The 2014 summer blockbuster season truly starts this April with the Marvel Studios release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is just the first of several Marvel Comics-inspired movies hitting theaters this year. Sony is wasting no time in saturating the landscape with promotional material for their big Marvel sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Director Marc Webb's return to the Spidey universe has had a steady stream of marketing ahead of its May 2nd release, including a featurette on star Andrew Garfield's reprisal of his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, a look at the strained romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and several clips featuring narration from the comic book character's co-creator, Stan Lee.
Webb's 2012 reboot of Spider-Man faced something of an uphill battle, coming just five years after the conclusion of Sam Raimi's ultra-successful Spidey trilogy. Well, The Amazing Spider-Man won over both critics and fans (mostly), grossing over $750 million around the world and cementing the multiplex dominance of the Marvel brand.
Marc Webb, who was gave the keynote for this year's SXSW (as reported by THR), addressed the grander scale of his second go at Spidey, the perceived overload of villains, and related that when he was first approached to take the reins (with just one feature to his credit, the (500) Days of Summer), Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal told him:
"This is 'Spider-Man.' You're crazy if you don't do it."
To keep the public's attention in the midst of Marvel Studios' own releases as well as Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past in the same month, this Spider-sequel would have to go big, and this time pits Spider-Man against a trio of villains, Electro, Green Goblin and Rhino, with broad hints that this film could begin setting the stage for the mooted Venom and Sinister Six spinoffs.
Webb acknowledged some of the more outlandish aspects of the first film, saying:
"There was a moment deep in the [first film's] post-production process where a giant lizard smashed through a wall chasing a boy-man in a unitard and I said, 'This is not grounded.' "
That said, Webb consciously rejected any kind of restraint when heading into the next chapter. This is a big, splashy superhero sequel, and fans have traditionally expected some kind of escalation in both the stakes and the scale. According to Webb:
"I'm going to embrace the spectacle. I'm not going to be beholden to smallness. I want it to be fantastic, to be big, to command and express that feeling when you're a kid and reading the comics. ... I didn't want to hide or shy away from that."
During a question and answer segment, a member of the audience spoke about the perception that Spider-Man 3 had way too many villains in the form of Sandman (Thomas Haded Church), Eddie Brock/Venom (Topher Grace) and Harry Osborn/New Goblin (James Franco). Whereas the first two Raimi films benefitted from pitting Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man against one solid villain (the Green Goblin and then Doctor Octopus), the third film seemed too scattered and hyper-active.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 similarly features a trio of super-villains, with Spidey up against Electro (Jamie Foxx), Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti). Webb seems to have known about these concerns going in, stating:
"We're obviously familiar with the complaints people had. We're very careful to make sure the stories intertwine. For Peter Parker, it's very important that you create obstacles that are difficult to overcome."
He added that despite many of the various trailers giving the character seemingly equal screen time as Electro and Harry Osbourne, the Rhino is "in the movie for four minutes." Exactly which four minutes is unclear - will Giamatti appear early on as Aleksei Sytsevich, only to take the mantle as the Rhino at a later point in the film, as some of the trailers seem to suggest?
At this point, it's safe to say that Webb's first Spidey film won over many skeptical fans and critics (read our review here), even with some of that film's flaws, such as certain rushed set-pieces and too many plot points thrown up in the air at once.
Still, its indisputable success has raised our expectations for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Webb has remained true to Peter Parker's troubled emotional core, and the nuanced, realistic handling of the relationship between Peter and Gwen looks to be one of the sequel's highlights just like in the original, even if we think tragedy is in store.
We'll find out if bigger really is better in just under two months.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will open in theaters on May 2, 2014.