Warning: This article includes potential spoilers from The Amazing Spider-Man
Five years have passed since director Sam Raimi and his leading man, Tobey Maguire, put the finishing touches on their Spider-Man trilogy. But because the lucrative Spider-Man 3 took such a beating from critics (and dedicated Spidey fans), Sony Pictures wisely decided against extending the series and, instead, went back to drawing board on a re-imagined reboot.
500 Days (of Summer)
director Marc Webb
was brought on board. Andrew Garfield
and Emma Stone
were hired to play Peter Parker and his teenage crush, Gwen Stacy, respectively. But from the very first scene in The Amazing Spider-Man
(which opens everywhere in 3D and IMAX on July 3), it's crystal clear that Webb is viewing our hero’s origin through a different prism. The reboot is necessary to better understanding this rejuvenated take on a classic Marvel mythology.
We were lucky enough to sit down with the cast of Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man during a recent press day in New York City. And while we talked at length about the importance of Spider-Man to our superhero-obsessed culture and the direction of this new franchise, we found five extremely important items revealed by the actors during a busy press day. Here’s what we learned about The Amazing Spider-Man. We hope it helps get you excited for this thrilling chapter in the spectacular hero’s historic journey.
1. No one is bigger than the mask
Andrew Garfield has been telling anyone who’ll listen how excited the 28-year-old actor is to be playing teenage Peter Parker. And one of the great thrills, according to Garfield, was trying on the Spider-Man mask for the first time. One thing I thought Webb got right over Raimi, however, was allowing Garfield to leave his mask on in key fight sequences. It seems in the original three Spider-Man films, Tobey Maguire was removing his mask every chance he got. The conclusion to Spider-Man 3 essentially boiled down to Maguire vs. Topher Grace instead of Spider-Man vs. Venom. And nobody wants to see that. Garfield keeps the mask on, and he tells me the reason for that is because no actor is bigger than the mask, itself.
“I think the only time the mask comes off is when it’s necessary,” he says. “There’s a scene with a boy on a bridge where I need to chill him out and say that I’m just a dude. My mask gets taken off by Capt. Stacy. And then there’s another mask-off moment which had a justification before but they cut out that moment. But yeah, I feel like that’s a very important thing because the mask is always going to be much bigger than the actor. Even Peter Parker can’t live up to the mask. The mask is everything, and it gives him the power and the anonymity that he needs.”
2. Emma Stone knows this doesn’t end well for Gwen Stacy
As does everyone who’s ever read Spider-Man comics. In The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen Stacy’s knocked off the George Washington Bridge by The Green Goblin. It’s a devastating moment, a crucial component to Peter Parker’s emotional formation, and a turning point that helps turn him into the selfless hero he is to become. (Raimi sort of tried to pay homage to this scene in his first Spider-Man movie, only he used Mary Jane Watson. Then he let her live, which was so dreadfully wrong, you have to wonder why he even bothered staging the famous bridge sequence in the first place.)
Stone doesn’t die in Webb’s Spider-Man, but there are enough indications in this film to suggest that future installments will bring in Norman Osborn and his alter ego, the Green Goblin … and if that’s the case, Gwen Stacy’s probably in for a fall.
When I asked Stone about this, she was honest. “We’ve discussed a lot of this,” she says about conversations with producers regarding Gwen’s future. But when I push and ask how much she can discuss with me, she says with a smile, “Probably none of it. But what you are referring to is one of the reasons why I wanted to play the character.”
I give it one last push, saying that this movie goes to great lengths to say that those close to Peter might one day be in danger, assuming this is a direct reference to Gwen. “I’m assuming, too,” Stone replies, as the smile grows wider.
Gotcha. Mums the word … for now.
3. Character comes first
With all due respect to Maguire, conservations swirling around the first three Spider-Man films usually focused on the villains, whether it was Alfred Molina’s masterfully subtle turn as Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 or Topher Grace’s woeful miscasting as Venom. That hasn’t been the case with Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man.
The focus, so far, has been on Garfield’s fragile Peter Parker and his tangible chemistry with Stone’s headstrong Gwen Stacy. It’s part of the reason Sony went with Webb, who seamlessly paired Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Zooey Deschanel in Summer. And it’s the reason Denis Leary wanted to make The Amazing Spider-Man his first post-Rescue Me project.
“Normally with these bigger-budget action films, it’s impossible to take one of those on when you’re writing your own dramatic TV series,” Leary tells me. “But I got a call from Marc. And I hadn’t even thought about this until he started talking about it. Most of the time, when you look at a movie like this, you have to be concerned because it’s probably six months worth of work, and most of it is run-and-gun, and there’s very little acting involved. But Marc was talking about making some kind of character-actor piece. Which I didn’t think was really the truth until we started shooting. And that’s what we did. We were always concerned about the emotional foundation of the story. So it did not feel like we were shooting this big movie. It felt like we were telling the story of these people, which is unusual in this arena.”
4. The Lizard isn’t all bad
You can’t say this about most of Spidey’s enemies. The Green Goblin’s sinister, and Venom’s a murderous sociopath. But the Lizard wants to do the right thing, and that was key to Rhys Ifans figuring him out.
“What I saw in the material is that this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill, cloak-and-dagger bad guy,” Ifans tells me about Dr. Curt Connors and his reptilian alter ego. “He’s a human being with very real emotions, issues, anxieties, hopes and dreams, which he’s pursuing throughout the film. You know, unfortunately, to the detriment of himself and others. But we all make mistakes! … Up until the very last moment, [Connors] is acting selflessly, and on behalf on humanity. What he doesn’t recognize is that … he doesn’t look ahead to the chemical makeup of a reptile, and how that affects his humanity.”
5. Spider-Man has more in common with Shakespeare than you thought
This last one belongs to Martin Sheen, an iconic actor who has forgotten more about film and theater than most of us will ever know. And when it came time to approach the pivotal, tragic role of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, Sheen says he looked to Shakespeare … and the audience should, as well.
“If a story is really, really good, it will hold up to being retold,” Sheen says about Spider-Man. “We know, for example, how Hamlet ends. Why do we go see it again? We know how Aida ends. Why do we go? Because it’s part of our culture. We want to see it reinvigorated. We want to breath new life and energy. We want to see new faces play these parts. That’s all part of our expanding imagination. And we have the capacity to do unbelievable things now with special effects. The good thing about these franchises, the ones that are successful, is that they secure the studio’s investments in other films. If, for example, Sony gets a huge return on Spider-Man, you know that they’re going to make a lot more and different films, which employ a lot more people. And that’s the best news about these movies.”