September 25, 2016

Movie Bloggers Stop Spoiling Unreleased Films


By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: I don’t mean to keep picking on John Carter, I really don’t. In fact, if nothing else, this article gives me an excuse to embed the above fan-made trailer (that Devin Faraci brought to my attention) which is not only a much better trailer than any of the official ones cut by Disney, but actually makes the movie look somewhat impressive. But I am again discussing John Carter because I happened to scan the headline for an interview with an actor who stars in the picture. I’m not going to name the actor/actress, but I will link to the piece out of fairness to the original writers over at the otherwise esteemed The Playlist. Said headline (and article) contains what would arguably be considered a massive spoiler. What does said actor reveal in the interview? Well, merely that said thespian is indeed signed for a sequel or two to John Carter should the film’s box office performance merit a sequel. So, purely from the basis on that statement, we know that at least one of the major characters in John Carter does indeed live to see a sequel.

This is a minor pet peeve, albeit one that has intensified as mainstream Hollywood has gotten more and more franchise-happy over the last several years. In an action-fantasy film like John Carter or any of the various comic book adaptations, what suspense exists generally concerns what will or won’t happen to the major supporting characters. Obviously we all know John Carter is probably not going to die in the first John Carter film. And we know that Jake Sully will probably survive the first Avatar adventure. But what about any number of other supporting characters, be they good or evil? If you were walking into last summer’s Thor unspoiled, you may have wondered about the ultimate fate of the villainous Loki. But if you had read the countless online blurbs confirming that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki would be the primary antagonist for The Avengers, you were probably watched the film with quite a bit less anticipation over who would survive the final confrontation. Moreover, assuming you knew what was coming next, the climactic ‘death’ of Loki would not have nearly the emotional punch as it would have without said prior knowledge (even if Loki’s survival was foolishly revealed by a pointless post-credit cookie, but that’s another rant). And the pre-release marketing blitz for Captain America basically advertised the climax and epilogue of its own movie, blatantly spoiling what is technically a twist ending.

In this day and age, actors and filmmakers seem willing to openly blab about who is and isn’t signed for the next chapter of a would-be franchise, as well as blatantly reveal the plot of the next installment in a way that spoils the one we haven’t even seen yet. Its a minor issue, yet one that is symbolic of a larger one. In our ‘gotta-know-everything-now!’ movie-fandom culture, we moviegoers are ever-more-unwilling to actually wait to be surprised by the actual movie itself. This in turn forces filmmakers to dole out bits and pieces of character and plot information to feed the beast that is modern movie journalism, information that would have been considered blatant spoilers in an earlier ‘more civilized age’.

Maybe I’m having selective memory, but I do recall devouring Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Movieline, etc and still being able to walk into a new movie relatively fresh. The articles discussed the basic plot, shared production anecdotes, and offered relatively basic character bits from the filmmakers. I honestly don’t recall this level of wanton spoilers masquerading as straight news and/or speculative gossip. When I walk into big-budget franchise tentpole, I don’t want to know who lives and who dies, nor do I want to know what the new status quo for the surviving characters happens to be. I don’t want to know who is signed for the sequel. I don’t want to know that the villain returns to menace again. In an age where a small minority of film fans demand a consent stream of steady information from the green-light to the release date, it is ever-harder to avoid knowing most of what you’re about to see before the film even opens.

Your thoughts? Is this phenomenon merely a symptom of franchise-fever, has the movie gossip world become more casually spoilery, or did I just read the wrong movie magazines in the 1980s and 1990s?

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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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