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Comic-Con 2013: Matt Tolmach on Amazing Spider-Man 2, 3 and 4

Producer Matt Tolmach explains why Amazing Spider-Man 2 will have multiple villains… and not suck. Plus: Where’s that Venom movie?!

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Jamie Foxx

Matt Tolmach is really enthusiastic about The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He'd better be, since he's producing it. One of the key players behind the recent reboot of the classic superhero is infectiously eager to talk about the next movie in the franchise, and even the movies to come. His willingness to answer some of the tough questions made them easier to ask: isn't setting release dates for the next three movies risky? Isn't he worried that previous superhero movies with multiple villains – including Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 - ran into serious story problems? 

Matt Tolmach was more than willing to illustrate his team's thought processes about these issues, to reveal how much time has passed between Amazing Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man 2, and even gives us an update about when we're getting the Venom solo movie we were promised a few years ago. Short answer? Not anytime soon, but I'll let Tolmach tell you in his own words, straight from San Diego Comic-Con 2013.
 

CraveOnline: You haven’t done your panel yet.

Matt Tolmach: Our panel is in a couple hours.
 

What are you most excited for people to experience about Amazing Spider-Man 2?

Honestly, we’re going to show some footage from the movie. I think people are going to be blown away. This movie bigger, louder, more operatic. I think we hit our stride in an extraordinary way. So I’m just excited for people to see… It’s the Spider-Man we love, but it’s honestly on a whole other level. I’m waiting for the lights to go out. We have a little surprise in store.
 

We had a surprise last time.

Yes we did. It’s a tradition now. We surprise people.
 

You talk about this one being bigger. Obviously it’s a sequel, there are going to be more villains, we expect that. I think a lot of people were surprised by how scaled back Amazing Spider-Man was. It felt very… intimate. Was that a stepping stone to get to #2? Was that always the plan?

I was going to say that. Honestly, when you tell an origin story – when you tell this origin story – there’s a certain obligation… By virtue of the fact that Peter Parker wasn’t Spider-Man in that movie, there’s a certain amount of time that you’re quite frankly not going to be telling a Spider-Man story when you’re doing that.
 

You have to get him there.

So it became a story about a young man, all of that. It was dramatic, but it wasn’t fight scenes and all of that. It was also, as you said, a more intimate, emotional story. You have Uncle Ben and everything that he went through. This movie happens at a moment in his life where he frickin’ Spider-Man. You know? He’s not apologetically Spider-Man, he’s not becoming Spider-Man, he owns it. The movie opens that way. So it just changes the tone of the movie, and we also made a decision to do that, to make it… It’s still got the intimacy and emotion of that character, the way that Marc Webb makes movies, but we just started blowing shit up. [Laughs] And you get Jamie Foxx playing Electro, the whole thing expands. We wanted to have it fun. I think there’s one word that we just decided we were going to pray to in this movie, it’s the “fun” of Spider-Man, also. So that just opens it up. It’s a different feeling to it.
 

You say he’s officially Spider-Man now. He’s not becoming Spider-Man. How much time has elapsed between the first and second movie to get him there? Is it the next week, a few months later…?

We play with it a little in the movie, but it’s a few months and then we move forward in time.
 

The story kicks off.

Yeah. But it’s about a moment in his life when he’s no longer… You know, the last movie was about putting on the mantle of Spider-Man. This is not.
 

It’s about embracing it.

Yeah.
 

Were you concerned, though, since you have Electro, and Paul Giamatti playing Rhino, and Chris Cooper’s in it as Norman Osborn, was there a concern that sometimes comic book movies have too many villains, and it kind of distracts the audience’s attention? What were your thoughts on that?

That when you don’t do it right, that’s the case.
 

How do you do it right? What’s the right way to do it?

This is the Electro [story]. Electro is the villain in this movie. Are there other…? I think that one of the cool things we do in the movie is play with the universe. Spider-Man lives in a world where there are these characters.
 

So instead of “I stopped a liquor store robbery,” in this one it’s “I stopped The Scorpion” or something, and that’s it. Just move on.

Yes! And it’s not like there’s one of these villains in the world and everybody else is a normal criminal, there are several of them and they may not actually really come into their own, or really become an obstacle for him in this movie. But they’re there! And you may see them for a minute. We fell in love with that idea. It expands the universe. These things that seem to emanate from OsCorp are out there in the world. It doesn’t mean each of them is the focus of the movie. I think that’s where you get yourself into trouble, is there’s only a finite amount of story time in a movie…
 

Especially when you have to fit action sequences in there too.

That’s right! When you start dividing it up, and you’ve got this guy and this guy and this guy and this guy, it feels like a hollow ride as opposed to what we did, which is the emphasis is the Electro story. It is the Max Dillon story, and you’re not going to have any doubt about that when you see the movie. So yes, there’s other stuff in it, and it’s just fun. I love the idea that… I mean, think about it. It’s like, of course there are other villains out in the world that Spider-Man lives in. So it doesn’t all happen… One at a time is too convenient. You know there’s more trouble coming.
 

By the time you get to a couple of sequels, there are so many… By the time you get to four movies, there are so many villains that people have to have been copycatting them at some point.

That’s right! Like, “That’s a good idea, I’m going to…” Right. That’s exactly it.
 

You announced that you’re going to do Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 3

Yeah.
 

Then later on you announced that you’re going to do Amazing Spider-Man 4.

Yeah.
 

What happened? Was that always the plan but you weren’t ready to announce it yet, or did you come up with an idea for 4 that you didn’t have before?

It’s a little bit of both. We feel there’s a huge amount of story…
 

There’s like fifty years’ worth of story…

Right. I was talking about in the movie, but part two of that is “in the books that we can cull from,” and we’ve always felt that way. The hardest part of making a Spider-Man movie is deciding which story you’re going to tell, because there are so many. We also bit off a huge amount of story in this movie [Amazing Spider-Man 2], and once we started thinking about the next movie – hopefully not too much while you’re shooting, but you start going there…
 

You’re setting pieces in motion.

Because there are things that are going to be resolved down the road, and we began to feel like, absolutely there’s another movie. There are more movies after that. And you know what the truth is? There’s also… We know we’re going to keep making Spider-Man movies. It’s an incredibly competitive landscape that we make movies in and release movies in, and you want to actually plant a flag in a release date and own it.
 

You want to get the actors locked down too.

You do! Part of it is actually just creating a structure, so you know, “I need to have this script by then, because it takes this long to prep, and if I’m backing into that release date I’ve got be in production, I’ve got to be…” It’s crazy, but I’m already anxious about getting ready for the next two movies, and this one hasn’t even come out.
 

I’m picking up on your excitement, and yet I feel like there’s a concern that what if, and I don’t mean to burst your bubble…

Go for it.
 

What if you get to Amazing Spider-Man 3 and it doesn’t do that great? Something happens.

The next one.
 

Or even this one. It just doesn’t quite break, for whatever reason. Are you still going to go ahead? Because you’re making a commitment now to making all those movies, even if it doesn’t do quite as well as the last one.

Emphatically "yes." Yes, because I’m living in a world where… I’m just not going there. It’s out of my head. Part of that is because I just don’t want to, but part of that is also knowing what we’re doing, and knowing what this movie is, I just don’t believe it. You walk around Comic-Con. Look at the fans. My kid is the most rabid Spider-Man fan in the world. I know how much people love Spider-Man. That’s not going away. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, it’s not like you can just give them anything…
 

Spider-Man has staying power. We’ve proven that.

People love Spider-Man, so if you give them something that they’re going to dig, that satisfies that thing that they love, that relationship with Peter Parker, they’re coming. How many come, and how high that bar goes, I think is a function of how good the movie is, and I  njust have to bet on what we’re doing. So that’s what we’re doing. We’re betting on what we have, and we’re betting on these writers who wrote this movie, these very good friends of mine. They’re geniuses. They wrote a [mouths the words “fucking brilliant”] script…
 

You can say “fucking brilliant,” it’s fine.

A fucking brilliant script! And you can’t make a movie without one. A good one.
 

I heard that the original plan was to incorporate Venom at some point as a solo film, and then maybe tie him into the franchise later. Is Venom still part of your plans?

There’s nothing formal or official, but it’s always been a dream to make that movie. We’re just not there yet. Right now we’re sort of fixated on this. But is there a sense that down the road things are going to happen? Sure.


William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.