All of this may make The Amazing Spider-Man sound like some lovey-dovey romance, which it is most certainly not. The film, which begs to be seen on an IMAX screen for maximum enjoyment, is replete with some of the most satisfying action set pieces of any movie this summer thus far, beginning with a wonderful scene set inside a subway car in which Peter, having just been bitten by a radioactive spider, discovers his newfound powers.
“We spent several days at the beginning of production rehearsing that scene with the stunt team,” Webb says. “I liked the idea of doing it in a very contained space, and I liked the idea of making it humorous. I’m a big fan of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin: They had a physical dimension to their comedy you don’t see very often, and I wanted to capture that in the scene.”
Of course, nothing in The Amazing Spider-Man would have worked — not the romance nor the action nor the humor — without an actor in the lead role capable of playing all those various notes. Webb says he hadn’t yet seen The Social Network — the movie for which Andrew Garfield is best known in the United States — when he cast the actor as Peter Parker.
“I had only seen him in Boy A and the Red Riding trilogy,” Webb says. “Those are two incredibly different parts with great emotional depth. I thought he was a really interesting actor who wouldn’t come with a lot of baggage, because he wasn’t famous here. He had a lot of similarities to the Peter Parker from the Mark Bagley Ultimate Spider-Man books, which were the main inspiration on this movie. But there was also something about Andrew’s spirit. In his audition, he didn’t seem to be acting, just behaving. He could handle the physical demands of the role — he wanted to do a lot of his own stunts. And then when you see him together with Emma, you know he’s the one.”
Garfield, who was born in Los Angeles but raised in England, professes to be a lifelong Spider-Man fan who felt a great responsibility to do right by the character.
“I wanted to be as true to what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created — to preserve the essence of the character in terms of his heart and what he struggles with,” says Garfield, who speaks with a pronounced British accent that sounds nothing like Peter Parker — another testament to his performance. “I was also excited by the physicality of the character — the adolescent rebel who wants to break free of the binds and express his frustration of being an orphan, kicking and screaming until someone listens. I still can’t believe I am playing this character. It will probably really never make sense to me.”
Although 3D has become a bad word among the many moviegoers who consider it a nuisance, Webb said he actively embraced the technology as a way to bring the viewer closer to how Spider-Man feels as he swings from skyscrapers high atop New York City. In one brief shot, he shoots his webbing directly into the viewer’s face — a moment of great wish-fulfillment for anyone who has ever read the comics.
“The entire movie was built around the idea of 3D,” the director says. “We thought of it as a storytelling tool. We use it very conservatively in the first part of the movie. And then as the world expands around Peter and the action begins, the 3D picks up. I wanted to give you a sense of the velocity and vertigo he feels. When we were designing the big action scenes, I was very conscious that they would be projected in 3D. It’s a cinematic language that is still developing, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t just feel tacked on.”
Unlike sure bets such as The Avengers, which had the benefit of years of anticipation and has grossed nearly $1.5 billion world wide, there is no guarantee The Amazing Spider-Man will be an instant hit. The prevalent attitude among online comic-book fans is that the reboot is arriving too soon after Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, which was released in the summer of 2007. Some early reviews have complained the movie is redundant, even though the Gwen Stacy storyline has never been told on film before.
Garfield is cautious when you bring up the subject of a sequel and what direction the story will take.
“We don’t really know what kind of beast this is yet,” he says. “I don’t know what the future holds; I don’t know what’s to come. Right now, I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy this crazy experience.”
But Arad is much more hopeful and forthcoming.
“Andrew is signed for two more movies, and Emma is signed for one more,” he says. “ The Night Gwen Stacy Died is my favorite comic-book story of all time, and I think we’ve started to tell that story well with this movie. The best is yet to come.”