The Haunting of Spiders, Cities and DVDs
by Tama Leaver — University of Western Australia
June 21, 2007 – 03:01
Spider-Man has always been intimately connected with New York. Peter Parker never inhabited a fictional Gotham or Metropolis, but has in one way or another been just one of the eight millions residents of American’s most mythical city. Even the Spider-Man costume can be read not just as a literal spider’s web, but as metaphor for the city itself; the grids of the New York’s streets, stretched across Peter Parker’s body, filled with the reds and blues of the American flag, encapsulate this patriotic everyman turned accidental hero.
While the third film is currently omnipresent at multiplexes globally, the clip shown precedes the first film, and was in fact the first full Spider-Man trailer. In the first half of 2001, capturing a helicopter-load of bank robbers in a gigantic web spun between the two World Trade Center towers was a stunning evocation of the spectacular, but on September 11 such representation became culturally sacrilegious and Sony quickly removed the trailer from circulation. Spider-Man, like many films made, but not released, before the Towers fell was re-shot and re-edited to remove any obvious references to the Twin Towers. However, while the producers may favoured avoiding direct references to 911 and the long shadow it cast over the Spider-Man films, it is notable that director Sam Rami and his special effects team chose to leave spectres of that tragedy visible; the CGI Twin Towers reflected in Spider-Man’s eyes in the trailer still appear in the feature film, despite the sequence it refers to lying on the cutting room floor (so to speak).
Notable, too, is the complete absence of this original trailer – or any mention of it –from any DVD release of the first Spider-Man film. Documentaries mention the impact of 911 on the comic books, especially focusing on the controversial ‘black cover’ Amazing Spider-Man #36 in which Spider-Man visits ground zero just after the attacks. And yet a full trailer in cinemas on September 10 2001, but not September 12, is not mentioned in any way, nor does it appear in any officially-released form.
In this sense, the trailer not only evokes Spider-Man’s relationship with New York, but provokes some very interesting questions about digital history as the trailer itself, officially non-existent, has re-appeared on user-driven websites like YouTube.