The pendulum, it seems, has swung. Way back in the late 90s if you so much as logged into the internet, you’d get The Phantom Menace completely spoiled for you. Not long ago I was being excoriated
for holding back info on movies, especially the new Indiana Jones. The
people wanted their info, and they wanted it now. Who was I, they
argued, to have this information, this knowledge, and not share it?
Such has been the way of the internet movie site from the beginning –
people want more info, they want more spoilers, they want more
pictures. Lately I’ve been seeing regular civilians passing around
scripts for upcoming blockbusters.
But the last couple of weeks have seen a change. People – at least the
ones I’m interacting with via CHUD – are becoming spoilerphobes, and
they’re becoming pretty reactionary about it. I took shit when I wrote
about how the Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury scene was at the end of
Iron Man after all, despite not giving away the secret of the scene and
especially despite the fact that every site on the web wrote about the
cameo at the time it was being filmed. Then Jeremy ran a story
analyzing the trailer for The Dark Knight,
and he was ganged up on for talking about a moment in the trailer that
some saw as a spoiler. A moment in an officially released trailer!
What’s sort of irritating about this, from my side of the equation, is
how far out of the way we go to not spoil you guys. I can’t tell you
the number of news stories I’ve written where I pretend like I have no
idea what a certain bit of casting means, or what the image in a blurry
photo sneaked on set is. Every time I get new info I try to weigh just
how spoilery it is, and whether or not knowing it would ruin someone’s
enjoyment of a film.
First of all, I think it’s near impossible to spoil a comic book film.
As most comic book movies of the modern era rely heavily on famous
comic book stories for their plots and structures, there will likely
not be a truly surprising moment in any of them. Did any human being
walk out of Iron Man and say ‘I never saw that twist coming!’? Of
course not; with films like that it’s all about the execution, how the
familiar story is told*. There will be moments that might rise to the
level of intriguing, but there’s not a chance that any scene in Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will spin your head like the
ending of Fight Club. These are narratives that are designed to take you on a ride, not to challenge you.
But let’s leave that aside. Let’s pretend you’ve never seen a movie and
thus were shocked that Obadiah Stane ended up being a bad guy. The
truth is that if you’re not going to get spoiled by us on that, you’re
going to get spoiled by the massive marketing machine. The toys or the
sticker book or the endless commercials or the talent interviews will
give these little bits of info away. Nobody will spoil the big stuff,
but the identity of Iron Man‘s villain (yes, people complained to me that we wrote about Obadiah Stane as the villain) would have been known to anyone
with a passing interest in Iron Man weeks before the film opened. In
fact, I’d argue that the marketing machine will spoil the shit out of
any major movie in a bigger way in the three weeks prior to opening
than we have ever done. And that’s if you’re a regular person – if you’re on this site you’re not a regular person, and you’re likely to spoil the shit out of yourself by simply reading a cast list at IMDB or looking at the back of a toy package. Everything in The Dark Knight will be very public knowledge weeks before its release, thanks to the trading cards, action figures, sticker books and whatever else they release to tie in with the film.
Is it possible that the new attitude I’ve seen towards spoilers comes
as a result of this? A couple of years ago I couldn’t imagine anyone
getting up in arms over an article revealing that young Cyclops has a
cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, yet just such a thing happened
today. Is it an understanding that the big movies that people are
interested in are formulaic, essentially boring by the numbers
exercises in cynical money making that has led people to rebrand tiny
tidbits into major spoilers? Maybe since you can probably guess exactly
what happens in that Wolverine movie without having read a script you
become more covetous of the little things, the only things that can
actually surprise you.
For me it’s a Catch 22. We’re here to give you this info. Like I said
in the third paragraph of this editorial, I don’t go spoiling things
willy-nilly, but I do have to give the readers what they want. And the
hits and links tell me that this is what they want. Maybe the problem
isn’t that we’re spoiling a cameo, maybe it’s that the most
interesting thing in the movies that get the most attention is a cameo.
*By the way, I have another argument to be made about audiences and
spoilers in that 99% of people seeing movies today, including 99% of
people reading this site, don’t really want to be too surprised or
shocked in a movie, but rather seek the comfort of familiarity.