If any film can match Tintin for the sheer weight of expectation sitting on its shoulders, it’s The Amazing Spider-Man, which showed up to Hall H complete with footage and a random weirdo wearing a Spider-Man suit who grabbed the audience question microphone before the panel could begin…
All right, so the joke was given away fairly early when the masked individual sounded distinctly like the new Peter Parker himself, Social Network star Andrew Garfield, but it was a nice little stunt to kick things off. Once he pulled his mask off, Garfield launched into a heartfelt little speech – with handwritten notes – that explained how Spider-Man had affected him over the years. “Spider-Man saved my life. Peter Parker's always been the one fictional character – and Holden Caulfield – that I related to when I was growing up. Across the board and every generation of comics, it's always something I've felt close to, personally." As a way to win over sceptics at the panel, it certainly seemed effective.
Garfield took the chance to introduce the main players who travelled to Hall H to promote the new take on the Marvel hero: producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad, director Marc Webb and Garfield’s co-star Emma Stone.
Oh, and the gang were joined later by Rhys Ifans, who showed up as the surprise guest.
Probably the biggest element to come out of the panel was the first proper look at Ifans’ character Dr Curt Connors and his slithery transformation into big villain The Lizard. A decidedly more monstrous creation than we’ve seen from the Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi years (Venom aside, perhaps), the scaly villain came across as a sort of crocodile-meets-nightmare type beast. While the effects were clearly still at an early stage, the scene shown – with the newly birthed creature emerging through a destroyed toilet stall to menace two terrified young women – was effectively creepy. We still have some concerns about the look of the creature, but we’ll happily wait to see a more completed version.
Webb and co also showed more footage, including interactions between Garfield and Stone and the young actor and both his uncle and aunt (Martin Sheen and Sally Field). We also got a chance to watch Peter Parker’s first attempts at crime-fighting, with the clips suggesting that this take on the tale may just find Parker using his trademark great power for a little more unintentional cruelty than in Raimi’s films. To begin with, at least.
Questioned about taking over the role, Garfield was quick to identify his reasons: "I'm approaching this like it's Shakespeare or modern myths," he said. "We still want to see these stories, we still want to see these characters. It's another chapter in a comic book story that means so much to so many people." But there was also a chance for more levity as Garfield explained that he spent the weeks between being cast and reporting for duty primarily freaking out and training hard. Oh, and he invited us to punch his trainer in the face if we ever met him for the hell he put him through.
Stone had her own tale to tell, admitting that she had less than two minutes to digest the news that she’d won the role of Gwen Stacey before it was announced and everything went crazy. But she admitted that she needed to take it on and take it over. “I can't play a character without making it my own a little bit. So hopefully it's all right that I'm playing her.” The crowd seemed ready to give her their support. She also added that it was Garfield’s involvement that first drew her to the role. “For me, the selling point was Andrew, because my character experiences everything with Peter, and it’s her first love. He teaches her so much and they teach each other so much. Once I met with him, it just made sense. I walked in and he was in the full Spider-Man suit and I stood next to him for the camera test and just started touching him. It was pretty incredible to see him in costume for the first time.”
Webb admits he had serious second thoughts about taking on the job of making the movie. “There’s just so much fantastic material that comes from the comics. I was a little sceptical at first. You feel the presence of those other movies to a certain point. But it kept me up at night. How can I walk away from this? What an opportunity!”