Hey. With about a week to go until the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, we thought we’d publish a quick introductory guide to the latest adventure featuring the webcrawler, for those looking for a bit more trivia on the latest pending superhero release. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it and, while reviews are embargoed until Friday (unless you’re a major publisher like The Guardian or The Hollywood Reporter apparently), here’s the skinny.
Q: Bah, I already know all I need to know about Spider-Man.
A: That’s not really a question… and I guess this is going to be a fairly short Q and A, then, isn’t it?
Q: I thought I was doing questions and you were doing answers? Anyway, give me the low down on this.
A: That’s not really a question either, but here goes. It’s the latest film starring the iconic web-crawler. It’s a reboot, directed by Marc Webb…
Q: Wait… hold up. Directed by who…?
A: Marc Webb.
Q: Marc Webb…?
A: He’s the guy who directed (500) Days of Summer, easily one of the most original romantic films of the past decade.Anyway, Sony are rebooting the film franchise.
A: Rebooting. They’re starting from scratch with it.
Q: Ah, I do that with my computer all the time. Why are they rebooting? What was wrong with the last three films?
Q: Okay, what was wrong with two of the last three films? Even I can’t excuse casting Topher Grace as a Spider-Man villain.
A: The Amazing Spider-Man was originally being developed as Spider-Man IV, which would have been directed by Sam Raimi and also starred Tobey Maguire in the lead role once again. Apparently the bad guys would have been the Vulture, who would have been played by John Malkovich, and the Black Cat, who would have been played by Anne Hathaway.
Q: Um. I think you might be confusing that with another super-hero movie also coming out this year…
A: Yes, Anne Hathaway is playing Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Naturally, Spider-Man IV sort of fell apart. Rumour has it that nobody was happy with the screenplay, which was rumoured to feature… Spider-babies.
Q: Spider-babies? That sounds kinda cool.
A: No, not David Cronenberg style Spider-babies. Like Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst style Spider-babies.
A: So everybody called it a day on the project. Sam Raimi went off to work on his own project and Sony developed their own Spider-Man project. With the whole cast and the director gone, it was felt that they might as well start from scratch.
Q: Okay. I heard a rumour that Sony are only doing this to hold on to the rights to Spider-Man to stop them reverting to Marvel.
A: Where’d you hear that?
Q: I read it on a message board somewhere.
A: Well, I’m sure that Sony are probably more motivated by the massive box office receipts for the original trilogy, rather than some petty disagreement with another company.
Q: Cool. Well, if they’re starting from scratch, that means Samuel L. Jackson’s going to show up in this one, right…?
A: Er… no. The film rights for the Avengers belong to Marvel, while the film rights for Spider-Man belong to Sony. Fox own the rights to the X-Men, which is why Wolverine won’t be showing up inThe Avengers II or anything like that.
In theory, it might be possible to work out some arrangement, but it’s highly unlikely given the volumes of money involved and the complexity of the agreements. For example, Louis Leterrier originally wanted a cameo for Empire State University, Peter Parker’s college, in The Incredible Hulk, but Sony’s lawyer’s smashed that idea.
Although there were, apparently talks of including the film’s Oscorp building in the New York skyline during the climax of The Avengers, but that didn’t happen.
Q: Okay, killjoy. So I know the Spider-Man story. “Does whatever a spider can. Can he swing from a web? Of course he can’t, he’s a pig. Look out, it’s Spider-Man!”
A: Em, I think you might be a bit confused.
Q: Look, I get it. Radioactive (or “genetically engineered”, if your feeling all modern) spider + dorky kid + latex + dead uncle + angst = Spider-Man. What does this movie offer me that the original Spider-Man didn’t?
A: Well, there are a few differences. For one thing, they’ve got a new actor in the lead role. Andrew Garfield, the kid from The Social Network.
A: No, the likeable kid from The Social Network.
Q: Oh, burn!
A: I meant in the film itself!
There’s also a shift in tone. Webb is much less influenced visually by the comics than Raimi was. There’s a lot less saturation. There’s also a lot more darkness, literally and figuratively.
Q: But the uncle still dies, right?
A: Um… I’m not sure if that’s a spoiler.
Q: So what else is new?
A: Well, the love interest is Gwen Stacy, rather than Mary-Jane Watson.
Q: Oh, I heard about this! She was like the first love interest in the comics, right?
A: Um… nice try. She was introduced earlier than Mary-Jane, but she wasn’t the first girl to date Peter. That was Betty Brant. She was played by Elizabeth Banks in the original trilogy.
Q: Um, if Peter is such a nerd, how come he keeps dating all these beautiful woman?
A: It’s the webs. Chicks dig the webs.
Q: Okay, so if she’s not the first, then why is this “Gwen Stacy” such a big deal?
A: She died.
Q: What? Dude! Spoiler!
A: I figure a forty-year-old comic book doesn’t need a spoiler.
Q: Not cool.
A: Apologies. Anyway, the character is arguably most notable for dying. She was kidnapped by the Green Goblin, thrown off a bridge and died in the fall. The issue makes it notably ambiguous as to whether (a.) she snapped her neck while falling or (b.) Spidey snapped her neck while trying to catch her.
A: Yeah. Arguably even more than the loss of Uncle Ben, the death of Gwen Stacy really defined Peter Parker as his largest failure.
Q: So… um… does that happen in the film?
A: What? Dude! Spoiler! I can tell you however, that the Green Goblin isn’t the main villain.
Q: Does he appear?
A: Norman Osborn is mentioned in the film, although he’s more of a phantom. Even his face on signs in the Oscorp building is hidden in shadow. A cult actor who I am very fond of provides a voice that could belong to Norman, but I suspect they’ll recast the role for the sequel with a big-name actor. His son Harry does not appear.
Q: Well, given Spider-Man III, that might not be such a bummer.
A: J. Jonah Jameson, the cigar-chomping media mogul, is also absent. Although his news paper, the Daily Bugle does appear.
Q: Oh, so if Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn is out, who is the villain du jour?
A: The Lizard.
Q: The Lizard?
A: Yep, the evil mutated gigantic lizard man. He’s created when Dr. Curt Connors accidentally transforms while searching for a formula to grow back his lost arm.
Q: Man, I hate it when that happens. Also, whatever happened to animal trials?
A: I don’t know, though I always kinda wondered what would happen if you gave the serum to an actual lizard. (They are, in fairness, touched on in the film. Albeit very briefly.) Anyway, Peter has to fight the Lizard while saving Curt Connors. I actually quite like the Lizard, because it plays well to Spidey’s massive sense of responsibility – he has to save the scientist while stopping the monster.
Q: Why does the name Curt Connors sound familiar?
A: Because it’s alliterative. Stan Lee was fond of using alliterative names to keep track of characters. It helped him remember who they were. From Spider-Man alone there’s Peter Parker, Curt Connors, Betty Brant, Robbie Robertson, Frederick Foswell, Otto Octavius and J. Jonah Jameson. Outside of that, there’s Bob “Bruce” Banner, Scott Summers, Warren Worthington, Reed Richards, Sue Storm…
Q: Okay, I get it. But why do I know the name in the first place?
A: Raimi’s movies featured Dr. Curt Connors as one of Spidey’s professors at Empire State University. He was the one who described Peter Parker as “brilliant, but lazy.” Apparently, though, based on Spider-Man III, apparently that version was a physicist rather than a biologist. He actually explicitly says he isn’t a biologist.
Q: That might explain how he mucked up the old “Lizard serum”, eh?
A: Yep. In fairness, the character in this film, and in the comics, is a biologist. The character has been portrayed as obsessed with the lost of his arm, hoping to harness reptilian DNA to help him grow it like a lizard regrows a tale. It goes… about as well as one might expect.
Q: So what else is new this time around?
A: Well, there’s a greater focus on Peter Parker’s parents.
Q: Yeah, I always wondered what happened to them. Doesn’t he live with his aunt and uncle?
A: Yep. His parents died when he was young.
Q: That’s sad. So what’s their deal?
A: In the comics, they were secret agents. They, like, teamed up with Wolverine and stuff.
Q: Hm. Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.
A: Comic books.
Q: Guess they must have had pretty crummy life insurance, eh?
A: Guess so.
Q: Um… I don’t want to sound like I don’t know my stuff, but… um… I heard something about “Ultimate” Spider-Man or something. What is that, like a hardcore version or something?
A: A few years back, Marvel decided that their comic book stories had become a bit too convoluted for readers to really jump into.
Q: What with all the “Peter-Parker’s-parents-were-really-spies-who-teamed-up-with-Wolverine-and-stuff” things going on?
A: Yeah, that sort of thing. Anyway, to make it easier for new readers to jump on, they launched a series that would be continuity-free, updating the Spider-Man story for an entirely new generation of readers. Starting from when he got bitten through to his…
A: Erm, the end of his career. Anyway, it was a massive success, critically and commercially. If I were to recommend a single Spider-Man story to a new reader, it would be Ultimate Spider-Man as written by Brian Michael Bendis. It’s the most accessible Spider-Man story out there, and it reads like one long-form narrative in a way that few comics do. It garnered some press recently for featuring a half-black half-hispanic Spider-Man Miles Morales. Interestingly, Miles Morales was created when it occurred to Bendis that Donald Glover could never be considered for the lead role in this film.
Q: So I heard that version inspired this movie or something?
A: Yeah, they said that a bit. There are a few elements, but not too many. Gwen knows Peter in high school rather than college, for example – although Raimi’s movies had Peter and MJ growing up together. The “Peter’s parents were scientists” thing also came from Ultimate Spider-Man, although they were working on something a bit different and there’s a much greater emphasis on them than in the film.
Q: So the Lizard is a… um… Ultimate bad guy or something?
A: Actually, the villain never appeared in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man, only the spin-off Ultimate Marvel Team-Up.
Q: Jeez, nerd alert!
A: And, in fact, the Lizard look more like his mainstream counterpart, as designed by Steve Ditko for Amazing Spider-Man #5, with no snout.
Q: I hear Sony is already planning a trilogy.
A: So do I. And a spin-off featuring Venom.
Q: The Topher Grace guy from Spider-Man III. Really?
A: Really. Superhero films make money, and they believe that they can probably make more money as a sequel with tie-ins and spin-offs. If it works, I think it’s a good idea. I wouldn’t mind seeing a more carefully-structured superhero saga, more like Christopher Nolan’s logical (if not necessarily rigidly planned) Batman than Fox’s more ad-hoc X-Men.
Q: Um, that trailer looks a bit dark for a Spider-Man film.
A: It certainly does. Although Spider-Man is a bit funnier this time. Andrew Garfield is quite snappier than the Tobey Maguire version, whose best wisecrack was… ahem…
You’re pathetically predictable, like a moth to the flame. What about my generous proposal? Are you in or are you out?
It’s you who’s out, Gobbie. Out of your mind.
I remain convinced that the Green Goblin only decided to kill Spider-Man after hearing that “witticism.”
Q: Well, thanks for that.
A: Glad to help.
Filed under: Movies Tagged: | Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, anne hathaway, arts, avengers, Beenox, Dark Knight Rises, Emma Stone, games, Gwen Stacy, Hollywood Reporter, lizard, marc webb, Mary Jane Watson, peter parker, rhys ifans, sam raimi, samuel l. jackson, sony, spider man, Video game