Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Avoiding Spoilers: An Impossible Task.

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I was sitting with my younger cousin the other day. While discussing films in general, they mentioned their concerns regarding “spoiler etiquette” (see above image).
After getting over the stunning surprise that we shared similar concerns, it got me thinking about the issue at length.
The truth is that the ‘issue’ in question is not an issue at all, it’s a full-blown epidemic, jeopardising the film-going experience!
We all know somebody who has ruined the ending to something for everyone. There are those who get their kicks from revealing crucial information about topical shows or films, and personally, I think the world would be better place without them.

The internet age has brought a new form of content consumption. With Netflix, streaming sites and on-demand television changing the way we experience media, it has resulted in an instantaneous need that has resulted in a constant need to be fulfilled. It’s no surprise then, that people will fall behind on certain things, and others ill remain up to date, desperate to discuss goings on with the online community.
There’s a fine line you need to consider when revealing too much, but it sadly doesn’t stop some people.

The primary example of spoiler etiquette is without a doubt Game of Thrones. Spoiling the ending to any episode of the worldwide smash is considered sacrilege, of which the punishment is death.
Diehard fans will no doubt seek out the latest episodes whichever way they can and be respectful for those who cannot see keep up to date, to an extent.

thrones2If you follow a series and don’t want to run in to spoilers, the embargo often runs until the premiere day of each episode, but the recommended “silent period” is otherwise a fortnight after wide release. If you love a series enough, you’ll find a way to watch the episode in this time. If not, too bad, you’re on your own, it’s open slather.
These guidelines apply for films too, but what has become so appalling in the film industry is the amount of spoiler-heavy material made public to us from the industry itself!

For someone who likes to regularly visit the cinema and keep up today with all things film and TV, I personally enjoy getting surprised, amused, amazed and entertained without any prior knowledge whilst escaping into exciting, new worlds; don’t we all? 

It seems now that for the “full experience” of a film, one cannot subject themselves to any form of promotional material regarding that particular film. Whether it’s trailers, TV spots, interviews, journals, posters or even online articles, you cannot enter a film unless you know absolutely nothing about it in order to experience it in its purest, most organic form.
The trouble here is that without promotion, we wouldn’t go to the movies, because we wouldn’t be excited about anything. There’s a fine art in the film advertising industry that deals with balancing enough content to capture interest without spoiling major plot details.

Gone Girl - 2014If a trailer grabs your attention but you have absolutely no idea what the film is truly about, it’s the perfect trailer; take the original trailer for Gone Girl of 2014 for example.

What worked so well in Gone Girl’s initial trailer is that we learned about the predicament of our protagonist, but better yet, we were lead into perceiving him as both the hero and the villain. What the film itself goes on to do is much of the same, questioning morality, love and everything in between, but there’s so much more depth to the story that emerges throughout the film.
We don’t see Neil Patrick Harris, nor do we hear anything from Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne, leading us to believe she is absent for the majority of the film.
The up and down tone of the trailer, mixed with the off-putting soundtrack result in a fantastic trailer that topped the list of 2014. This is what movie trailers should be like!

Trailers are where it can all go wrong so easily. There are iconic examples of where trailers have ruined the film’s crucial plot information. For example, the most infamous of spoiler trailers is 2000’s Castaway starring Tom Hanks.
For those who saw the film and didn’t see the trailer, it reveals that Hanks makes it off the island, which is the primary goal of the entire film.
You have to ask yourself, what’s the point in watching it in that case?

terminator_genisys_trailer_jason_clarke_stillAs far as a franchise is concerned, the standout repeat offenders are the Terminator films. Time after time after time, the trailers have revealed crucial plot twists that ultimately proceed to spoil the films.
Whether it be finding out that Arnie is the hero of Judgment Day, Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright is a T800 in Terminator Salvation or even in the most recent instalment of Terminator Genisys where we learn that Jason Clarke’s John Connor is not who he seems; these film will never learn! 

Earlier in 2015, the world eagerly awaited the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I personally don’t think I’ve seen a film promoted more than this. Although The Amazing Spiderman 2 would challenge Age of Ultron in this category, Ultron still managed to release a gratuitous amount of footage .
With endless posters, TV spots and trailers bombarding my everyday life in the lead up to the highly anticipated blockbuster sequel, there came a point where enough was enough.
The extended trailers established The Vision; a character who deserved to be kept a secret until the film itself, all the while showing far too many excerpts from various action sequences. The opening ‘hero shot’ was ruined, the love story between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff was shown and we were shown far too much of the Hulkbuster sequence; the film’s best scene by a long stretch.
But wait, it gets worse…

avengers-age-of-ultron-hulkbuster-sliceVisiting YouTube prior to the worldwide release of the film, you were given the chance to watch a combined total of 17 full clips from the film, combining for a total runtime of nearly 20 minutes.

This is beyond ridiculous. There is absolutely no need to release this absurd amount of clips to the general public for a forthcoming film, let alone one that is guaranteed to make over $1Billion at the Box Office.
Fans were literally salivating and camping out for Age of Ultron, so why would they want to have 20 minutes of the film spoiled for them before they even purchase their tickets?

The problem doesn’t stop with promotional material; in fact, the media reporting on such films are equally at fault. It may seem like nothing at the time, but when reading articles that focus on contracts and related matters, the information seeps into the experience of a film.
There are two primary examples to emerge from 2015 and they involve Tom Hardy and Chris Pratt.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 6.57.54 pmThe first was upon the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. Having booked my ticket for the premiere screening, I was shocked to return home and read not two and a half hours later “Tom Hardy signs 4 Mad Max picture deal”.
The film had quite literally been in wide release for less than six hours and we were already moving on to the sequels, Can we not enjoy this film in its infancy and postpone the future news for a couple of weeks? 

The second was in a similar vein and involved breakout star Chris Pratt. The article was titled “Pratt signs on for Jurassic World sequel”. You can guess how long it took for that to be announced in relation to the first film’s release…

The major gripe I have with these announcements is that we have no time to remain curious about certain aspects of the film.
For those who didn’t get the chance to see Jurassic World on its opening weekend, we will now go in to our screenings knowing that something in particular will not occur; Chris Pratt will not die. 

For a hero to generate proper concern from an audience, we need to feel as though they could face severe consequences and suffer. Luc Besson’s Lucy was a prime example of how a hero was poorly written and never faced any form of threat.

lucybigScarlett Johansson’s Lucy consumes an enormous quantity of a drug that allows her to access an increased percentage of her brain, which crescendos until she is able to access 100%, becoming almighty and omniscient in the process.
Never is she hurt, damaged or challenged; the story simply continues upward before abruptly concluding. So how can we invest in a protagonist that is unstoppable? It becomes boring and pointless all too quickly.

Chris Pratt is a newcomer to the long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel, so why should we not be curious as to whether he makes it to the end of the film? It’s not out of the ordinary to kill off a star as big as Pratt, just look at Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading. (whoops, Spoiler Alert!)

Backtracking to Castaway, the purpose of the film was to accompany Tom Hanks as he survives on the isolated island as best he can.
We as an audience are meant to wonder if Hanks will be able to make it off the island, or at least survive in time to be rescued; the point of the trailer is to avoid spoiling the third act conclusion, eliminating any intrigue or wonder about such events. 

Ultimately, we as a film-loving audience deserve to not have our films ruined for us upon the opening weekends before we even get the chance to see them. It’s great when we hear about stars signing on for sequels, but surely that news can wait until the initial film is on the way out of theatres.
Trailers should be more considerate when structuring a 2-minute tease for the film, and the entire promotional phase of post-production should take on the “less is more” mentality as to respect the audience. 

So continue to remain considerate of others who may not have had the chance to see a particular episode or film, warn them if there are spoilers coming up and make sure they don’t alarmingly learn something they were hoping not to; but then again, you can only do so much…




6 comments on “Avoiding Spoilers: An Impossible Task.

  1. Bettina
    June 28, 2015

    Very interesting view of things. I personally don’t mind getting spoiled if it’s for example a Marvel movie, where the story itself is so thin that you can sit and enjoy watching since you know how it ends after 10 minutes.
    However, I almost slapped a friend who wanted to talk about the latest Game of Thrones’ episode AT ALL COSTS.

    The problem is: we, the audience, are completely emancipated by now in how much we want to absorb before seeing the actual thing. Not only gives us the internet all the information we want (and more), but I can (at least theoretically) decide how much previous knowledge I want to acquire. Yet most of the people cannot deal with this responsibility.
    For the last few years, I’ve tried to avoid as much trailers as I can – simply because, as you wrote, trailers have lost their “teasing” feature and became highly potentially spoiler carriers.

    You wrote the way to experience a film in its truly, most organic form is without knowing anything about it. I am not quite sure if I agree with that. Maybe we have to ask ourselves the question, what “true film experience” means in our extremely sophisticated, enlightened society of today.

    • wmsteele
      June 29, 2015

      I have to agree with you Bettina! And thank you for taking the time to read/respond to this!
      When I mentioned that the “full experience” can only now come with not knowing a single thing about the film, it was a figure of speech. With so much to be found in trailers and promotion, (I’m paraphrasing fellow-commenter Noemie here) I think we find ourselves going to the movies and simply watching an extended version of the trailer we saw a month before.
      My ideal movie-going experience is when I sit in a theatre with only a one sentence synopsis going through my head and possibly the knowledge of a couple of key cast members. That way, the film can play out and show itself off like it should.


  2. Noémie
    June 29, 2015

    Such a good topic Billy!

    Regarding the series we have a huge issue in France. First, French channels take forever before buying the rights of a foreign serie (mainly from the US, of course) as they wait to see if the success will be there overseas. Then, we don’t do subtitles. It’s getting better, but we’re not there yet. So it actually takes time to do the voiceover. And finally it has to fit with the timetable of that channel. So you end up with series starting in France with a year late (or more…), sometimes really poor voiceover (How I met your mother…TERRIBLE) and also feeling that you’re out of your time. Nevertheless it worked as we had no other choice and that internet was not so crazy about spoilers. But then streaming came in (good times when you could watch “Heroes” and “One Tree Hill” on dailymotion with not issue…oh wait that was 9 years ago?? OMG I feel so old) and guess what: people don’t care watching subtitles! We are all used to cheat, stream and download illegally (can I say that Netflix came in only this year in France? And it’s very far from the US version) so we don’t get the point of waiting. You will think : what the hell is she going with that story? Well the problem is that for years you had the serie addicts streaming or downloading, knowing that lot of people were still waiting for the TV release and nobody was spoiling. But then it became so wide that it’s been 3/4 years that media is surfing on it. They know that talking about GOT and other Walking Deads will attract people. They also know that anyway most of their fans will be able to watch it illegally within 24hrs after it’s US release. So a few hours after the realease of the episode, it’s not the people spoiling in France but all the media pages that you like! They won’t do it completely no, they will tease you a bit but as they all do it, you can’t escape. I have no idea how someome could escape to the final scene of GOT in France! And not because of the scene itself but because it is such a big topic in the media, people can’t stop talking about it! So the ones who escaped first, then got trapped by their own friends…So the point of that extremely long story is that it’s been basically 10 years that people can spoil series if they wish. But’s it’s only been less than 5 that they actually do it…so maybe not 100% people’s fault actually…

    Same issue with movies for which I completely agree (and I can see where you found the example of castaway and terminator haha). The trailors are Evil! I avoid them as much as I can. Even in cinema, I try to talk with the person next to me or play something on my phone, or just arrive 15/20 min after the official time as it’s usually when the move is actually starting. I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailor for Southpaw but I was so excited for the movie and now I’m like…ok, well I won’t have any surprise, great…I’ve also watched “Knock Knock” today (which is terrible by the way…) and looked at the trailer when I got back and they litteraly showed the whole movie!!! I get the point in a way, that movie lovers don’t want to see that, but will buy the ticket anyway. While the rest of the audience (which hopefully is the biggest part) needs way more to get excited. You are right about “Gone Girl” trailor which was not far from being perfect. I have another example though : Gravity pretty perfect (in my opinion) : very short (30sec or so I think), you get who’s the main character (Sandra Bullock), you get what’s the topic (being lost in space after an accident) and you get that it will be visually pretty amazing. Bim that’s it, clap clap clap. They released it like a year ahead and I was totally excited. But the day I was going to see it I told my colleagues during lunch break and most of them said “oh is it that one with a girl in space ? The trailor is so stupid, I’ll never go see that!”. It hurt me a bit…And the exact oposite happened with “Knock Knock” (again). The comments under the video were “what it looks promising, I’m going to see that”. WHY??? You will end up seing an extended version of what you got in 3min! No more! The last few years we’ve seen an excalation of records regarding the number of ticket sold (look at the Harry Potter, Avenger, Jurassic Word and we havent seen Star Wars 7 yet…). People want to see more and more and more before even watching the real movie. That’s sad, but I think that’s why we have to deal (and avoid) with 3min long trailers…

    Experiencing cinema in it’s pure and organic form is what I try to do as much as possible. As I said I avoid trailers as much as I can (and only watch it once I’ve seen the movie) and I also really rarely read the pitch of the movie. My decision is then often made with other factors : good score on IMDB, actor/director, heard good things (or heard too many bad things), festivals or just because it fits with my schedule that day… That’s how I enjoy the most a movie (when it’s good) even if I do regret some choices like the movie from this morning, based on Keanu Reeves holding a knife, Eli Roth and 7.4 on IMDB (WTF?? I gave a 3). And sometimes I get trapped in a ukrainian movie “Plemya” entirely in sign language with absolutely no translation and with a few scenes extremely hard to watch. Well at least that was an experience!

    There is something though that doens’t bother me at all: the early announce of sequels. It was 90% sure they would not kill Max anyway and 100% sure they would not kill Chris Pratt. Those are blockbusters with super big names. Not way they are going to take Chris Pratt who is huge at the moment to kill him at the end (haven’t seen it yet though so I don’t know who dies…well I would the mean characters and the ones you we don’t care about, maybe a random kid or a dog at some point to get emotional…AMIRIGHT?) and you can’t compare it with Burn After Reading!!! First this is absolutely not a blockbuster so the stake is much lower and then it’s a dark comedy with lot of “absurd” so who was surprised to see Brad Pitt killed??? Not me at least! I know you are supposed to fear for the main character but you don’t because you always know the end anyway. Sequel or not. Why am I so bored usually with any kind of action movie or any kind of action scene in a move? Because I already know the end! (and don’t tell me that it was called action when Pitt character got killed…). But why do I enjoy some of them? (and Mad Max particularly) Because those ones usually bring something different, something thrilling or exciting. I know the heroe is going to be fine anyway but the scene if awesome.

    Well it’s very late and I haven’t tried to read what I just wrote so it’s probably garbage but I’ll post it anyway. You can see that I have a complicated relation with spoilers haha.

    PS: worst spoils ever that I got were “the actor BLA BLA BLA is playing Keyser Soze in Usual Suspect” and “don’t watch the last episode of Homeland (season 3) because you will cry too much” (if you haven’t seen that serie, the whole episode is playing with you regarding the death or not of the main character…) but I remember spoiling (not intentionaly) a friend about the end in “Burried”…I still feel bad about it!

    • wmsteele
      June 29, 2015

      Wow! That’s quite a lot to take in Noemie!
      I see that you feel very strongly about this subject haha!
      I agree and empathise with you regarding the French system, that must suck. Australia is new to Netflix too, and it’s pretty good I must say, although nothing like the US one.

      Now, regarding your arguments with the sequel announcements, why would you want to know about a slew of sequels before the first is even released? It makes no sense to me! Ideally, they’d announce the sequels after they see how the film performs at the box office.
      I know it doesn’t really apply for Jurassic World, it was always going to clean up (surprisingly even better than expected), but it just annoys me that we have to always have something going on! There’s no cooling off period. It’s just typical Hollywood excess and it really grinds my gears.

      I mentioned Burn After Reading (your favourite film) because it WAS a shocking moment! Are you kidding me?! There is no way you did not get a shock when that happened! Killing off Brad Pitt midway through the film was a modernised version of what Psycho did with Janet Leigh!
      Now, before you say “You can’t compare them”, I’m not comparing the films, just the shocking decision to kill off a A-Grade celebrity well before expected, if at all.

      What I’m trying to say in relation to all this is, stranger things have happened in Hollywood films of all genres, even the odd blockbuster action romp. I know it’s all one big formula designed to capitalise on who the biggest most bankable stars are at the time, but I like to at least have the thought of a potential “shock moment” at the back of my mind. As soon as I find out they’ve signed on for more films, every single ounce of fear to the hero goes out the window and I care significantly less about the film.

  3. Noémie
    June 29, 2015

    So apparently I wrotte “Trailor” 4 times but “trailer” only 3… haha, pretty good!

    • Noémie
      June 29, 2015

      omg…wrotte…I really have to sleep. Too bad we can’t edit comments!

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This entry was posted on June 26, 2015 by in 2015, Opinion Pieces and tagged , , , , , .
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