As everyone on the Internet has already seen, Warner Bros. released a new poster for 2013's Superman movie reboot, Man of Steel, yesterday - except that it didn't do so in the traditional manner. Does the fact that one image of Superman in chains went around the web faster than a speeding bullet demonstrate that the world really wants to see a Superman movie?
As Deadline's Nikki Finke pointed out, Warners didn't actually officially release the Man of Steel image to media yesterday; they just put it on Facebook as an "exclusive reward" and sat back to see what happened. What happened, of course, was that the image was quickly shared on multiple websites and social media networks, with each reblog, Tweet or article adding some breathless analysis or commentary about what it meant for Henry Cavill's Superman to apparently be under arrest and/or military supervision.
The lack of traditional promotion is weirdly fascinating. That a genre movie can generate online chatter isn't some kind of revelation about… well, anything, really (I was initially going to write "the Internet," but let's be honest), but it makes me wonder about whether or not this particular case says anything about the interest in Man of Steel; after all, I feel like there was more commentary and sharing of that particular image online than there was about the (somewhat underwhelming) first Star Trek Into Darkness image, which also made its online debut yesterday. Is this a good sign for the possibility of Man of Steel actually being a hit…?
I'm unconvinced; while I think there's a level of hopeful (if resigned to the alternative, in true fatalistic fashion) goodwill out there for Man of Steel as a movie in and of itself - Definitely more than there was for Superman Returns, to my memory, but perhaps I'm wrong - I suspect that what's driving interest for Man of Steel is more the movie's importance to Warner Bros' Justice League plans and the surreal belief/demand for a Warner Bros/Disney cold war over the respective superhero franchises. If Warners had said that Man of Steel was a stand-alone movie with no connection to a larger world/universe building agenda, would there be the same amount of curiosity or excitement about a picture of Superman in chains?
Not that that matters, in the grand scheme of things; in fact, the more Warners can fan the flames of Justice League-related speculation, the more likely people are going to rush to theaters on the movie's first day of release to be the first to see the inevitable post-credits sequence teasing out Darkseid or Batman or Green Lantern or whatever, making Man of Steel a box office success and ensuring a strong launch for the latest incarnation of the character and the first sign outside of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series that Warners' DC movie universe could actually be a hit after all. Maybe the Facebook poster release was a quiet test to see if people were even paying attention to these things, ahead of making a decision about Justice League's next step...