Huge spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man follow.
A few weeks ago a YouTube user took all of the clips and trailers released for The Amazing Spider-Man and made a pretty accurate, beat-by-beat 25-minute long version of the movie. Buried in all of that footage, and in the photos released by Sony marketing, was evidence of a different version of the movie.
Even the most positive view of the movie has to acknowledge the feeling of dangling plotlines and truncated editing. By my count there are two and a half major plotlines that are just left in the wind at the end of the movie: the hunt for Uncle Ben’s killer, the wrap up of Oscorp goon Mr. Ratha’s story and the mystery of Peter Parker’s parents.
Peter’s parents is the half a plotline; while it’s obvious that the mystery is meant to continue into the next movie, the structure of this film makes it feel as if the whole story is simply dropped in favor of a big fight scene. There’s no sense of closure to any aspect of the disappearance of Peter’s parents.
There are enough clues in photos and trailers to hint at what was originally meant for some of these plotlines. Let's go one by one and see what might have been cut:
1. Spider-Man’s War Against Rockers, or, The Hunt For Uncle Ben’s Killer.
The one dangling thread that I can't begin to resolve is the hunt for Uncle Ben’s killer; in the final movie Peter simply drops the quest, without a sense of any completeness. He doesn’t seem to make peace with the idea that the guy is still on the streets and he doesn’t catch the guy - the story just dries up. I’ve heard rumors that an earlier cut of the film included more closure on this story, but I can’t be sure.
2. The Vanishing Villain, or, The Mysterious Disappearance of Evil Mr. Ratha.
One story that did get tied up in the original cut of the film is Mr. Ratha’s. In the finished film Ratha gets attacked by the Lizard on the bridge and then... is gone. You have to wonder how this guy doesn’t put two and two together and realize the giant rampaging lizardman might be related to the world-class herpetologist specializing in cross-species DNA merging who he has been berating.
But he did! Check out this picture, released in May:
What’s weird is that the picture was released only two months ago. Was this scene in the film right up until the last minute? The CGI was certainly finished. Why was it cut?
This was a major scene in the original version of the movie. Spider-Man shows up in the middle of it, and much information about his parents seems to have been given in this sequence. My guess is that this is why Ratha's death was axed - there was no way to recut the sequence because the structure of it was always about giving Peter information about his genetic destiny.
A poster at the Superhero Hype message boards put together images and screengrabs that seem to be all from this sequence. The story of it is laid out pretty well here:
Mr. Ratha finds Connors' sewer lab, is about to kill him and then Connors turns into the Lizard and gets him first. Spider-Man shows up, there's a tussle and then...? I'm not really sure where this fit into the film; it had to take place after the scene where Spider-Man 'hunts' the Lizard in the sewer, but how long after?
Anyway, Ratha died in the original cut. I can't figure out if he was turning into a lizard in that large picture or if it's just an element of coloring.
3. Peter’s Perplexing Parents, or, Why Didn’t They Tell The Untold Story?
Months ago I told you guys that I heard rumors that The Amazing Spider-Man would be making a simple, but huge, change to Spider-Man’s origin. No longer would the spider bite change Peter Parker into a superhero. Rather, the spider bite would activate something already within him that would make him a superhero.
This is not reflected in the final movie. Sort of. The hints of it are still there, and when you add in deleted elements that snuck into the marketing you can see the shape of the thing where it once existed.
The first major hint is still in the movie. Curt Connors is talking about how every other subject upon whom cross-species DNA merging was attempted died. He does not know that he is speaking to the one success story. But how did Peter survive? The movie leaves this sort of dangling there, but the clues are in front of your face. Peter was bitten by a spider... a spider that Peter’s father bred. A spider like the one under glass in the film’s prologue. A spider like the one on the chalk board in his father’s office.
The scene where Connors tells Peter no subject survived looks like it might have been a reshoot. Why do I say that? Because of this sequence in the film’s second trailer, where Peter is showing Curt Connors the missing algorithm in a totally different setting than the final film. He’s filling it in on a chalk board in what I’m assuming is Connor’s home office:
I’m wondering why this changed. In the finished movie Peter gives Connors the alogrithm on a napkin, which feels small and casual. This scene of Peter at the chalkboard is more visually interesting, and ties in with the chalkboard in the prologue. Was there, perhaps, other dialogue that tied into that scene - and into Peter’s genetic destiny?
In the first and last trailers we hear a man - clearly Mr. Ratha - whispering ‘Do you think what happened to you, Peter, was an accident? Do you have any idea what you really are?’ That certainly sounds like a reference to Peter’s genetic destiny, and a clip that I don’t believe is in the finished film. Judging by the whisper I’m going to guess - and this is just a guess - that it is Ratha’s dying words to Peter after the Lizard does him in. This is a movie that seems like it should have at least one info dump dying declaration in it, and this would have been it.
And there’s more! The last two trailers released have Dr. Connors saying, mid-Lizard transformation, ‘If you want the truth about your parents, Peter, come and get it!’ What truth is that? There’s no ‘truth’ in the film, and Connors and Peter never have a good conversation about Peter’s parents. Going by the "ASM Deleted Scenes #1" image that line of dialogue may very well take place during the sewer encounter with Mr. Ratha.
By the way, it would make the end of the film work better if Peter didn’t just give Connors information he found in his dad’s briefcase. Wouldn’t it be more dramatic if some element of Peter himself - maybe his blood - was an integral part of making the Lizard formula work? Wouldn’t that make Peter’s sense of guilt for helping create the Lizard carry more weight? I’m actually not convinced this was ever in any filmed version of the movie, but it feels like the ghost of an idea cut out of a previous draft.
To me this all adds up to obvious proof that at one point The Amazing Spider-Man explicitly had a storyline about Peter’s genetics. That’s the much-hyped ‘Untold Story.’ In an interview with the Huffington Post, Marc Webb denied this. Sort of:
I have heard rumors that you wanted Peter's parents to be the source of his powers, not the traditional accidental radioactive spider bite. There are rumors of a reshoot to incorporate the more traditional spider bite.
I think there was something on the internet.
I want to clear that up.
It's completely false.
So what we see is the way it was always shot?
What he’s denying here is the bite, not Peter’s ‘Untold Story’ of genetic destiny. The original cut of the film ALWAYS had Peter being bitten, which is what Webb is saying in that quote. What it also had was the concept that the only reason why Peter didn’t die was because of something uniquely special about him. Something certainly involving his father.
By the way, I suspect that there’s a change in the movie to make Peter’s parents' disappearance less open ended. If you listen to the dialogue and gauge by Peter’s emotional state, you would guess that his parents vamoosed late one night and no one ever heard from them again. In fact Peter bitterly responds to Uncle Ben’s speech on responsibility by saying he wished his father had some. Which is a weird thing to say when your dad died in a plane crash.
I believe that the newspaper clipping saying Peter and Mary Parker died in a plane crash (seen when Peter is Bing-ing his father. I believe he gets spider powers before I believe he uses Bing) was a late insert. There is nothing else in the film that indicates Peter’s parents are dead. Everything else makes it seem like they’ve simply vanished off the face of the earth.
4. The Connors Family, A Date And Some Other Stuff.
Every movie has scenes that are cut out simply for time or pacing. The Ratha and Peter’s genetic destiny stuff feels like it was cut for larger issues (ie, not fucking the franchise from the reboot). This next stuff feels like it was cut for time.
Curt Connors wears a wedding ring, which we see a number of times. In the tie-in game he has a son. In the comic Connors’ son is actually an important character. There is no wife or child in the movie. Annie Parisse was cast in the film as 'the villain's wife;' at the time we thought it might have been Ratha's wife (he was named Van Alter then, after an obscure character in the comics), but it seems likely she was actually Connors' wife.
At the press junket for the film Andrew Garfield said that his favorite scene was actually cut; it was a scene of Peter and Gwen on a romantic date, including them swinging around a lamppost. The beginning of this is in the movie, and plays as an homage to the ‘Can you read my mind’ sequence in 1978’s Superman.
Was there more with the SWAT Lizards? It's such an odd choice to turn a SWAT team into monsters... and then never go back to them. Could an earlier version of the script have Spider-Man get injured fighting them before his final battle? In the film Spider-Man takes a bullet from a cop with a hearing problem, which doesn't play as dramatically.
There’s evidence in the trailers that the dinner with the Stacy family was longer, and that in particular Captain Stacy asks Peter about his father. The addition of this might have helped the scene feel more natural as Peter gets defensive about his dad; instead the dinner conversation goes from zero to arguing in no time flat. Also cut was the 'intimidating doorman' scene leading into that sequence. This scene was posted online and sucked, so no great loss.
What was a great loss was the the POV swinging scenes. The Comic-Con 2011 footage and the first trailer included a lengthy bit of POV web-slinging that was cut to shreds in the movie. This is the most baffling change in the whole film. I suspect it was done for pacing, but in IMAX and 3D this should have been big time money shot stuff.
It seems to me obvious that The Amazing Spider-Man got a huge last minute recut. Marketing was still using concepts and imagery related to a completely deleted storyline - the ‘Untold Story’ - as recently as May. This fits in with rumors I heard that a spring screening for Sony execs went poorly and changes were made. Excising the ‘Untold Story’ seems to have been the brunt of that change.
I doubt we’ll see much of that stuff on home video release. The studio will decide how much they want to follow up on this stuff as they move into the sequel; if they do want to follow up on it the footage will remain hidden so as to not contradict anything in upcoming movies. If they don’t want to follow up they’ll just hide the footage away for a decade or two.