But the 37 year old would be the first to admit that he’s something of a leftfield choice to oversee this latest iteration of the friendly neighbourhood webslinger, with The Amazing Spider-Man representing only his second film, following 2009’s hit romantic comedy, (500) Days Of Summer.
That movie’s wry humour, flashy setpieces and focus on characters, though, persuaded The Amazing Spider-Man producers, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach and the late Laura Ziskin that Webb was their Spider-director. And Webb has risen to the challenge, with an earthy, grounded aesthetic that sees the webslinger’s legendary story take place in a very recognisable universe: ours.
We caught up with Webb in his Culver City editing suite, and talked to him about his decision to get involved with the project, the challenges of making Spider-Man swing, and finding Andrew Garfield…
How did you get involved with The Amazing Spider-Man?
I was meeting with these guys [Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach] and they brought up the idea. I was meeting with them on something else and I thought it was totally ridiculous. I said, I don’t make movies like that. They said, that’s why you should do it.
This is a new version of the Spider-Man story. How different is it?
There’s so much to tell in terms of who this kid is. My favourite thing about Spider-Man, is Peter Parker, the fact that he’s a kid from Queens who’s not a billionaire and he’s not an alien. He’s a kid who has the same problems we all do and that makes him intensely relatable. Spider-Man becomes wish fulfillment for that, flying through the air and beating up bad guys, but that all emanates from what Peter Parker would dream of, whether or not he was Spider-Man. To me, I wanted to start from a place where it felt like, if you walked into the theatre, that it was the same universe you lived in, and ground that both aesthetically and emotionally, which is difficult when you have a giant lizard running down the street.
How did you approach the scenes where Spidey is swinging through the city?
It was important for me to not just see Spider-Man swinging away from afar, but to be with him and feel that. We went to New York, near Columbia and Harlem and built a travelling rig system. We have motion capture elements that are there to create a sense of realism, weight and physical realism that we’re still working on and will be working on until the day before the movie comes out. It’s about expanding the universe, where you earn the spectacle of Spider-Man’s abilities.
You shot the movie in 3D. It seems that, if any character is suited for 3D, it’s Spider-Man.
I agree completely. 3D after Avatar was, for the studios, the thing to do because it was the salvation of the theatrical experience. But it was misused and maligned. But the truth is, it’s an incredible tool for specific things and particularly to create that sense of flying. There are movies for which it is made and there is no character better suited for 3D than Spider-Man.
Let’s talk about Andrew Garfield. What made you cast him as Peter?
He was just the right guy. In his screen-test, he killed it. It was one of those things – we did the screen-test and that night I was cutting it together and I couldn’t stop watching it. He moved like a kid, his elbows were flying all over the place, and even though he’s a little bit older, he had the humour, the awkwardness but also an ability to go deep in a way that very few actors can do. He’s a highly-trained actor, he’s very thoughtful about that and that grabbed me. The editors we’re working with, they didn’t know he was British! (laughs)
What can we expect from his Spider-Man?
We start off with a different kind of Peter Parker, without subverting the iconography of what Peter Parker and Spider-Man is. There are certain mythological obligations people have in any story, but it’s so radically different in terms of tone and what he experiences and backstory and the mystery about his father that I’m very comfortable with the movie occupying a different space. What we took for the beginning of the story is Peter being left by his father and mother, and what that does for him, and the emotion ripples through the movie, and subsequent movies as well.
So he suffers?
I wanted him to feel pain. We fall in love with heroes not because of the way they can punch someone, but for how they can take a punch. But he’s funny. We wanted to give him some quips, that was such an important part of the character that I really enjoy in the comics.
And then there’s Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, a hugely important character for Peter.
Listen, I’m a romantic. I love relationships, guy/girl stuff that’s interesting and relatable. And Gwen is very smart. Emma’s attitude is so not a movie star, but she’s the biggest movie star I’ve ever worked with. She’s so charismatic and funny and decent and a wonderful actor. The other thing I like about her, is the humour. She’s very funny.
And can you talk about choosing The Lizard as the villain?
I’m interested in the idea that Curt Connors was his mentor and then became his adversary and he cares about this guy who he has to fight. He’s the literal embodiment of the theme of the movie, which is we all have a missing piece. He has no arm, Peter has no parents. He has to fill that void, and he fills it with Spider-Man. Curt is not as strong as Spider-Man on the inside, but he’s much stronger on the outside, and essentially he becomes a big bully. But I like that The Lizard thinks that what he’s doing is right, in his weird, haywired brain, he’s right. He’s not the bad guy. I love that. I love the idea that Peter is trying to find the humanity in the inhumane, it gives him a very good obstacle to navigate.
Will we hear the phrase, ‘with great power comes great responsibility?’
That’s ingrained in the very DNA of Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. There are different incarnations of that idea that are learned in different parts of this movie, and it’s part of his arc, but it doesn’t completely define his character. It’s about him growing up. Every movie is, who am I? We say that in the movie, explicitly. Being responsible for things bigger than himself is what he’s about, it’s what superheroes are all about. It’s why we love them.
Opening across the Philippines on June 29 in Digital 3D, 2D and regular theaters, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit http://www.columbiapictures.com.ph for trailers, exclusive content and free downloads. Like us at www.Facebook.com/ColumbiaPicturesPH and join our fan contests.