MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: “SPIDER-MAN 2″

There are so many facets to the marketing of “Spider-Man 2″ that I’m going to expand my established format a bit to deal with them all.

Trying hard to not get bogged down in hyperbole, “Spider-Man 2″ is probably being looked at as the key to the summer movie season. Sure, we had the return of a familiar ogre (actually two if you count Vin Deisel), the third year at Hogwarts and a special-effects disaster of a movie (sorry, that should have been “disaster movie”), but this is the tent-pole for the industry. If “Spider-Man 2″ can recreate the numbers and excitement of 2002’s Spider-Man, then Sony and Hollywood as a whole will be happy.

That’s why all those promotional partners, from Kellogs to Wal-Mart to Crayola have put their names on the list to sell Spidey-related products. If the movie is successful, they get a piece of it. If it’s not, well, then there are going to be a lot of Spider-Sense game pieces being thrown out behind Burger King in the next month or so. Everyone wants their products to be associated with a winner and this is as sure a bet as there’s been in a while.

Marvel Comics especially is hoping and wishing and praying that S-M 2 (saying that makes it sound like a completely different movie) is a huge hit. They have shifted gears to put Spider-Man at the forefront of the company even more so than in 2002. To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge (or was it Josef Stalin?), what’s good for Spider-Man is good for Marvel and what’s good for Marvel is good for Spider-Man.

The Trailers

Both the Teaser trailer and the Theatrical version do nice jobs of showing not only Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus, this movie’s villain, but also of setting up the thematic issues the characters will be dealing with. Tobey Maguire is seen doing his best 1,000-yard stare quite a bit as he alternately rushes into action, throws down his Spidey mask symbolically and stares at Kirsten Dunst.

What both trailers do surprisingly well is let you know what’s going to happen in the movie without completely showing what’s going to happen in the movie. There are lots of shots of things about to happen or just happening, such as Doc Ock, played by Alfred Molina (who I’ve never really forgiven for not throwing the whip back to Indiana Jones) threatening Peter Parker, James Franco as Harry Osborn threatening a bound and prostrate Spider-Man and some shots of Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson expressing her feelings for Peter Parker to seemingly everyone in New York.

When I turned on the DVD for “Mona Lisa Smile” a few months ago I noticed the teaser trailer for S-M 2 and at first that struck me as odd. What was a comic book action movie’s trailer doing on a sappy chick-flick DVD? In retrospect, though, it makes perfect sense. Guys are not going to be able to go see this movie more than once without bringing their girlfriends/wives at least one of those times. So what could get the girls to actually want to come back and see it again themselves? Romance, which is what both versions of the trailer have in spades.

The Posters

There are a plethora of posters out there, El Guapo. The first ones teased looks at Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. Later ones showed more of Spidey and showed him swinging away with Mary Jane, but one thing missing from almost all the posters is Maquire’s face. In fact, in the only one where he’s not wearing the mask he is facing away from the camera. That makes me think they’re tipping their hands at a plot point that is touched on in the trailer. That’s a nice subtle touch in my opinion.

What is nice about the posters to date is their consistency. They all have a yellowish, almost faded look about them, like Ben Kingsley purposely spilled coffee on them to make them look older and worn. This is in sharp contrast to the text style used for the release date and name that is very sharp, metallic and modern looking.

The Comics

Marvel has really seen the light in terms of corporate synergy since the first X-Men. The company, which just a few years ago had to declare bankruptcy, has now posted record gains due in large part to the savvy way they have branded, licensed and then cross-promoted their character properties.

To accompany the release of “Spider-Man 2″, Marvel has reconfigured practically the entire company to celebrate it. A quick visit to www.marvel.com has the web-slinger’s visage all over it. The splash page has a tease on how “Five Days Before Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man’s Life Is Torn Apart”, which is a plug for Amazing Spider-Man #509.

In the last three months, Marvel has started five new Spider-Man titles, bringing the grand total to ten. Two of these are overt attempts to tie into the movie without actually being a movie adaptation.

“Mary Jane” reconfigures the Spider-Universe so that MJ Watson is a teenage high school student in the modern world, a nice bit of historical revisionism considering in the mainstream Marvel Universe MJ was introduced in the 1960’s along with everyone else. Mary Jane’s look has always been one of a tall, leggy super-model but here she, well, she looks like Kirsten Dunst. This is in no way a bad thing, but I’m just saying. “Mary Jane” seems targeted specifically toward young girls, a group who does not traditionally buy comics.

The other is “Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One”, a title for which they should have to pay DC royalties. Again, Marvel is hoping everyone has forgotten the actual first meeting of Peter Parker and Otto Octavius, as described in various flashbacks throughout the years, and buy this version. What these titles lack in originality they make up for with…sorry, I’ve got nothing.

Marvel is hoping that the same demographic that has the disposable income to see the movie will then say, “Hey, maybe we should check out the comics?” – kids in their early teenage years. It’s like George Carlin says in Dogma, “Get them while they’re young”. And yes, the cigarette industry analogy applies to comic books too. If Marvel can draw them in with “Spidey/Doc Ock: Year One” then maybe they will go back to the store and pull out a copy of “Amazing” the next time. Pretty soon you’ve got an addict.

The push for Spidey continues in part two of MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: “SPIDER-MAN 2″>>>




Posted on June 29, 2004 in Features by

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