Talking The Amazing Spider-Man with IMDb's Keith Simanton

Our monthly session with IMDb Managing Editor Keith Simanton is actually a week late this time out--it's nothing but a scheduling conflict, but it did allow us to speak a little more openly and candidly about The Amazing Spider-Man than we otherwise might have, given that it wouldn't have been in theaters by the time the story ran if it were on time last Monday.

As we did last month, we'll be presenting our conversation in two parts--the first, of course, will focus on this weekend's box office champ, The Amazing Spider-Man. Next time around, we'll shift gears a little and look forward to The Dark Knight Rises, Justice League and all the other goodies that DC Entertainment has in their Santa-sized toy bag for the next few years. That'll come tomorrow.

I haven't seen The Amazing Spider-Man yet, Keith [Note: In the time since this interview, I have, and reviewed it. I thought it was good, but not great], but we can speak as though I have because other people in the comics industry who made media screenings have already spoiled the pertinent bits for me.

Well, actually, I'll have to be really honest: I don't know what got spoiled for you, because for me it was a very frustrating experience to watch The Amazing Spider-Man. It's the first part of what seems like it would be a really great trilogy--unfortunately they forgot to make the first movie. It's almost like a "to be continued" TV show in some regards.

There's a bunch of things that you walk out of there and don't know any more about than you did going in. It's very exasperating because I liked Andrew Garfield a lot, and Emma Stone. It's a good cast but it does--it feels like a "to be continued," Damon Lindelof special.

Amazing Spiderman The Untold Story PosterI could see if you were going that way--toward his parents' fate--that it was unlikely to resolve what the hell happened with them in one movie. I mean, it took 35 years or something for that to be addressed in the comics.

Well, that's fine.

One would have thought, though, that failure to answer that major plot point would force the filmmakers to resolve other aspects of the film.

Right! At least tell us, who's the guy who killed Uncle Ben? You don't find out who killed Uncle Ben.

You don't find out how The Lizard lost his arm. You don't find out how Rhys Ifans' character, Curt Connors--you don't find out how he lost his arm. As a matter of fact, I asked him--I got a chance to see it in New York and talk to those guys, and I asked Rhys Ifans, "So, how'd you lose the arm?" And he said, "I can't tell you how I lost the arm. It's something that we want to keep secret." Like, you've got to be kidding me!

It seems to me as though they're building a world where everything is very conspiratorial and so anything can be a secret.

Yeah, I have to be honest: I had never even mused about what happened to his parents. They were just dead. I neve thought about it, and I thought that was a pretty ripe area to explore; kind of a fascinating avenue. They don't explore it.

There's just some very odd things that happen in Oscorp, just generally. They've got a very lax internship system, where a high school senior can run the internship program--Emma Stone runs the internship program--and she basically has run of the secret levels of Oscorp. There's a bunch of stuff like that.

Oh, and by the way, her father's a cop, so you don't necessarily want her to have unfettered access to your nefarious doings.

Exactly! That's exactly right. Yeah, you're doing bizarre genetic testing, so why don't you have this girl whose dad is one of New York's finest run your internship program and know all the secret codes?

It seems like that should have raised a red flag at some point in the film, when her father became obsessed with Spider-Man, right? I mean, not only is her dad a cop but he's now taking a special interest in exactly the kind of stuff we're doing here!

[Laughs] That's very true--and then, honestly, one of the things that I thought, "Oh, I appreciate that they're kind of going old-school on that" was the webshooters and that he designs them himself, which really starts to stretch credulity a little.

He's not really presented as this genius--or he's a blossoming genius, I suppose, because he solves the genetics equation for Connors. But that genius just doesn't sit well with Peter Parker as the schlub who becomes a hero when he puts on the Spider-Man mask, so that doesn't work.

Then you have to sit there and go, "Wait a second. So he got all of this stuff from Oscorp, the webshooter material--where's he get his refills? What's he, breaking in there at night? Does he get this onetime shipment of webbing material that--you know? It's just a lot of that stuff and it just breaks down over time.

Well, and one or two of those things you just kind of say, if it's not important to the plot, that it just happens because it happens and it doesn't impact anything. But yeah, if it's a ton of those kind of little niggling details they start to really pile up and become filmmaking flaws.

Exactly.

And it's funny becuase I'd never really considered--and I'm sure there's someplace in the comics that it tells you but I don't know--what happened to Dr. Connors' arm. He just...didn't have one. So the idea of "We're going to make that a plot point, and further than that, a plot point that's not resolved," is interesting to me. To me it's not an odd thing that's hanging out there until they made it one.

And that's smart writing! You say, "Hey! Let's find out about that!" You don't find out about it.

Do you think this a kind of inherent problem with a lot of these big tentpole-type franchises where you always have to have your eye on the sequel and the sequel to the sequel? That you can't ever do anything really big in the first movie?

I don't see so much of a pattern there, considering that Avengers felt pretty self-contained. Yes, they have the door open at the end with Thanos, but it's not--it felt like everything that had been brought up was resolved, and/or it was something that can't resolve because then they'd lose the universal threat so you can kind of see past that and deal with it.

But if they do that on Man of Steel, that may be indicative of, "Hey, here's how we're going to start doing these films," and leaving these things dangling out there that really frustrate some people.

There's also a coda, which I'm sure you're aware of, in Spider-Man, too, with Connors in some security place (which Rhys Ifans wouldn't answer on that one, either) with someone who may or may not be Osborn. He did say, and Marc Webb said to me, that there's a scene where Dr. Connors is down in the sewers and he's having a very Gollum-like conversation with himself. You know, the good angel/bad angel on the shoulder Gollum conversation. And that is indeed a different conversation than the conversation that he's having in this extremely unsatisfactory coda that is at the end of the movie.

Do you think that teeing up another Spider-Man movie in this coda helps them or hurts them in terms of their announcement that they want to tie in Venom and then potentially Ghost Rider into the world of Amazing Spider-Man to create their own mini-universe?

Yeah. [Laughs] I think the issue there is, how excited are people about seeing a Ghost Rider/Spider-Man Marvel team-up? I think that's a--I don't see anyone getting particularly excited about that. I think overall people will be unsatisfied with it.

Do you think this is one of those things like Men in Black, where it really hurts the franchise, or do you think it's just more that it'll do its money but then people are less enthusiasm going into the second film or going into Venom?

Well, I think whether people have enthusiasm for it or not, they're not going to let it lapse; they're going to continue to make them as long as Sony can. I think it's more of a job, whereas with Avengers, after we walked out of that screening at El Capitan, we were all proselytizing. The marketing guys still needed to do their work but they had several hundred other people working for them, suddenly. They won't have that base coming out of Spider-Man. At least I don't believe they will--I heard grumbling, I was very unsatisfied and very disappointed in what I felt really could have been something that--Webb's a good director, here are some great stars, and it's been turned into this commodity that is just seen as one of three, and becuase it was, it feels that way.

Do you think that if that underperforms, that undermines the idea of Webb coming back as director, or so you think they're pretty much committed to his version and then the next guy's version comes next time?

I haven't seen a lot of studio-to-director feelings of obligation anywhere. Look at Gary Ross and The Hunger Games. It made great money and I really credit Gary Ross for a lot of that. I was bemoaning choosing him, and it turned out that he actually had a great approach to it. I was very surprised and it lent it kind of that gritty narrative that I thought they were going to have to tamp down to make it a big film, and he didn't do that. But look at the Twilight series. They just churned through directors. I think the idea is, after Harry Potter, that you need a great producer and the director will work for them. I don't think Sony feels any obligation to Marc Webb. I think they gave him an amazing opportunity, frankly, but they probably gave it to him like anything else with these golden handcuffs of, "Okay, here's what you've got to do. We're making three of these, this is the first one, tee it up."

The other aspect of Spider-Man is that it doesn't feel consequential enough. Because you don't have the satisfaction of finding out who killed Uncle Ben, or finding out what his parents do, or finding out how Curt Connors lost his arm, so then you have to go, "It's a particularly important threat, right?" Actually, no. It doesn't feel like much of a threat at all so it can't even carry its weight in that regard.

I was struck by the fact that the big, climactic fight scene takes place at Oscorp--and so I'm sitting here going where it feels like the old Superman TV show where Lois would get kidnapped and it was like, "This is a grave threat!...to me, and five of my friends." And with a superhero film you want it to feel like there's more than that in the balance.

I don't want to necessarily dismiss it--there's obviously this biological threat that occurs, but it gets resolved pretty quickly and it just doesn't feel like there's consequence there. There's a few nice scenes--there's one with a series of cranes that's pretty dang cool. There's some pretty nice moments and like I say, I like the leads--I like everybody in it....I was just disappointed.