In the middle of his international publicity tour, filmmaker Marc Webb is realizing how important Spider-Man is around the world.
“It’s mind-boggling. It’s bizarre for me,” Webb said in a recent phone interview from Rome. “It reminds you how big Spider-Man is. The level of enthusiasm totally transcends borders.”
Marvel Comics’ friendly neighborhood wall-crawler is back in action in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It opens nationwide next week, on May 2 — in what has become, by tradition, the opening weekend of the busy summer movie season.
It’s a season that promises big action, with a fourth “Transformers” movie, a reboot of the “Godzilla” franchise, more chapters in the “X-Men” and “Planet of the Apes” sagas, a retelling of the “Sleeping Beauty” legend in “Maleficent,” and a new take on “Hercules.” (Read more about them in the Tribune’s special Summer Movie Preview section.)
But Webb’s second installment in the rejuvenated “Spider-Man” franchise, which brings back Andrew Garfield as the nerdy Peter Parker and his superhero alter-ego, is the first out of the gate — and therefore sets the bar for the rest.
Webb said he aimed to push that bar quite high.
“We were a little more willing to take risks, to take the narrative further,” he said.
That narrative explores Peter Parker’s growth as Spider-Man and his reluctance to put his now-ex-girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), in danger. And there’s plenty of danger for them to get into, with three major villains: the lightning-hurling Electro (Jamie Foxx), the hard-charging Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and young Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) — who is Peter’s best friend but who hates Spider-Man.
The first “Amazing Spider-Man” was only Webb’s second movie as director, after the romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer,” and he admits now that “the special effects were a huge learning curve from what I had done before.”
This time, he wanted to go further, starting with Spidey’s uniform.
“I think the redesign of the suit has a lot to do with — in the first movie, it was, ‘How would a kid design this?’… He would get the lenses from sunglasses. That’s how he would access this. …
“This time I wanted to be a little more engaged in the iconography,” Webb added. “I wanted to go back to the big, huge friendly white eyes. When kids see that mask, see that face, it evokes a certain kind of feeling.”
Webb also wanted to bring more humor to the mix. He said Garfield has a previously undiscovered gift for physical comedy — as does Foxx, who begins as nerdy Oscorp employee Max Dillon, in an origin story that mirrors Peter Parker’s becoming Spider-Man.
Webb reminds people that even though Foxx has an Oscar for his dramatic skills (portraying Ray Charles in “Ray”), he got his start on the sketch comedy show “In Living Color.”
“We wanted to create a bit of a cartoon” with Electro, Webb said. “Jamie knew how to make a theatrical villain. He could find nuance in the broadness of the character, if that makes sense. He could find the balance between pathos and psychosis.”
There’s plenty of drama, too — in the troubled relationship between Peter and Gwen, and in Peter’s discovery of the real reasons for his parents (Campbell Scott and Diane Venora) disappearing and leaving him in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field).
“The big moment in Peter’s life, even more than the spider bite, is being left behind by his parents,” Webb said. “That would really mess up any kid. … It creates a gap in Peter, an insecurity he’s had to deal with. That feeling of being left alone is a really pivotal part of Peter Parker.”