If you have somehow stayed away from the glut of marketing materials Sony’s been pushing since basically last July at Comic-Con – well, first, that’s pretty amazing – they’re giving you yet another chance with a fourth theatrical trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It begs the question, why so much Spider-Man? The answer to that is probably multi-part, but the first piece to that puzzle was probably revealed back when Sony decided to can Sam Raimi’s proposed Spider-Man 4 and opted to go straight into the current reboot franchise: Because they can.
If you want to be a downer about it, it’s very easy to look at Sony’s Spider-Man push in purely economic terms. Sam Raimi’s 2002 film that kicked the whole thing off grossed more than $800 million worldwide, while the most recent Marc Webb joint, though not nearly as well received, still raked in more than $750 million globally. Even with the very large budgets all the Spider-Man movies have had (Amazing 2 is estimated at $200 million), that’s still a huge chunk of change in Sony’s pocket. So let’s acknowledge the reality: Sony is interested in keeping your mind on Spider-Man.
But here’s where the real kicker is: they’ve already announced two more movies, and by all accounts the stories from Amazing Spider-Man 1-4 will be very direct sequels to one another. Heck, it’s even looking like they might play more as extended episodes of a single story than discreet films. What that means is Sony has approximately $500-$600 million already committed over the next several year, and that’s not even counting a presumably large publicity budget. Some have wondered why last summer’s The Lone Ranger was considered such a disaster when it’s made around $250 million worldwide against a $215 million budget. What’s not accounted for there is the massive ad buy and other publicity expenses Disney put into promoting the film.
All that is to say that Sony has made a huge gamble on Spider-Man movies, which they now need to pay off over the course of not one, but several films. So back to the trailer. This fourth trailer shows a lot of footage we’ve already seen, but it also adds a significant number of new shots. Across all the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen the movie at this point (which is not, by the way, a new phenomenon for this series). That may seem pretty silly, but here’s what I think Sony is up to. There are those for whom more footage is always going to be a good thing. These are people that were probably going to see the movie anyways, but by keeping them on a steady diet of new reveals, Sony is making sure they never stop talking about the movie to those who maybe aren’t as up to date (a phenomenon, I’ll admit, we’re guilty of helping to perpetuate). But for every bit of suspense this glut of footage removes for the current film, it adds it back for the next one. Now you have to go see this movie so you’ll know what’s going on in the next movie, for now still shrouded in glorious mystery.
Sony has to expect some level of diminishing returns as the series progresses, but by spending big now while they do have the money, there’s a chance they create a series following that carries the last couple films with significantly less risk on their part. Think about Harry Potter or Twilight. Yes, those movies got bigger and spent (presumably) more on marketing as they got later in the series, but the studio also knew basically what to expect because the fans from the first couple movies were hooked on the series long story. My bet is Sony’s trying to engender something similar.
So there’s a rational, business-y reason for why Sony’s putting out so many trailers. Here’s why, if you’re a fan of Spider-Man, that’s just funny.
If you’ll remember back to around a year ago, Sony was just teasing Jamie Foxx as Electro, while keeping the existence and appearance of any other villains the film might introduce close to the chest. The movie was basically being pitched as Spider-Man vs. Electro in the same way Amazing 1 was Spider-Man vs. the Lizard. Then it gradually came out that Rhino would be playing a role in the film as well – although any discussion of how Paul Giamatti was going to end up looking like the figure from the comic books was carefully avoided, complete with assurances that he wouldn’t be in much of the movie.
But of course, we’ve now seen a fair bit of him as well as relatively extended looks at Electro in action. Then the rumors began to surface that the Sinister Six, a collection of Spider-Man villains bent on the hero’s doom, might surface by the third or fourth installment. But they were only rumors until, well, we saw this:
Those are very clearly augments for Vulture and Doc Ock, who along with Electro are members of the original sinister six. Couple that with first a poster, and then footage, and with today’s trailer lots of footage of a Goblin character who appears to be Harry Osborne (rather than Norman), and we’re only one shy of having six villains in this movie.
Here’s why I think that’s funny. I pray I’m mistaken, but right now I don’t see any mystery with this movie, particularly for anyone with a passing knowledge of Spider-Man. As I said, it looks like that’s intentional on Sony’s part, but I think I could tell you most of this movie beat-for-beat right now, which is amusing because it flies in the face of all the rhetoric that was coming out of the production early on. Let’s take for granted that Paul Giamatti and Dane Dehaan are too big to be covered up, so we were always going to know Rhino was in the movie in some capacity, and Harry Osborne as well (with natural questions about Green Goblin’s/Hobgoblin’s potential appearance). But what if the trailers never showed Rhino or Goblin at all? Or any hint of the Sinister Six? Today’s trailer makes it plain that they’re about to be a major part of the movie. Can you imagine the shock and awe at Rhino’s reveal? Or the reveal that Oscorp is behind Vulture, Doc Ock, Goblin, and Rhino? Just think about the wave of free publicity that would be swelling into The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which would be set up to feature the Sinister Six.
Sony may end up being right about people going to see the movie anyways, but it’s hard not to have a laugh at the way they’re sacrificing this film in an effort to make sure their multi-film Spidey gamble pays off.