Yesterday afternoon, Collider was invited, along with a handful of other outlets, to see the new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, due out in theaters on July 3rd. With summer movie season ramping up and so many highly anticipated blockbusters closer to their release dates, movie lovers are anxious for any glimpses they can get, and the spectacle in this re-imagined tale certainly promises a fun thrill ride. The cool thing about the trailer is that it also showcases the humanity, humor and romance while clearly having been designed for 3D.
After the trailer, director Marc Webb took some time to answer questions about the footage in the trailer and the film, overall. He talked about how much better the point of view looks now, the process for bringing The Lizard to life, balancing the spectacle with the humanity, finding the humor, playing the 3D as depth, whether he felt pressure to deliver another iconic kiss, that the final cut of the film is locked at about two hours (regardless of what’s been reported), and that he hasn’t been involved with anything having to do with a sequel, at this point. He also shared his thoughts on The Hobbit being shot in 48 fps. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: In the first teaser trailer, there was a negative response to the point of view footage because it was very computer generated, but the point of view in this trailer looks much better. How much of that is in the actual film?
MARC WEBB: Well, I believe we were still in production when we made that first trailer, so that was a very early rendering of some of the CG things. Part of the fun of this was to create the movie, thinking about subjectivity, meaning getting to feel what Spider-Man feels, and 3D was a really interesting way to exploit that. We spent a lot of time refining and just making that shift better. There is that in the movie, but it’s a much more refined version of what you had seen before. It’s interspersed throughout the film. It’s not like the third act is all point of view. Though that’s an interesting idea, I’m not that bold.
What was your process for bringing The Lizard to life? Was it all motion capture?
WEBB: There’s a lot that goes into it. When we shot those sequences, we actually shot a human. There was a guy named Big John, who is literally this big guy named John, who did a lot of the interactive stuff. When you’re trying to interact with Peter [Parker], you need someone grabbing him and to do those things, and then we would replace him with the computer-generated lizard. But then, the performance capture was done with Rhys [Ifans]. We would shoot Rhys in a similar environment and get his facial expressions, and we’re still working on that. I just came from trying to incorporate his performance into The Lizard. That takes an enormous amount of time and it’s tricky. In the comics, there are different incarnations of The Lizard. There’s the one with the snout, but I was interested more in something that could relate human emotions because I wanted to keep Rhys’ performance in that creature. Pixar does it extremely well, creating those emotions within characters that are essentially computer-generated. So, getting that nuance and the eyebrow ticks and the looks, and creating something that can actually speak with lips that make sounds, is a very detailed and, frankly, tedious process. But, I really wanted him to have emotion, have a face and have feeling. That’s the way I chose to do that. And then, there’s the physical components of it, which was making him very powerful and strong.
You can see a lot of the spectacle on screen. How did you balance your approach to delivering the thrill ride that audiences are going to want with the fact that Spider-Man is also one of the more down-to-earth and grounded superhero characters?
WEBB: I was always a Spider-Man fan, but I was a bigger Peter Parker fan than Spider-Man fan. When you see the movie, I don’t think anybody will be worried about the emotional part of it. There is an incredibly innocent and tender quality to Peter Parker. He’s not a billionaire. He’s not an alien. He’s a kid. He doesn’t have money. He has trouble with the people that raised him, and he has trouble talking to girls. There’s that intense relatability, which is all through the movie. That access point is a texture that was really intuitive. It’s just something I love in movies, particularly that romantic dimension. It’s something I’m very familiar with. The interpersonal relationships that Peter Parker has are so simple and so domestic that it’s a very fun dichotomy to play that big, massive spectacle alongside those very small moments. In a very real way, there’s a small, intimate little indie movie at the heart of Spider-Man. That was my access point. With the trailer, you want that spectacle and that energy ‘cause I think there’s an expectation surrounding that, but as we get closer to the release, there are materials that will come out that will help show and demonstrate the more intimate parts of Spider-Man, which is, to me, where the heart is.
Some of the best parts of the Sam Raimi movie were when Spider-Man discovers his powers for the first time. Did you get to have any fun with doing that again, for this film?
WEBB: Yeah, there are elements of that. I wanted to do things differently. You’ve seen the origin of Spider-Man, but maybe you haven’t seen the origin of Peter Parker. There are certain iconic elements of Spider-Man that I felt obligated to honor, but there are some exploratory phases. I’m trying to build something with a different tone and a different attitude, and do things in a little bit more of a practical way, especially at the beginning of the movie. We spent a lot of time engineering and designing sequences that existed within the camera that we just shot practically, like him swinging on these chains, to help create that sensation and feeling of joy and fun, which is always a great part of these movies.
WEBB: That’s something from the comics that I’ve always been really a fan of. Humor is a tricky thing because it’s very subjective. The first domino is Peter Parker getting left behind by his parents. I thought to myself, “What does that do to someone? How does that change your view of the world?” To me, it creates a little bit of a level of distrust. It’s a brutal thing to happen to you, and that is, to me, where he gets that outsider status. And then, there is a sarcasm that comes from that and the quipiness, like in the car thief scene where that attitude comes out. That generates from this chip on his shoulder. It’s a little bit mean and he’s a little bit snarky, but that’s an attitude that we can all understand and relate to. I think it comes from a very real, genuine place. That was fun to explore the humor, but the humor comes from a very human, real, emotional place. It’s not just slapped on.
WEBB: [Denis] plays the authority figure that he’s made fun of, for his entire career. When you cast someone like Sally, they come with a certain level of awareness and real genuine affection, which for Aunt May is an incredibly important thing to have. We all love Aunt May, but I wanted to create a tension between May and Peter. I was like, “What’s the reality of this situation? What would happen, if you were someone who was in charge of taking care of a kid who’s had a lot of tragedy in his life, and he goes out late at night and comes back and he’s fucked up?” You’d be concerned. He’s got bruises on his face, and what happens in that moment? That can create some tension, but you want there to be love there. That’s what someone like Sally Field gives you. And then, we all trust Denis Leary. He’s got this attitude, but you love him. In this movie, he puts pressure on Peter Parker. He’s on Spider-Man’s case, but you understand him. I’ve said this before, but good drama comes from competing ideas of what’s good. People have different ideas of what that is, and when you put that together, they collide and there’s an honest difference of opinion. There’s something that’s really interesting that happens there, and I wanted to explore that as much as possible.
WEBB: It’s a matter of convergence. I designed a 3D movie, and the sequence that that comes from is later on, in the film. James Cameron, who was incredibly generous with me early on, likes to play 3D as depth. The jungles of Avatar are a great example of that. I liked pushing the 3D a little bit further, so that it would come out at you, because I remember, as a kid, watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon with all those things coming at you, and House of Wax. There’s something fun about seeing an audience with kids in it, reach up. There were moments that I wanted to exploit like that, and that’s one of those moments. That was a shot that has many, many visual layers to it. We generated a figure and then we converged, meaning that we put the screen level behind Spider-Man there, so that his legs would come out. Then, we made him a little bit more in focus, so that you could feel a tangible sense of him rather than the motion. This gets really technical and boring, but then we reduced the motion blur, so that it felt more tactile. And then, with that shot in particular, when a subject violates the edge of the screen, it corrupts the illusion and you start to notice that it’s not really real. We designed it so that it would exist within the barriers of the screen, so you’re not aware that it’s crossing off the screen. That helps with that notion that it can come out at you a little bit more. That’s another one of those layers. That shot is longer in the movie. You sit on it longer. That’s the other part of letting that feel like it’s coming into your space.
WEBB: The first domino in the story is the parents. He goes out looking for his father and he finds himself. That’s my tagline. There are a few elements that Marvel is very protective of, and Uncle Ben’s death is a very important part of the Spider-Man origin story. Uncle Ben’s death, transforming him and having an impact, in a certain way, is an incredibly important part of the mythology and I would never subvert that. That’s all I’ll say about that, but I’m very protective of that.
What was it like to have Martin Sheen in the cast, as Ben Parker?
WEBB: It was awesome! He’s a dream. Between takes, he’d tell stories about Terrence Malick, Apocalypse Now, and Fellini. It was spectacular! One of the really, really joyful parts about making this movie was getting to work with Sally Field and Martin Sheen and Denis Leary. It’s so cool. They’re such pros. You think of Martin Sheen as President Bartlett. He has that sense of benevolent authority, but there’s something else that’s important, in terms of the dynamic that I wanted to explore, vis a vis Peter’s relationship with his absent parents. Depending on what the comics were, Ben and May are streetwise, like blue collar people, but they’re not scientists. Peter has this incredible scientific ability, which creates a little bit of a gap between him and Ben and May. I thought that was a really interesting thing to explore. And, what Martin was able to do, even though he’s an incredibly erudite guy, was to embody this blue collar guy. There was some fissure or break between the two of them that was developing. Even though there was a great love for him, you knew he wasn’t the father. He wasn’t Richard Parker. That gap, that crack in Peter, that missing piece that Peter had, was a really fun thing to start off.
WEBB: It’s hard to compete with that first Spider-Man kiss. It really was. So, that wasn’t my primary objective. I wanted to make a movie that, to me, is about the chemistry. That’s the thing you rely on.
Has a final cut been locked?
WEBB: Yeah, it’s right around two hours. There was something on some website that said it was an hour and 30 minutes, or something like that. No. Every once in a while, it’s really interesting because you hear people talk about information that gets out and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, there’s some truth to it.” But sometimes, things come up and you’re like, “What are you talking about?!” That’s one of those things. I just don’t know where that came from. The cut is pretty much locked. We’re just doing a lot of visual stuff.
Outside of the main story, how much do we get a view of the global Spider-Man universe?
WEBB: We spent a lot of time with the writers, coming up with the backstory and a world that could hold different stories, if the series is ongoing. We took some stuff from the Ultimates, we took some stuff from the Amazing Spider-Mans, and then did certain other things to make it interesting. With Gwen Stacy, for example, I looked more towards the Amazing Spider-Mans because I just liked the texture of her character in those more than in the Ultimates, and I thought it was more appropriate for Peter. The body language in a lot of the Bagley art were really great reference points, in terms of creating the physical identity of Spider-Man, than the Ultimates.
WEBB: I am not. I’m so deeply immersed in this one that I haven’t really touched anything. Whatever, it’s all just talk, and a lot of that just has to do with schedules. I’m literally spending 18 hours a day, finishing the movie, so I can’t give you any interesting scoop there.
Any thoughts on shooting in 48 fps?
WEBB: I haven’t seen [The Hobbit footage], but I have absolute trust in Peter Jackson. I think he’s an incredible filmmaker. I feel like it’s really important to support experiments. It’s really important to try new and different things. I really want to honor the theatrical experience, and things that can make that better are great. We have to be patient and see what happens. It’s a very, very hard thing to make movies, especially in an environment now where everybody wants to have some opinion on something, and it’s hard to maintain a level of good will or support or curiosity about things. I’d just be curious to see it. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t really comment. Anything to help making movies interesting and fun to watch, I’m down to try.