The Rewards and Frustrations of Spoilers and Sneak Peaks

Warner Bros. released the first image of actor Henry Cavill as the new Superman in director Zack Snyder's new movie Man of Steel, and cyberspace is abuzz with everyone's opinions about the costume.  (Click here to see the full picture from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood site.)  It's the perfect example of the pros and cons of spoilers and sneak peaks.  I've already written about the negative aspect of spoilers, that horrible trend of revealing details and plotpoints before a movie, TV show, or book is released. Spoilers and sneak peaks can excite and entice, but they can also ruin the experience of letting a story unfold before you, fresh and new.

With the distribution of the first publicity shot, showing Cavill as Superman in an action pose, fans are already proclaiming excitement to see Man of Steel, even though the film is now pushed back until 2013, or they are vehemently expressing cynicism about its perceived quality.  Expect more leaked tidbits and marketing shenanigans from the studio as it strives to build anticipation for the reboot during the next twenty months or so until the motion picture debuts at theaters everywhere. 

Such teasers definitely have the desired effect of generating buzz -- it seems as if every comic book buff, cinema fan, and pop culture follower was talking about Man of Steel today.  The danger is the inherent potential for backlash.  Genre fans are not afraid to let their opinions be known, and they already started dissecting and nitpicking the image.

Some fans are thrilled that Superman appears "bad ass" and ready to tangle with whatever evil forces are in his way.  Others are voicing concern that the image appears "too dark."  Some seem relieved that the costume is pretty faithful to the traditional look of the classic DC superhero.  Others are critiquing everything from the scaly texture of the costume's fabric to the length of the cape.  A disproportionately large segment of the fan population seems obsessed with Cavill's hair.

Personally, I think this is an interesting first image, hinting that this movie version will be both a faithful rendition of what Superman fans want from their hero and, hopefully at the same time, a bold new direction for the decades-old franchise.  I'm intrigued enough to want to see the film when it opens, but I fear the flood of future spoilers that are on the way.  I want to be surprised in the movie theater.  I already know that Russell Crowe will play the part of Jor-El, Kevin Costner will portray Jonathan Kent, Amy Adams will embody Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne will depict Perry White, and all the rest of the previously announced all-star cast.  I've seen some photos from the set.  I honestly don't want to know anymore until the movie opens, but as sure as kryptonite is Superman's weakness, more details will be released, for good and bad.

Some of those sneak peaks will be excellent and motivate me to want to see more.  Others will ruin any chance of having a real emotional reaction during the actual screening of the film. 

Production stills, publicity shots, marketing posters, plot leaks, teasers and trailers, all offer a taste of what to expect, but they are poor substitutes for the finished, complete film.  Taken out of context, they have less impact and run the risk of diminishing the power of the actual motion picture they aim to promote.

So I don't care if Superman doesn't have a spitcurl or if he wears red shorts or not.  The costume in the picture looks close enough to the original source material to satisfy me, and in that picture alone, Henry Cavill looks like a believable Man of Steel.  Now I have to wait for what really matters -- the all-important story!  The only way to tell whether that's a success or failure is not through teasers, spoilers, or sneak peaks, but through the actual movie.