Do What You Want Day (DWYWD) Blog: Is Spider-Man a Menace? False Advertising in Film
Introducing guest blogger, James Court, digital marketing apprentice and Podcast technician at The Search For The Soulful Leader. The boss has been working with James over the past few months on the marketing strategy for The Soulful Leader and invited him to write a DWYWD blog for Pleece & Co.
The idea for DWYWD blogs is that you take a topic you’re interested and/or passionate about and then write a blog about it. That’s it. The idea is to give creative freedom to the author – the only criteria is that it has to have some relevance to the audience and to spark debate. Or not. You decide. Over to you James…
The pandemic has hit many industries differently over the past two years, one in particular being film and cinema. As someone who was working in a cinema when COVID hit the UK back around March 2020, I have some first hand experience.
Cinemas were shut down, employees placed on furlough, major films delayed, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney. To quote Planet of the Apes, the industry was ‘A Madhouse!’
The landscape of film itself had already begun to change before the pandemic. Streaming services are at the forefront of public consciousness now. When it comes to choosing entertainment, this is having a huge impact. So much so that when HBO Max announced that all of it’s cinema releases would go to their streaming service the exact same day, renowned film director Christopher Nolan did what the industry refers to as ‘cop a strop.’
Despite all this, there was one film that promised a return to before COVID, before the pandemic, before mice sued white women. That film was Spider-Man: No Way Home. Sony promised that this movie would be exclusively, theatrically released, with no streaming service in sight. It came at a time when much of the western world was easing restrictions and people were ready to go out again. It’s deeply entrenched in possibly the most popular film franchise in the world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And Sony delivered on that promise, making over $1 Billion, filling cinema seats weeks after it released, Spider-Man has successfully brought people back to the cinema, hopefully to stay. But that is not what we are discussing here, we are merely setting the scene.
Marketing is a huge part of any product today, be it toasters, football games, even films. With the advertising sector, there also, sadly, comes false advertising.
False advertising is a crime that the cinema has mostly evaded, but should that be the case? I believe that there is an argument to be made that the millions of people that went to see and enjoy Spider-Man (myself being one of them) were sold a false bill of goods. Through my research as well as multiple viewings of the film in cinema, I am going to attempt to prove this. As the Daily Bugle regularly suggests: Is Spider-Man a menace?
This investigation begins over a decade ago, on September 16th 2011. This was the release date of a small Ryan Gosling film called ‘Drive.’ Now Drive was well liked by the majority of audiences that saw it and critics penned it as ‘a fully realised version of arthouse action’. This is great, ‘what a good day for Mr Gosling’ you may be thinking. But it wasn’t a good day for Michigan resident Sarah Deming.
Sarah saw the trailer for ‘Drive’ and decided that she wanted to see a ‘fast and furious’ style car chase action film and quickly secured her ticket. As she sat down on the sticky cinema seat, medium popcorn and diet coke in hand, she would be greeted with disappointment.
So disappointed in the film was Sarah, that she decided to sue her local multiplex cinema for false advertising. The trailer sold her ‘a fast and furious’ style film, but she believed that the finished film was neither ‘fast’ nor ‘furious’. In fact, it ‘had very little driving’ in the film at all. I have not seen the film, but I spoke to my brother, who has and loves it, but even he can confirm that her claims are substantially true. You are now probably thinking ‘Why didn’t she just watch the Fast and Furious?’ But to that I say, don’t go bringing logic to Americans when there is the chance of an easy payout (only kidding kids!)
This sets a precedent for our investigation. It is possible for false advertising to take place in the marketing of films. This isn’t even the only example. Films like Red Eye and Spring Breakers have been accused of misleading audiences with it’s marketing. And don’t even get me started on The Bridge to Terabithia.
So how did the new Spider-Man mislead its audience? Well to show you that we need to go back to when the previous film in this franchise was released. Spider-Man: Far From Home was released in 2019. In this film, after the death of Tony Stark, Peter Parker takes a school trip around Europe, only to be brought into more super trouble by Nick Fury.
As you would expect, the film was a box office success and another sequel was soon greenlit, which was when the rumour mill began. As you can see from the above clip, Spider-Man’s identity is revealed to the public at the end of this movie, a cliffhanger that left many audience members frothing at the mouths to find out what was going to happen next. Would Peter and his family be killed? Would he start getting copious amounts of royalty money for the vast Spidey merchandise finally? It wouldn’t be until 2021 that we found out.
But until then, the anticipation for this film began to run wild. People were discussing theories verging from Kraven the hunter to multiversal madness, and the studio was remaining extremely tight-lipped on the details. But one slip up by an actor blew the flood gates wide open.
In December 2020, Alfred Molina let slip that he would reprise his role as Doctor Octopus in the new film. This was huge news, as his last appearance was in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, with Tobey Maguire, a completely different Spider-Man and franchise to this new movie. Was this a clue to a multiverse movie featuring multiple Spider-Man franchises?
This was where rumours began that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would be reprising their roles as Spider-Man from their respective franchises in this film; a huge undertaking if true. In January 2021, Tom Holland denied Tobey and Andrews involvement in the film. That same week rumours began to circulate that Charlie Cox had shot scenes as Daredevil, but those rumours were also quickly shut down by Cox himself.
Throughout February through to May, as more news was released about the film, actors continued to squash rumours. Holland continued to deny the involvement of Tobey and Andrew, Andrew himself denied it twice, Charlie Cox was asked again about Daredevil to which he played blind (sorry I had to), but the public was just not believing them.
The first trailer dropped in August of 2021, confirming the appearances of not only Doctor Octopus, but also of Green Goblin from Spider-Man (2002).
And this is where the misleading marketing really starts to come into play…
On the 17th November, the second trailer dropped, confirming the appearances of Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Sandman from Spider-Man 3 (2007). The multiverse was wide open and multiple villains from multiple Spider-Man franchises were now confirmed to be appearing in this movie. But where were the multiple Spider-Men? The studio, producers and stars were still vehemently denying their involvement in the film and the general public at large were not believing them. A single shot in the Brazilian version of the trailer threatened to expose the studios lie. Below is a picture of the shot, can you spot what’s wrong here?
Who is the invisible person that has smacked the Lizard in the face here? Is it one of the old Spider-Men? Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield? But more importantly, why has it been purposefully removed from this marketing material?
This blew up over the internet and much of the audience felt certain that this shot made it clear that the other two Spider-Men were in the film and that the studio had been lying to them. But there really was only one way to find out, wait until December 15th, and see the movie.
And that’s what I did. Myself, my girlfriend and my brother booked in advance for the rapidly selling out opening night of Spider-Man: No Way Home, determined to find our answers. If you haven’t seen the film yet, be aware that spoilers will follow from now on.
After seeing the film twice I can confirm more than anything that it is indeed a great film. It was a fantastic film in fact. A phenomenal movie that shows exactly why cinema is not going to die anytime soon. Why streaming on your TV at home has no comparison to seeing a huge, fun, blockbuster movie with the people you love and a big crowd. There were screams, there were laughs, there were gasps. In our theatre, on more than one occasion, there was actually screaming and cheering. Anyone that’s lived in Britain for any stretch of time, you’ll know that cinemas are virtually silent. Clearly this movie has made a huge impact on the film going audience, especially during such troubled times.
But I can also confirm that yes, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in this movie. They appear in the third act, and have major roles following their introductions. It’s fantastic to see them alongside Tom Holland, in their iconic roles all these years later. Not only that, but Charlie Cox’s Daredevil does indeed make an appearance also. While these appearances were amazing in the film, this does confirm what we feared. The studio, producers and actors all lied thoroughly throughout the production and marketing, as well as manipulating shots to purposefully remove actors and hide content from the film.
So morally, is this wrong? While the film has been well received and a huge financial success what does this mean for huge blockbuster movies going forward? As I came to the end of writing this blog, news broke out of another Hollywood studio being sued for false advertisement regarding the movie ‘Yesterday’. Is this going to become a more commonplace occurrence? And what does this Spider-man case tell us about the issue?
For one, we can no longer trust actors… The amount of times Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland were asked in interviews whether other Spider-Men were in this movie and the amount of times they denied it is ridiculous. Also, Marvel Studios itself can no longer be trusted. This isn’t even the first time they have manipulated footage in marketing material. Multiple shots were changed in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer including inserting entire characters into scenes.
The ‘Surprise’ appearances of Tobey and Andrew did elicit some great crowd reactions, but because of the rumours and insincere marketing tactics, almost everyone assumed they were going to show up anyway. So morally, is it right to use marketing to trick us like this? I honestly don’t think it is. Audiences that buy cinema tickets or Blu-rays and DVDs are spending their hard earned money on a product that the marketing department has convinced them is what it is. So it is not fair on the consumer to then receive a product that is different. If the product is pleasantly different, I still think it is a morally bad move, or at the very least a grey area. The studios management needs to be held to account also. This production was filled with leaks. What if they were leaked on purpose by the studio? Like a type of Voyeurism, consumers find it more enticing because they think they aren’t supposed to see it. But that’s still highly immoral. But on the flipside, if they aren’t intentional, then Marvel Studios and Sony have a serious problem given the sheer amount of leaked information regarding this film and I fear future films going forward.
For this in particular, I think J Jonah Jameson is right, Spider-Man is a downright menace.
I would love to hear any readers’ thoughts on this and the film. What do you think? My instagram is @courtcasepodcast. Please get in touch!