientist was a colleague of Peter’s late father — and introducing Gwen’s father George Stacy (Denis Leary), the NYPD chief who is not exactly thrilled that a masked vigilante is running rampant through the streets. There are a few quick shots of the Lizard, but they’re all either in shadow or extreme close-up — I can tell you, though, that the reptilian baddie has a wickedly strong tail.
All told, the trailer definitely went over well with the fanboy-heavy crowd, although it’s always hard to gauge how much of that excitement derives from the footage itself and how much from the fact that they’re the ones who got to see the footage first. (Not to mention the fact that the film’s stars were making a personal appearance.) But I will say this about Garfield and Stone: These actors definitely know how to speak geek. (UPDATE: Click here to watch the new trailer.)
NEXT PAGE: “I’m just the guy in this suit. It could be anyone in the suit. It just happens to be me this time.”
Following the trailer screening, Webb, Stone, Ifans, and Garfield all fielded a single “fan” question from their city’s respective geeky moderator. Webb went first, and talked about looking forward to exploring what he called “the Gwen Stacy saga.” He elaborated: “If anybody’s familiar with the Spider-Man comics, there’s something really extraordinary at work there that we wanted to explore, which I think is really fun and has a lot of magic that is going to come through with that.” (Equally cryptic translation: Sounds like Emma Stone may be getting her own chance at wire-work at some point down the line.)
Stone went next, and fielded the most pointed question of the event: How is Gwen Stacy different from Peter Parker’s other love interest, Mary Jane Watson? Stone’s answer was just as pointed, and had the fanboys quietly buzzing: “Gwen is, I keep saying, the yin to Mary Jane’s yang. They’re polar opposites in almost every way. Gwen is the valedictorian and from a pretty affluent family, and she has a great relationship with her father, which is the opposite of Mary Jane’s situation. And Gwen falls in love with Peter Parker. And I think Mary Jane falls in love with Spider-Man.” Oooh, snap!
Rhys Ifans tackled the question of what makes the Lizard unique with a generic, canned quote — “All Spider-Man villains … are human, real, and flawed, but with Dr. Curtis Connors, what makes him have a more emotional presence in Peter’s life is he’s very close to Peter’s father” — that to me just meant Ifans isn’t exactly the kind of guy who’s used to speaking via satellite to fans in Los Angeles, New York, Rio, Mexico City, Madrid, and Berlin.
Leave it to Garfield to bring the same fan-centric, charming earnestness to this event that he demonstrated at the Amazing Spider-Man Comic-Con panel last summer. So, Andrew, why did you want to become Spider-Man? “Because I’m not an idiot,” he said, to knowing laughter. “It’s the thing everyone wants, everyone in this room wants it. And it belongs to everyone in this room, it doesn’t belong to me. I really mean that. The more of these kind of events I go to, the more I realize that, man, I mean, I’m terrified right now. This is so overwhelming, to be representing this symbol. Because that’s all I am. I’m just the guy in this suit. It could be anyone in the suit. It just happens to be me this time. Before it was Tobey [Maguire], and next time, hopefully, it will be a half-Hispanic, half-African-American actor.” Needless to say, this nod to the newest comic-book Spidey’s racial heritage was the best line of the entire event.
NEXT PAGE: Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s adorably awkward mating dance
Finally, Webb queued up what amounted to a eight and a half minute extended trailer for his film, and walked us through some key scenes that establish the different direction his Spider-Man will be heading from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. (SPOILER ALERT for anyone who’d rather not know all the details.)
We open on a classic school-yard bully scene: Peter Parker coming upon a mob of high school students goading on the mistreatment of a scrawny geek by classic bully and Spidey-comics mainstay Flash Thompson (The Secret Circle‘s Chris Zylka). Flash wants Peter to take a photo of his exploits, Peter refuses, and Flash expresses his disappointment in Peter with his fists.
Later — presumably after Peter’s received his Spidey powers, though that wasn’t entirely clear — Peter gets his revenge on Flash, mostly off screen. This leads to Peter’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, perfect casting) admonishing Peter in the school hallway that his “escapade” was just “about getting even.” Then Uncle Ben notices a sweet blonde girl standing behind Peter. “She looks familiar,” he says to Peter. “She’s the girl on your computer!” Before Peter can protest, Uncle Ben is calling out to the girl, Gwen Stacy: “He’s got you on his computer!”
This leads to the reel’s standout sequence, a sweetly awkward exchange between Peter and Gwen that felt in line with Webb’s feature debut, (500) Days of Summer.
“Um,” Peter stammers, “so would you want to, I don’t know…”
“Want to what?” Gwen asks.
“I don’t know. We could, uh — [pause] — or we could do something else.”
“Yeah, either one.”
Garfield and Stone’s chemistry here is fabulous, and the scene, set to Coldplay’s “Til Kingdom Come,” has a natural and grounded vibe that sets it apart from Raimi’s more heightened, angst-y take on the romance between Peter and Mary Jane. It was a smart move to show it off; the rest of the reel trod much more familiar comic-book movie territory, but this exchange between Peter and Gwen established a vibe that carried through the rest of the footage. (It’s also, save one other quick scene, the most screen time Stone got.)
We segued back into origin story territory, with Peter coming upon his father’s old briefcase, which revealed a connection with Dr. Curt Connors. So Peter goes to Dr. Connors’ high-rise lab in Manhattan, and discovers a man missing much of his right arm and carrying a not-so-subtle chip on his shoulder. “Yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m a southpaw,” Dr. Connors tells a tour group Peter appears to have crashed. “I’m not a cripple. I’m a scientist, and I’m the world’s foremost authority on reptiles, for those of you who don’t know. But like the Parkinson’s patient who watches on in horror as her body betrays her, I long to fix myself.” Ominous.
NEXT PAGE: Hello, web slingers!
Cut to Peter in a strange facility filled with glow-in-the-dark spiders, and we all know where that leads. Peter’s first hint that his fateful spider bite has altered him happens quickly, after he smashes his alarm clock, and demolishes his bathroom. From there, we get the requisite “discovering my powers” montage, from Peter scaling buildings, swinging from chains, and developing the web slingers that hard-core Spidey comic partisans have longed to see on film.
Soon enough, Spider-Man is suited up, stopping crime with some gleeful sarcasm thrown in for good measure. “Are you a cop?” asks a car thief. “Really?” Spidey replies. “You seriously think I’m a cop? A cop in a skintight red-and-blue suit.” When the crook pulls a knife, Spidey gets mock-petrified. “Is that knife?! Is that a real knife?!? Not a knife! Anything but a knife!” Some quick squirts of those web-shooters, and the bad guy’s knife goes bye-bye.
And then we’re back to Peter and Dr. Connors, who have struck up enough of a friendship that Peter appears to solve a mathematics equation that has been vexing his late father’s colleague for years. “Your father and I were going to change the lives of millions,” says Connors in a voice that suggests he’s not really interested in changing anyone’s life but his own. “Thanks to you Peter, everything changed.” It’s here that we finally get our first tiny glimpses of the Lizard, as Connors injects himself with some kind of serum that grows him a new, seemingly reptilian right arm. Next thing you know, that arm is tossing around cars on a Manhattan bridge, attached to what looks like a slightly buffed out version of Dr. Connors with some really shiny skin. I’m being glib on purpose; if you were to add together all the shots of the Lizard from this preview, you wouldn’t get much more than a second or two of footage. The visual effects were far from finished — several shots had complete blue-screen backgrounds — so it’s hard to judge the Lizard’s appearance from this sizzle reel. But I found it encouraging that the filmmakers appear to be making him look as realistic as a man turning into a giant reptile can look.
Finally, the story turned to Gwen’s dad, George, who gets to know Peter at one heck of an awkward meet-the-parents dinner. George, see, has been hunting this masked vigilante ever since he started taking out crooks across town. “I think [Spider-Man] stands for what you stand for, sir,” Peter declares, “protecting innocent people from bad guys.”
“I wear a badge,” says George. “He wears a mask like an outlaw.”
Peter doubles down. “I think he’s trying to do something maybe the police can’t.” Bad move.
“Can’t?” Nobody does who-the-bleep-does-this-guy-think-he-is New Yorker incredulity better than Denis Leary.
The final minute or so of the reel ramps up the action, as Peter realizes he’s got to stop the Lizard, George Stacy turns the screws more tightly on finding Spider-Man, and Gwen worries that Peter is walking the same dangerous path as her crime-fighting father. “Everyday for as long as I can remember,” Gwen tells Peter, “I haven’t known if he was going to make it home.”
As more scenes of quick-cut action pile up, we came to the least convincing moment of the entire extended first look. If you remember anything about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it’s likely the mantra of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Here is The Amazing Spider-Man version of Uncle Ben’s stirring maxim: “Your father lived by a philosophy that if there were things you could do to help people, it was your responsibility to do those things. Not choice. Responsibility.” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in the same way, does it?
All told, the event lasted a little less than a half hour. Was Sony’s marketing effort worth it? Share your thoughts on the new Spidey below.