Spider-Man: He’s just like one of us.
After the trailer for the movie screened for the 6,500 people assembled in Hall H, Andrew Garfield appeared in the audience in a Spider-Man shirt and mask that appeared to have been purchased on clearance in Target’s leftover Halloween costumes section. He then ripped off his disguise and read a heartfelt speech about why, as a skinny kid growing up in England, he always related to the Peter Parker story. “Peter Parker has inspired me to be stronger,” he said. “He inspired Andrew, me, to be braver.”
It was a sweet, seemingly heartfelt attempt to win over fans, one in keeping with what appears to be — based on the clips shown during the panel — a Spider-man adaptation with a more emotional sensibility. Let me put it this way: during a clip of Peter and Gwen flirting in their high school hallway, the sounds of Coldplay could be heard.
But this new Spidey — directed by Marc Webb, the man who made the quirky romance “(500) Days of Summer” — isn’t all about young teens in love. The film clips also featured our web-slinging hero gleefully beating the bodily fluids out of some bad guys, as well as a first glimpse of Rhys Ifans, the villain in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” transforming from Dr. Curt Connors into the Lizard.
So what are the quick bullet points on the big superhero movie panel of Comic-Con 2011? Glad you asked.
What we knew going in: That the aforementioned Webb is helming the relaunch of the Spidey franchise once directed with great success and panache by Sam Raimi. Andrew Garfield is our Spidey and Emma Stone plays his love interest, Gwen Stacy. Much online fanfare has been made over casting decisions, the new suit and the recently released trailer. But the question remains: are we ready to watch the Spidey origin story all over again?
What we learned from the panel: As noted above, Webb is departing from the Raimi template in some ways. Example: in this ”Spider-Man,” Peter actually builds those much-needed web slingers for his wrists just as he does in the comics. (Some fans in Hall H applauded a reference to the presence of the mechanical devices in the movie.) And Webb also seems to bring a bit more humor and lightness to the material. But the fact and challenge remains that he’s retelling the Spider-Man origin story only 10 years after Raimi, Tobey Maguire and co. told it to near-perfection. Will fans want to see that story again so soon? (For the record, cast and crew are keenly aware of the specter of the most recent Spider; Garfield even said he was “Team Tobey.”
Reaction from the Comic-Con masses: There was a great deal of whooping, screaming and clapping throughout the panel. And personally, I look forward to seeing more of the performances from the extraordinary cast, which also includes Sally Field and Martin Sheen. In general, fans seemed receptive to what they saw, but still cautiously optimistic. I talked to more than one Comic-Conner who wasn’t totally sold on the idea of rebooting Spider-Man at this stage, regardless of how it’s handled.
Projected response from outside of Comic-Con: I think interest levels will remain high as we head toward the release date next July. The footage was certainly strong enough to convince the average moviegoer to want to reconnect with one of the most recognizable and beloved superheroes. I do have some reservations about the Lizard, though. The scene featuring that reveal didn’t frighten me much. Then again, I was never a huge fan of the Green Goblin either.
Best fan moment: Honestly, it was when Garfield appeared in the crowd and confessed to his own Spider-Man geekiness. Good publicity? Sure. But it also seemed genuinely sincere and yet another reason to consider nominating Garfield for this year’s Most Adorable Human Being on Planet Earth Award.
Clearly Garfield knows that playing Spider-Man has brought him great power. And apparently, he treats that power, so far, with great responsibility.