The release of a teaser trailer for a superhero movie is a big deal that can make or break a film these days. Studios will hold social media campaigns. Celebrity movie stars run count downs to the online release. Sometimes there will even be little 3 second teasers FOR the teaser. What’s this movie trailer obsessed world coming to!?
Way back in 2001, before superhero movies dominated the box office landscape, there were only two modern superhero movies kicking around: Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000). Then in the summer of 2001 a teaser trailer for Spider-Man hit movie theaters across the country.
Take it from someone who was there, it felt like the teaser came out of nowhere. Back in 2001 the internet had been around the mainstream for a few years, but social media was nonexistent and online movie news and videos were not nearly as prevalent as they are today. Most people were unaware that a big budget Hollywood Spider-Man movie was even in production.
I don’t remember what movie I was seeing, but I have a clear recollection of watching the trailer in theaters for the first time, which speaks volumes to how memorable it was. I was just out of high school and with my girlfriend at the time. The trailer was different from the very start. Instead of narration, instead of a quick montage cut to music… we got what appeared to be a short film.
A bank (that looks suspiciously like the one later featured in Spider-Man 2) is closing up for the day when armed men burst in and rob the joint. The thieves escape to the rooftop where a helicopter is waiting for them. As the chopper makes its way through the concrete canyons of New York, it’s suddenly stopped midair and pulled from behind by an unseen force. Then the camera pulled out, revealing the helicopter stuck in a spider web… dangling above the New York City skyline in between the Twin Towers. I remember forgetting I was in a public place, sitting straight up in my seat, and shouting out, “SPIDER-MAN!?” before ole’ webhead had even been shown on screen.
The surprise Spider-Man teaser trailer was a big moment in the history of my personal movie-going experience, and the subsequent two movies that followed are milestones in superhero filmmaking. Unfortunately, later that fall the horrific September 11th terrorist attacks occured in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Immediately after the attacks Hollywood began removing images and references to the Twin Towers from all forms of recent media and entertainment. The teaser trailer was pulled from theaters and future home video releases of the movie.
The trailer has been available on YouTube in low quality for years, but recently a copy of the preview has been restored to beautiful HD quality and uploaded online. For modern audiences the teaser might seem a bit antiquated, but at the time the image of a helicopter stuck in a spider web blew my 19-year-old comicbook fan mind. Audiences hadn’t experienced anything like it before and couldn’t wait to see what Sam Raimi and company had in store for us next summer.
Check out the trailer below and relive the magic of summer 2001.