WonderCon 2012: 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Panel and Presentation

Saturday, 17 March 2012 23:38 Written by  Rocio Anica
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WonderCon 2012: 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Panel and Presentation

“Catches thieves just like flies.”

That’s how one of the most anticipated panels and presentations this year at WonderCon 2012 opened, spoken by the Sony Pictures Panel moderator in a room brimming with people, young and old. The quote pertains to the Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man helmed by director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer), and distributed by Sony Films.

It is a complete re-imagining of the Spider-Man movie franchise, because Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) plays Peter Parker, Martin Sheen plays Uncle Ben, and MJ is not the love interest. In fact, Emma Stone (The Help) plays Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest, who as it turns out, is wildly different than MJ. More importantly, the driving motivator differs from the emotional catalyst put forth by the Raimi trilogy. In all, this story takes a different approach to telling the story of what compels Peter to try to make the world a little bit safer and better.

The panel opened up with producer Matt Tolmach and director Marc Webb walking in -- wearing 3D glasses, by the way, an interpretation of what it is to be an eager WonderCon frequenter -- to sit down and speak about the process of reinventing the iconic character on the screen.

“There’s a sort of attitude about Peter Parker that I really enjoy,” Webb shared. He explains that it comes through in a variety of scenes, which appear to get a rounded, interesting take on the hero. “That translates into this quippy, funny, trickster Spider-Man.” He elaborated on that by explaining that he understood what it meant to explore that area, that he enjoyed exploring that new territory. “I wanted to create a world that was emotionally and physically grounded.”

After speaking a little bit more about the movie, the presenters played an extended trailer with footage catered to WonderCon attendees. Before they played the footage, they added the caveat that they are still in the process of finishing the movie but they thought it’s good for fans to see what the tone of the movie is like.“You may see wires,” they warned.

The thing about an action superhero movie, it was immediately clear, is that it’s rare to witness a well-struck balance between action and nuance, but when it’s done right, it is instantly apparent. As viewers, we want to be moved by plot thrusts and sophisticated edits and it’s enough to merely be invested in the protagonist to feel satisfied with the decisions made by the filmmakers, but when a trailer of this magnitude is able to sell some subtle moments, like those shared by Peter and Gwen Stacy, you can see why Sony chose Webb to reinvent Spider-Man’s story.

The lengthy peek divided its attention between introducing the shy but willful Parker, giving Martin Sheen (The Departed) the chance to be charming, and fostering curiosity as to the Parker family history. Who were Peter’s parents, the footage continually asked; this was apparent by bringing in the question of Peter’s father’s associate, Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter And the Deathly Hollows: Part 1). In the footage, glimpses of Dr. Connors, in a lab coat and missing a limb, were shown with him talking about his commitment to improving his obvious condition. This would be otherwise benevolent except when he’s threatening to play God! Was there something else going on, then, that resulted in the Parkers’ death? Was it because of Rhys!

Also, the music was, refreshingly, not trying to blow your eardrums out.

Truly, with all the action-packed rooftop-swinging juxtaposed with some tenderfully executed songs, the trailer basically made it very clear that this revision of a vision will be a totally different experience. The sleek re-do of a Spider-Man mask, boasting more texture than its ancestors, is worth taking a look at, too.

After the footage ended, the inimitable Emma Stone stepped out to sit next to Webb and Tolmach. “I love you, too,” she shouted back to screaming fans.

Naturally, the conversation turned to her character right away. “Most of Gwen’s story takes place with Peter,” Stone said. She added that she really was drawn to those moments that she shared with him, because they were grounded in reality. That chemistry was apparent on multiple levels, which prompted the two other filmmakers to comment on that.

“Speaking as a producer, it was those moments of magic that, as a producer, you hope for,” Tolmach adds.

“That feeling of lightness, there was that feeling that something is happening here,” Webb said, adding that it is that feeling that brought him to movies in general.

Moving forward in the discussion, they returned to the idea of new narrative territory. “One of the great things about drama is competing ideas of what’s good,” Webb said. In Spider-Man, they utilized this dynamic with Peter and George Stacy, played by Denis Leary (TV's Rescue Me). “Here, you get two people whose hearts are in the same place, but the approach is different.” That is what makes dramatic tension.

One of the best things about this panel was speaking to the fact that heroes, oftentimes, have no parents. Webb spoke a little about that. “There’s so many orphans in comics. Superman, obviously, Batman, Captain Marvel.”

Tolmach agreed, saying that the thing about his parents, about losing his parents in a way that’s unclear to him, all of that is something that hasn’t really been explored in Peter’s life.

Webb confessed that one of the great things about doing this movie was sitting with Stan Lee, and getting to ask him why all these heroes have that in common. “Stan Lee is an extremely literate guy,” he said. “I was expecting him to give some kind of diatribe or philosophical lecture about archetypes, but he was like, ‘I just need to get him out of the house’.”

The next part of the panel focused on audience questions. When it was time for fans in the audience to pose the panel question, they were all directed at Stone, who immediately felt the need to set the record straight and apologize.

“The Sam Raimi trilogy was my introduction to Spider-Man! I didn’t grow up reading comic books, I’m sorry,” Emma Stone bit her lip. Researching for this role, then, once Emma was more involved in the movie was pretty great for her, especially as she learned more about the character of Gwen Stacy. “The place [her story] has in comic book history, and the uproar it caused,” she mused.

Finally, Stone was asked about the differences between MJ and Gwen. “She is the opposite of Mary Jane… She loves him for who he really is.”

The Amazing Spider-Man swings into theaters on July 3rd. 

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