One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Ask JKM a Question: How do I feel about Spoilers?
Who is John Harrison? Come on, you know...
Regular reader and
frequent Ask JKM-questioner Jason writes:
“Nowadays you can hardly visit an entertainment-themed website
without a tidal wave of spoilers about upcoming TV shows and movies.
How to do feel about spoilers being thrown out all over the
intriguing question, and one highly relevant to our times, and especially the
summer movie season.
I’ll be honest: spoilers
don’t generally bother me.
I realize that others
feel differently on this topic, and I respect that fact. Here on the blog, for example, I try to note,
whenever I review new films, that spoilers may be revealed.
But as for me? I can read all about a movie beforehand --
including spoilers -- and the knowledge I glean doesn’t often impact my
enjoyment or appreciation of a film of TV show’s artistry.
Well, a good movie is
about much more than a story or a “plot.”
It’s about the way the moviemakers handle that story or plot.
In some way, the whole focus
on spoilers takes away from the qualities that we should admire in a movie.
Case in point, perhaps,
was the way J.J. Abrams danced around the Khan reveal for Into Darkness
(2013). Everyone knew that Khan was
going to be in the movie, and so actors, writers and Abrams himself had to skirt
the issue, and even lie to “preserve” the surprise.
Was anyone fooled by the
“John Harrison” feint? Would the film have been ruined by knowing that the
villain was Khan?
I don’t think so.
By contrast, in 1981, we
found out that Khan would be in the second Star Trek movie from the pages of
genre magazines like Starlog -- and
months ahead of time too -- and it was no big deal. The knowledge was not
considered a spoiler, or coveted as top secret and classified.
Instead, what proved
exciting was contemplating how Khan would return, what his agenda would be, and
how the Enterprise crew would handle him.
None of those things were spoiled.
But today, apparently,
if we know that Khan is in a Star Trek movie, that’s a huge
spoiler and it must be kept secret.
I just don’t buy it.
I have seen people get
very upset about a movie being “spoiled” by a certain scene or trailer, or a
certain article on the net, but today spoilers are largely inconsequential. Now, more than ever before in film history,
major genre films are entirely predictable.
Why? Well, movies such as The Avengers cost so damn
much that they must become hits on their opening weekend, and that means that
they must satisfy the widest possible demographic. And that means rarely if
ever treading into new, deep, or thoughtful territory. Instead, we just get the
same movie over and over again, with slightly different trappings.
So it’s not like you can
actually spoil these movies because nothing really surprising or new happens in
them. All the story beats are the same,
the vast majority of characters survive, and the universe itself rarely changes
meaningfully. All that's fine, but let's not pretend that something earth shattering is going to happen in a 250 million dollar sequel to one of the biggest hits of all time.
The delicate snowflakes who
await these movies and must know absolutely
nothing about them are kind of, well, silly, in my book.
If they really and truly
don’t want to know about a movie that is being made, but that they haven’t
seen, then they should do the obvious and refrain from visiting entertainment
web sites or watching trailers, right?
It’s a film and TV
journalist’s job to report; as it is a movie critic’s job to review. Sometimes, those jobs, by necessity entail
describing aspects of the film in question.
Also, Hollywood has itself
stoked spoiler sensitivity to an alarming degree by making genre movies only
“part” of a wide-ranging franchise experience.
Now we get the teaser
Then the full
Then the movie.
Then the post-credits
scene teasing another movie you want to see.
Then the blu-ray or
streaming release with deleted scenes or a director’s cut.
The actual work of art in
question– the movie itself – has become a not-all-that important piece of the
constant “anticipation” hustling. That’s what Hollywood is selling with these
ubiquitous spoilers: a constant state of anticipation. And web-sites, hungry for hits, can only ask:
“May I have some more?”
And it is a hustle
because if all you’re waiting for is the next two-minute buzz of fan ecstasy, then
quality becomes less significantly important in the overall equation. You can watch the movie in the theater and if
it doesn’t work for you, well you get the post-credits sequence promising
(hopefully) something better next time around.
And then the whole cycle
just starts again, and you get excited about what’s coming next instead of
really evaluating what you just paid your hard-earned dollars for.
In my experience, some of
the folks who can’t stand spoilers are, paradoxically, the very ones who actively seek
out the teaser, the trailer, and so forth.
If they don’t really want
to know this stuff, they just have to bow out of the Hollywood hype machine,
and count the days till the movie comes out.
It’s still possible to do that.
Don’t forget to ask me
your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com