ZAMM.COM: 'Spider-Man' Strength

  
By Martin Grove, ZAMM.com




Spider-Man strength: Marvelous movie summers began with Marvel blockbusters in 2007--and the studio's most iconic superhero, Spider-Man, should keep the box office ball rolling when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens May 2 at about 4,000 theatres.

Marvel's sizzling summer streak began with Spider-Man 3, which opened May 4, 2007 to $151.1 million and wound up with $336.5 million domestically.

Iron Man followed on May 2, 2008 with $98.6 million and got to $318.4 million domestically. X-Men Origins: Wolverine hit theatres May 1, 2009 with $85.1 million and went to $179.9 million domestically.

May 7, 2010 saw Iron Man 2 arrive to $128.1 million and end up with $312.4 million domestically. Thor checked in May 6, 2011 with $65.7 million and went on to gross $181 million domestically. May 4, 2012 brought Marvel's The Avengers with $207.4 million and a phenomenal domestic cume of $623.4 million.

Iron Man 3 took off May 3, 2013 with $174.1 million and did $409 million domestically. This weekendis the official start to Hollywood's Summer of 2014, so it's perfectly fitting that Marvel is back in the summer spotlight with its PG-13 rated 3D fantasy action adventure The Amazing Spider-Man 2 via Columbia Pictures. Starring are Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx.



This latest Spidey episode is from Marc Webb, director of the 2012 franchise reboot The Amazing Spider-Man that saw Garfield take on the Peter Parker/Spider-Man roles Tobey McGuire played in the original Sam Raimi blockbuster series. Webb's reboot opened July 3, 2012 to $62 million and did $262 million domestically.

The latest episode is tracking in solid double digits as an overall first choice for moviegoers. It's tracking through the roof with under-25 males and nearly as well with 25-plus males. It's also scoring nicely with under-25 women and is even doing okay with women 25-plus.

"It's hard to be Peter Parker, but it's great to be Spider-Man," Garfield explains. "As Peter Parker, he has all of the same problems that we all have--girl problems, money problems. But when he puts on the suit, it's a massive release. He can breathe. Spider-Man always knows the right thing to do. He's a vessel for good, heroic energy and saving people. He takes joy and pleasure in it, and a playfulness comes out of him."

The latest episode, according to Webb, was intended "to be more playful, more fun." Showing us Parker's natural wit, particularly as Spider-Man, was one of Webb's goals: "You look at the comic books and you see it--his quips, his funniness, his lighthearted qualities. That's part of what so many people love about Spider-Man--and certainly what I love about him."

Parker's commitment to safeguard his fellow New Yorkers, however, leads him into the center of the city's most powerful and important company--Oscorp, which once employed Peter's father and played a role in his parents' disappearance. Now Oscorp appears to be behind new enemies armed with advanced technology and powers.

"The stakes have never been higher for both Spider-Man and Peter than they are in this movie," points out Matt Tolmach, who produced the film with Avi Arad. "Spider-Man, because he is facing enemies that have joined forces against him--all with some connection to Oscorp--and Peter, because the choices he makes and the promises he tries to keep have real consequences."

"In this Spider-Man film, it's clear that Spider-Man loves being Spider-Man," says Avi Arad. "As in all Spider-Man movies, being a hero clashes with Peter Parker's everyday life and wishes. A major villain emerges and it is Oscorp. His life, his father's life, Harry's life and all the villains emanate from this tower of evil. The stakes are higher as Peter finds himself up against an institution that is all-powerful."

"Oscorp was built for a single purpose--to preserve Norman Osborn’s life," adds Webb. "He has a terrible disease, and the wealth of the company has been used to create the company's Special Projects division--crazy solutions to a very simple problem. But Norman Osborn is not an ethical man, and in Special Projects there exist a lot of hidden, dark, nasty things that the rest of us do not want to see unleashed on the world."

Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osborn and the Goblin), two villains Spider-Man faces, have different motivations for taking him on and in some ways they consider that they're fighting a different enemy.

"You've got two guys, one who hates Spider-Man, and one who hates Peter Parker," says Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the screenplay (based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) with Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt. "They want to kill the same person, but for different reasons. That's why the two of them team up--they are driven by their emotions." "The superhero genre is built on creating extremes--physical extremes, but also emotional extremes," Webb observes. "The thing about Spider-Man that I most identify with is that he's not stoic--he's a kid. I think it's important for heroes to express their emotions, to let that flow in a way that is true, and authentic, and honest. In my films, I like to see people crack open, when life is at its most brutal but also at its most joyful.

"At the heart of this film is Peter Parker's relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone). Spider-Man's destiny is crucial, but it comes at the expense of Peter Parker's identity, and that’s a really tricky thing for Peter to deal with. As Peter fights the growing specter of Oscorp, the power of which he doesn't even fully comprehend, the real difficulty he's going to have to face is how to handle his love for Gwen. That's the most relatable and important part of the film."

Webb points out that the film has as much or more spectacle and action as any film, "but none of that dynamic visual conflict, action, means anything if you don’t care about the characters. The conflicts that surround Peter Parker create an incredibly tender, human story about a kid trying to grow up in the world. We expand that into an epic, operatic form, but the heart is alive and well, protected, beautiful, funny, and entertaining in its own right.

"Peter's powers are only part of his heroism--and not even the most important part. It's his character, his integrity, that makes him who he is."

New York is another of the film's key characters, says Arad: "New York City always was and always will be Peter Parker/Spider-Man's domain--through birth, through growing up, through high school and the famous Empire State University. Shooting the entire movie in New York was a unique opportunity to capture the sights and sounds of Peter's world. The idea was to use authenticity and make audiences the world over feel as they themselves are joining in his journey in the city."

This episode was the first in the franchise to shoot entirely in New York State. "Spider-Man is from New York City and his story is a story of New York City," Webb observes. "So to be able to shoot in our actual locations, instead of doubling it on a back lot, was really appealing."

The film's production designer, Mark Friedberg, a New Yorker himself, was excited to be able to film on his home turf: "I believe in the crews. I believe it brings a lot of energy to our creative process. And I believe it helps us tell this story--it's a New York story and we were able to make New York part of the storytelling. Spider-Man is a particular kind of superhero for the kinds of people that we are."

The film shot all over the city, including outside the Hearst Building, which fills in for Oscorp Industries, on 57th Street & Eighth Avenue; at Lincoln Center; Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood; Manhattan's Flatiron District; Union Square; Park Avenue; Chelsea; the Upper East Side; DUMBO in Brooklyn; the Financial District; Throgs Neck in the Bronx; East River Park on the Lower East Side; Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn; and Chinatown in Manhattan.

For this episode Webb decided to take a more traditional approach to Spider-Man's physical look: "In the first film, I wanted to treat the suit very realistically--as if we were asking, 'How would a kid make this costume?' We used fabrics and designs that a kid in Queens would have access to. For example, the eyes--they were literally made out of sunglasses, because that's what he would find.

"This time around, I wanted to embrace what they did in the comics--the familiar, warm, iconic elements that we know from Spider-Man. And again, the eyes are an important part of that. This time, you can see how big and friendly those eyes are. When people interact with that costume, there's a warmth, a feeling of safety, a connection that people have--and I think it has to do with those eyes."

Bottom line: Spidey's got this weekend to himself, but he'll want to keep an eye out May 16 for the return of another movie icon--Godzilla.

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