For fanboys, comic-book geeks, and hard-core Spider-Man devotees, the biggest question surrounding director Marc Webb’s reboot of the blockbuster superhero franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man, was existential: how similar to the previous three Tobey Maguire–starring, Sam Raimi–directed Spidey installments would the new movie be?
That question was decisively answered Monday through a hype-generating international promo push for The Amazing Spider-Man staged in 13 cities around the world including Berlin, Mexico City, and Seoul by the movie’s distributor, Sony. Zealous superfans (as well as a few reporters and blogger types) were afforded a sneak peek at the trailer (which goes online Tuesday at 12:00 a.m. PST) and got to watch a 10-minute “sizzle reel” of never-before-seen footage well in advance of the movie’s July release.
In New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and London, respectively, the movie’s stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans turned up personally to meet the fanboy throngs. And in Los Angeles, Webb was on hand to explain how his Spidey 2.0 would offer the “untold story” of Spider-Man. “I wanted to present a more realistic, naturalistic Peter Parker,” he said.
But there’s also a more concise description of Webb’s Spidey. Call him “adorkable.”
After watching the footage—much of it a disorienting whirl of 3-D imagery that follows Spider-Man as he web-slings his way unsteadily across Manhattan, battling various cops and car thieves and rumbling with his latest super-nemesis, the Lizard—what becomes abundantly clear is that Webb’s first mega-budget superhero movie is in many ways of a piece with the only other film he has directed: the 2009 romantic dramedy (500) Days of Summer.
A triumph of twee hailed as one of the most successful indie films of the ‘00s, that movie premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and has come to embody a certain segment of precious millennial hipsterdom. It follows New Girl star Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a, you guessed it, adorkable couple—earnest, nerdy, quirky, cool—shown falling in and then out of love.
Ripping a page straight out of the (500) Days playbook, in The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Garfield) and his high-school crush Gwen Stacy (Stone) are shown “meeting cute” after Peter’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) embarrasses the erstwhile Spidey. “He has you on his computer!” Uncle Ben blurts out in front of the girl. And suddenly, the only action on screen is of the adorkable variety: all lip-biting and coquettish glances, unfinished sentences, and stammery chemistry between the two leads.
Thrown a softball question by the New York interviewer, “Why did you want to portray Spider-Man?” Garfield—who played a clone with a pronounced emo streak in the indie drama Never Let Me Go and Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network—didn’t mince his words. “Because I’m not an idiot,” he said. “It’s the thing that everyone in this room wants.”
“I’m terrified to be representing this symbol,” Garfield continued, in a wool skully and zip-up hoodie. “Maybe next time a half-Hispanic, half-African-American actor can play him.”
Monday’s footage forefronted the Peter Parker–Gwen Stacy love connection as well as Spider-Man’s run-ins with Gwen’s disapproving police-chief father (Denis Leary), who proclaims the superhero a “vigilante” in the trailer and puts out a warrant for his arrest. At one point, Spider-Man is shown handcuffed by police who pull his mask off before (SPOILER ALERT) the character opens a can of whupass on an entire battalion of cops, breaking out of cuffs in a ‘roid-like rage, and snapping machine guns with well-placed karate kicks. The hero is also shown devising his own homemade web shooter and later diving off a radio tower as it crashes into an office building—he clings to a ledge for dear life as a cascade of 3-D debris spills out onto the audience, highlighting the fact that Garfield’s Spidey is essentially a teenager coming quickly to grips with his staggering new physical powers, not some road-tested champion of truth and justice.
But Webb indicated that The Amazing Spider-Man wouldn’t be all high-school romance and incredibly expensive CGI action sequences involving an evil scientist turned rampaging reptile man (Ifans’s Dr. Curt Connors). The director explained that he delved deep into the Spider-Man canon in order to present facets of the iconic hero that Raimi’s three films did not touch on. “We explore what happened to Peter’s parents and the emotional consequences of Spider-Man being an orphan,” Webb said.