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Well played, Sony. Whether it was coincidence or internet-monitoring extraordinaire, releasing the first official picture of Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man on the same day as a leaked pic reveals the complete movie Captain America costume was a masterstroke, and a sure way of dominating fanboy conversation. Of course, whether or not it’s dominating in a good way, well…
Okay, I admit it: I think the released image is pretty great. Garfield looks good, suitably skinny and teenager-like despite the sculpted abs, and releasing an image where Spider-Man is (a) unmasked and (b) beaten-up – dig those scratches on his cheek – seems like a smart move, in terms of making Garfield the focus, instead of the slightly redesigned costume, while also reinforcing the “being Spider-Man is as much about the downside as the fun” message. With great power comes great bruises, after all.
And, yes, the costume has undergone a slight redesign, much to the consternation of some online, it seems. Me, I don’t really see what’s so bad about it; it’s still recognizable as the classic costume, even if the chest emblem continues all the way down to his waist, and the gloves have been rethought to be tapered and broken up into pieces at the hand. The redesign is subtle enough to differentiate itself from the previous movies (and also Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which may or may not have been a concern), but there’s no mistaking who Garfield is playing. What’s the big deal, really?
Overall, it’s an effective tease – Eyecatching, vague enough to avoid spoilers entirely (OMG, Peter Parker is Spider-Man! etc) while also teasing out questions (Just why is he so beaten up and upset?), and maybe most importantly, pretty damn reassuring: They haven’t messed with anything too much. It’s still the Spider-Man we know and love. The only real question it raises is, Why now? The movie is still eighteen months away, after all, and has only been in production for a matter of weeks, so… why release this image today?
It’ll be likely to remain an open question, as I doubt that anyone at Sony will ever come forward with a full explanation, but I’m fairly convinced that it’s all about variations on controlling the narrative. Releasing this image today does three things for Sony:
It Stops People Talking About Captain America, and Start Talking About Spider-Man Instead
Like I said above, the timing really might just be coincidence, but in that case, it’s a great coincidence for Sony. Marvel/Disney’s Captain America: The First Avenger movie may only be a few months away, but if Sony can piggyback their movie over buzz for Cap, all the better.
(Plus: This photo already makes Spider-Man look more interesting than Cap to me, but I may be biased; I’ve not really seen or read anything that makes Joe Johnson’s movie seem particularly appealing so far.)
It Lets Sony Beat The Inevitable Leaks
How do you make sure that no-one online leaks what your costume look like before you’re ready to reveal it yourself? By beating them all to the punch. Pictures from the set have already leaked to the internet, even if it’s just been Andrew Garfield sharing a laugh with co-star Emma Stone, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to get a pic of Garfield in the costume. Putting this image out now steals that thunder, and also manages to shut down any fakes who’d want to try and convince people that they have an “exclusive” that’s really the result of Photoshop and well-lit cosplay.
It’s A Sneaky First Strike Against The Haters
Remember when the news that Marc Webb was chosen to direct the Spider-reboot broke, and people started bemoaning the fact that his only previous movie as director was 500 Days Of Summer, snarking that this would mean his Spidey would be musical, whimsical and entirely unbefitting such a… uh, serious superhero icon, I guess? This is a picture to tell everyone: No, it’s not all fun and games, we get that tragedy is at the heart of the character, calm down already. He’s beaten up and feeling down, everyone. Save your musical numbers for Tobey Maguire and jazz clubs.
Will it work? It already has, in the ways that count: Everyone is talking about the image, having an opinion, even if that opinion is a too-forcefully-stated “I don’t care” or “Meh.” It’s still a year and a half away, but already, Sony’s new Spider-Man is Go.