Why ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Should Keep Spider-Man a Secret

     March 9, 2016


If you read this site on a regular basis, you know that Spider-Man is going to be in Captain America: Civil War. You probably followed the casting of the character, you might have opinions on Tom Holland having the part, and you’re already looking ahead to the new Spider-Man movie, which will open next year. You’re part of the faithful, and we appreciate your readership and your fandom.

But there are countless moviegoers who have no idea Spider-Man is going to appear back in theaters in two months. Their last impression of Spider-Man was in the turgid The Amazing Spider-Man 2. They don’t know that Andrew Garfield is done with the character. They don’t know that Marvel and Sony are rebooting the franchise. They don’t keep up to date with Spider-Man, not because they dislike the character, but simply because they’re interested in other things. They’ll go see Marvel movies because they’re fun, but they’re not checking sites like ours daily to get the latest update on what’s happening with the character.


Image via Sony Pictures

Tomorrow, Marvel is set to unveil a new Captain America: Civil War trailer, and it’s possible that this trailer will reveal Spider-Man. From a marketing perspective, it makes sense to show him in some capacity. He’s hugely popular, it would be the first time he’s crossed over into a movie with other superheroes, and it gives Civil War added appeal in a year that’s packed with superhero movies. People are already amped up for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and that only has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman plus Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash doing cameos (those last three have wisely been kept out of the marketing, probably because their roles are so small). Civil War turns around and says “We are jam-packed with superheroes, including one of the most beloved of all-time, Spider-Man!”

But is that the barrier for someone who’s on the fence about buying a ticket? I suppose there are a handful of people who don’t care for the Marvel movies, but love Spider-Man so much that they’ll see him in anything, but they probably fall into the aforementioned group of people who already know he’s in the film. Showing that in a trailer won’t make a difference because those fans will definitely buy a ticket to see Spider-Man do whatever it is he does in Civil War.

How much is Spider-Man worth from a marketing perspective? Once you’ve seen him, that’s it, and that’s all you get. Does he get more people into the theater? Sure, but I don’t know how to make a firm calculation on that. Doesn’t Civil War already sell itself by being a huge superhero fight, and by turning beloved characters against each other? I know Marvel might be looking for a way to stand apart from this year’s other major superhero brawl, Batman v Superman, but they’ve got the numbers and they’ve got the mythology. How much does a brief glimpse of the new Spider-Man tip the scales?


Image via Sony Pictures

From both a fan perspective and a financial perspective, I believe it’s better to reveal Spider-Man in the movie rather than a trailer.

For the fans, imagine getting your first glimpse at a new Spider-Man completely free from expectations. You may have seen the toys (toys spoil everything) and other merch, but you haven’t seen anything to inform you of context for the character. And it’s even better for non-fans—the people who don’t know Spider-Man is in Civil War. They’re just watching the movie and all of sudden your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man shows up.

And if you want to get this experience, you can’t officially get it from YouTube (while I’m sure someone would pirate it, you could say this about all piracy and all movies in general). You have to pay money and go to the theater to see the return of Spider-Man. It’s something that’s only for paying customers rather than just giving it away in the hopes that you boost the opening weekend a bit for people who need Spidey as their tipping point on whether or not to see Civil War.

Sadly, this is probably a pipe dream. Tomorrow, we’ll get a new Civil War trailer and because teaser culture demands we see as much as we can before something is released, it will probably contain Spider-Man. No one, not even the wall-crawler, can escape Disney’s web of marketing.

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