Marvel's latest tech marvel: Amazing Spider-Man 2

Summary:It's a rare treat to see a new blockbuster movie like Amazing Spider-Man 2 before anyone else does, but it's an even rarer treat to get to talk to the people who made it and to see how they made it.

Spider-Man and Electro Faceoff

I love Spider-Man. I've always thought that Peter Parker was my alter ego. Well to be honest, Peter Parker and Bugs Bunny, are my co-alter egos. I love the wise-cracking, smarter-than-you kind of swagger that makes Peter Parker the perfect hero and the perfect annoyance to those who have ill intent. In this second part of the Spider-Man reboot, Amazing Spider-Man 2 (ASM 2), Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) takes on the memory of his parents, his newest nemesis Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx), his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), his childhood friend Harry Osborne/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), his father's employer (OSCORP), and his own inner demons. To be blunt, it's a really bad few days for Peter, but it makes for one heck of a roller coaster ride for you and me.

Sorry, no spoilers here, but there are some real surprises for even the most jaded of Peter Parker fan. And as you have seen from the trailers, Electro has dropped the 1960s lightning bolt face mask for a cool, new look that includes some movie magic and a new suit.

The technology used in the making of the film is extreme. You'll have to wait until Monday for a special exclusive look at some of the technology behind Electro's look and the way he teleports.

I'll say this, though, the movie magic (technology) includes building digital versions of each character, CGI, physics, and some true vision from the director (Marc Webb) and his crew of creative genius nerds.

The time, patience, and attention to detail in the creation of this movie are absolutely second to none. For example, Spider-Man's suit is a little looser on his body, which makes it wrinkle up in the right places. It also makes it flap in the wind a bit when he's doing his freefalling off of New York's tall buildings. You'll also note that there are no stunts that defy gravity or physics in this movie. When the webs go taught from Peter's weight, he swings in an arc, just as he's supposed to.

Although not all of the effects inserted are noticeable, you'd notice if they weren't there. As a good example, Electro's skin looks transparent like he's lit from within. It's a cool effect produced from studying electric eels and lightning. Yeah, these guys are smart and they leave nothing to chance or to your imagination. There's no "cheapness" to this film's effects. They're so good that you'll probably never know when you're looking at the real thing versus a computer-generated version of a character or a building.

The character architects paid close attention to shadows, muscle movement, and realistic body positions. You'll see that in the film. Of course, it took inspiration from the comic book but the engineers complied with the laws of physics, which comes across in the film. In my opinion, it's the best Spider-Man movie yet and its special effects enhance the feel of the movie.

One of the interesting aspects of the movie is that the principle photography was shot on the streets of New York. New York plays a prominent role in the film. If I hadn't already been in New York for the screening and meetings with the actors and crew, I would have felt as if I was a bystander watching the action from street level.

The sounds, the sights, and the very feel of the city are all there for you to absorb while watching the action. It's a very impressive undertaking that totally worked for me.

The film's sound is just right. Loud things are loud. Quiet things are quiet but nothing sounds muted or fake. The street sounds are so good and so vivid that they place you right on the streets of New York. I thoroughly enjoyed that feeling of standing on the street during the action.

For you audiophiles, here is a snippet from an earlier announcement about the sound technology for ASM2:

Sony Pictures Entertainment announced today that it is teaming with both Dolby Laboratories, Inc. and Barco to mix The Amazing Spider-Man 2™, the highly anticipated next chapter in the story of Peter Parker, in both the Auro 11.1 system and the Dolby® Atmos™ cinema sound system, to deliver a more natural and realistic soundtrack that moves sound around and above audiences. These innovative technologies open new possibilities to enhance storytelling through sound, giving the moviegoer a more immersive, exciting and compelling experience.  The picture will be released in theaters internationally beginning April 16, 2014, and domestically on May 2, 2014.

During the round table discussions, I asked Director Marc Webb about the sound (I took artistic license here and paraphrased his comments).

KH: One of the things I really enjoyed about the film was the ambient sounds of the street. Did you do that on purpose or did you have to add it back in later?

MW: That's an interesting question because we shot on location and we tried to filter as much of that stuff out as we could, but you want the actors to be able to act small and be quiet. But there are trucks passing by and you have to turn everything up. What that does is it creates a sense of place interestingly. So that was sort of a technical thing that became part of the pallette and even became part of the score. In Times Square, we used some of the city sounds and made rhythms with those sounds that became part of the sonic template of the movie.

Webb began his career as a director for commercials and for music videos for recording artists such as Green Day, Fergie and My Chemical Romance. He was honored with several MTV Video Music Awards, including the 2009 Best Director Award for Green Day’s “21 Guns,” Best Rock Video in 2006 for AFI’s “Miss Murder” and Best Group Video for The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” Also in 2006, The Music Video Production Association honored him as Director of the Year for his work with Weezer, AAR and My Chemical Romance.

 

Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters tomorrow, May 2. See it. Enjoy the movie the first time for the story and see it a second time to explore the technical aspects of what went into making it spectacular. Listen to the sounds. Watch the effects. Look for the details. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man at his best and easily one of the best action movies I've ever seen. 'Nuff said.

Remember to watch for my Monday post that will include exclusive technical footage from the movie creators.

Topics: Software, Hardware

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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