Now that many of our most-anticipated summer 2013 movies are behind us, comic book fans have started looking toward 2014 for their big screen fix. One of next year's most-talked about sequels, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was featured in Sony's 2013 Comic-Con Hall H panel but before the filmmakers and stars took to the stage, they opened-up in a press-only conference.
Earlier in the week, we had a chance to sit down with director Marc Webb to discuss Amazing Spider-Man 2 villains and story details; however, during the closed-door press conference, Webb and leading baddie Jamie Foxx elaborated further on what fans can expect from the villainous Electro along with the circumstances that set the stage for unassuming Max Dillon to be become a "godlike" creature.
Discussing the challenges of the Max Dillon/Electro role, Foxx said that he drew from personal experience during his early days in Los Angeles. The actor asserted he wanted to inject an intensity into the character - so that the relationship between Spider-Man and Electro won't just provide interesting character drama, it'll entertain audiences with epic super-powered conflict:
"We wanted Electro to be serious. I wanted him to be a formidable opponent [...] I said, 'I really want Electro to be angry.' When Spider-Man says to Max 'We're partners' (and he said it in passing), [Max] took it to heart, so when I turn into Electro, I don't want to let [Spider-Man] off the hook. And I think that's what works, that's what makes the fight epic, the fact that Electro is not talking a lot. He's just down to business, he wants to burn the city down and he wants to get rid of Spider-Man."
Responding to a question asking whether the actor found playing Electro to be "disturbing," Foxx elaborated on the events that lead to Dillon's villainous turn - making it clear that writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci had plotted-out a multi-faceted character journey for the film's electrifying antagonist. A journey that helps show both sides of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 story:
"With Max, we wanted to have three things happen. We wanted him to be betrayed by love, he needed to be betrayed by family, and he needed to be betrayed by his work. We came up with the fact that as Max Dillon, it's his birthday and even his mom doesn't remember his birthday. See how you feel? Awe, right? But that sets it up, the fact that he says, 'Mom, it's a very special day to me. Is there anything you want to say to me?' 'I don't want to say anything to you.' It sets it up that when Max Dillon does turn into Electro, there's a little bit of you saying 'I understand where he's coming from.' So it wasn't disturbing but it's great to see that journey and the fact that we gave it more than one side. It's three-to-four dimensional that when he turns into this person, you understand where he's coming from."
Director Marc Webb also offered-up his vision for the character - focusing less on the performance and detailing the process of translating Electro from comic book pages to big screen believability. Longtime fans will likely appreciate hearing that, at one point, the filmmaker even considered using the classic masked, yellow and green, version of the character but went with a variation closer to the "Ultimate" Electro in the interest of supporting Foxx's performance and onscreen gravitas:
"There are a lot of different incarnations of Electro in the comics and I tried to think about how to do it with the yellow and green suit and I just couldn't think any logical sense out of that. There are certain elements of his creation that I want to protect but I will say that when you look at a storm cloud coming over the horizon, I remember growing up in Wisconsin and seeing these terrifying storms coming over the plains, and the electricity on the inside of them would explode and you'd see these flashes of billowing light. That is a cue that we used to develop the internal workings of Electro. The other thing is I thought it was important to understand the visage, the face, the emotion, and preserve Jamie's performance within the character itself - so we sort of stepped away from doing a mask and instead created a creature that felt human but also felt godlike. And that was something that was really important to present to Spider-Man as an antagonist. Something that is terrifying and a little bit creepy and immensely powerful."
Anyone familiar with the character will likely be excited at the prospect of a "godlike" version of the villain - especially in light of new details about the effects that will bring Electro to life. We'll have a better idea of what to expect when Webb debuts the first official footage from the film during the Hall H panel (later today at the time of this writing) - with further reveals no doubt leading-up to the movie's release next summer.
That said, with Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4 already scheduled for 2016 and 2018 respectively, the filmmakers also weighed-in on the future of the franchise - specifically the will she/won't she debate over Shailene Woodley's future as love-interest Mary Jane Watson. Rumors over the last month have moved the conversation back and forth between reports suggesting the actress was dismissed because, once on set, Webb decided she was not a fit for the role (asserting that the character would be recast) while others suggested that Woodley's scenes were a distraction in a film that's already in danger of being overstuffed (claiming that Woodley would still make her debut as MJ in Amazing Spider-Man 3).
Now, thanks to producer Avi Arad and Webb, we have a clearer picture of the reason Mary Jane was cut from the film - though we aren't any closer to a definitive answer about whether or not Shailene Woodley will return for the next web-slinger movie:
Avi Arad: "We miss Shailene, I Know you all understand that the story got two big to have two girls. We always get complaints that there's too much of this, too much of that. So we thought it was the right thing to wait for it. The next movie will be in three years, we love this girl, and time will tell."
Marc Webb: "We haven't crossed that bridge, we have to finish this movie first."
Arad's comments back-up a point that we suggested earlier: given the well-known spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 story, it might not be the best time to introduce Mary Jane Watson (especially considering the sheer amount of new characters set to be introduced in the film). However, both Webb and Arad seem to suggest that the decision didn't have anything to do with Woodley's performance in the role - and that they are at least open to the possibility of the actress returning for part 3 (and presumably 4).
Still, Woodley is becoming an increasingly busy commodity - set to headline Summit Entertainment's new young adult series Divergent among other projects. For that reason, it's possible that some of the uncertainty is coming from the fact that, with two Spider-Man films scheduled to film in the next four years, Webb and Woodley need to sit back down and determine if they're still in a position to work together.
We'll keep you updated as we hear more but, considering Webb's comment that "we have to finish this movie first," it might be awhile before we have a definitive answer about whether Woodley is still the new Mary Jane.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in U.S. theaters on May 2nd, 2014, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 3 on June 10th, 2016 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 on May 4th, 2018.