How I feel about spoilers
There’s not a whole lot that can really be contentious in a review situation. There can be disagreements on how good one movie or another is, but in the end, it’s all personal opinion and everyone is entitled to have their own opinion of a movie whether it’s good or bad. But there is one other thing that some reviews include that many people complain should not be included in a review as it may “ruin” the entire moviegoing experience and that my friend, is the spoiler. A twist, a death, a revelation, a relationship, a sled, they can all fall into the category of a spoiler in someone’s eye, but does it really hurt if a review includes a spoiler? If you found out, and I haven’t seen the movie yet or read any spoiler-filled reviews so this is completely made up, if you found out that in The Avengers that Black Widow died in the movie before seeing it how would it really impact your viewing of the movie? I think I would still enjoy the movie just as much if I had gone in ignorant.
Since I do know that spoilers can be a sensitive subject for some moviegoers, I feel I have to point out that this discussion of spoilers will include some actual spoilers of movies so be wary, the list is included in the tags but there might also be more in the comments section. And I have to step back and comment on that specific sentence and the fact that some people, especially fans of movies that I cover here on this site, that there can be such rage over the fact that something was spoiled without their previous knowledge. There have been very few reviewers that I have actually read before starting this blog, I read the reviews in Entertainment Weekly when I had a subscription to it, but when I let that lapse I only read a small handful of Roger Ebert’s reviews. Yet he is someone who often gets called out for unannounced spoilers in his reviews. One movie review I read after starting this blog was for the movie Super with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. In that movie she dies towards the end and it’s a shocking sequence that I left out of my personal review and yet he mentions it clearly in his review, and judging by the comments left on the review he neglected to mark his review as having spoilers included. It had since been changed, but he felt that telling others about the unexpected death of a major character was important to telling his thoughts about the movie. And you know what? I agree that it makes a major impact on the enjoyment of the movie, and yet I’m not sure exactly how it would effect my enjoyment if I had known about it beforehand. Would I specifically try to care less about the character because I knew she would die? But if it was a well made character than I should be able to care about her regardless if I knew her fate.
What a spoiler really comes down to is how you feel about a movie the very first time you see it. When you watch a movie you enjoy for a second time, everything is spoiled because you witnessed it all firsthand. But if you enjoyed the movie the first time, it follows that you would enjoy the movie just as much the second time. I don’t personally remember if it was the first movie that was spoiled for me, but I when I was in high school a little movie called The Sixth Sense came out and was very popular. During this time I was watching a lot of movies in theaters, and yet I have never been an opening weekend guy. So I didn’t watch The Sixth Sense opening weekend and a couple of my friends had seen it and were having a conversation about it. “It’s crazy that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time!” “Hey! I haven’t seen it yet, come on now!” I was upset. I felt cheated out of a chance to watch the movie for the first time. I missed out on that moment, that “aha!” moment you get when the entire movie you watched wasn’t exactly the way you first thought it was. Instead I watched the movie “for the second time” as I had put it at the time. I caught all the subtle hints that his wife wasn’t ignoring him, she didn’t see him. I caught that when Haley Joel Osment was talking about seeing dead people he wasn’t just talking with a psychiatrist, he was talking to and about Bruce Willis himself. And when I left the theater, I might have still been a little upset that I didn’t get to have that one single moment at the end of the movie, but I enjoyed the heck out of the movie I had just watched. Would I have enjoyed it more if I had gone in fresh? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
But not every movie is changes its meaning based on a single moment. Every movie doesn’t have the “Edward Norton’s name is Tyler Durden” moment that gives new meaning to what you had just seen. Is there really that much of Star Wars that is different when you realize that Darth Vader is Luke’s father? He’s still the bad guy, and you pretty much look at him the same way during repeated viewings. There’s a little bit of extra knowledge, and it definitely affect how you look at what happens later in the movies, but at that point it’s not a spoiler, it’s something that should be known by then. And where do you draw the line at what’s considered a spoiler? Does it matter if the villains in the Avengers are the Skrulls or if they’re just some random enemy made up for the movie? Does it change how you feel about the movie if you know Loki gets killed, or if he escapes unharmed? Personally, I don’t think it makes much of a difference at all. But I respect the fact that someone might be reading my review because they like my taste in movies, value my opinion, and if I recommend a movie they might then go out and take a chance on it based on my recommendation. And if that movie has that moment in it, that “I can’t believe she just died” or “I can’t believe those two got together” or “I can’t believe that just happened” then I will do my best to avoid spoiling that moment for you. What do you think? weigh in on my poll or leave a comment. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.
Posted on May 1, 2012, in Blogs and tagged Avengers, Blog, endings, fight club, movies, sixth sense, spoilers, super, superheroes. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
This is something that I worry about a lot when writing my reviews, and I still feel like I’m evolving on where I am with it. There are some easy cases, like the Sixth Sense, where I wouldn’t even mention the twist in a review. Then there are other cases where I would try to get fancy and write it in such a way that it would make sense for those who have seen it, but not for those who haven’t. Something like “Fight Club asks us to look at the darker side within each of us, and the disassociation that we all must go through to live in our polite corporate world.”
At other times I actually put a spoiler warning on something, but I wouldn’t do this for something that was an actual “twist”, just for things that come later in the film that one might not know going in.
Still, I have wondered about some of the things that people consider spoilers. If a movie has a surprise that is revealed in the first five minutes, instead of the last five, should that still be considered a spoiler? What if the film is an adaptation of a book that has already been published? If they remake Romeo & Juliet, does the ending still count as a spoiler this many years after Shakespeare’s death?
And what happens if a movie’s themes are entirely predictable to me, but unknown to one of my readers? Is it considered a spoiler to say that the couple in the newest romantic comedy find true love and end up together? Or that the guy in the red shirt doesn’t make it through the whole film? What if the film is based upon a real life historical figure? Am I allowed to mention that Abraham Lincoln was shot, or say which side won the Civil War?
Luckily, I have been careful enough in my own reviews that no one has called me out yet. And even more luckily, I am careful enough about what I read, have a short enough memory and get caught up enough in the moment while watching most films that I haven’t felt like I have had anything ruined for me.
Especially with new movies, sometimes it just pays to be extra careful. But I think a lot of people go a little overboard with spoiler complaining. Luckily I haven’t ran into it yet here, I’ve either been mindful enough, or haven’t had oversensitive people posting comments. It also helps that I’ve reviewed very few new movies.
I go by a basic rule in my reviews. If a movie is under three years old then I’ll try not to spoil anything. If it’s say Titanic or something that everyone has seen i’m a bit more lax and if it’s some obsure silent comedy that I know no one will ever watch then I’ll give away the whole thing. I broke the rule once in my Cabin in the Woods review but stated clearly at the top that spoilers were in a different coloured ink so they could be skipped.
I think spoilers can put you off a movie. If I’d known that Ellen Page died in Super before seeing it then I’d just be wating for it all the way through and wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
Another problem I have is with trailers giving too much away but that’s another post for another day.
Yeah, the trailers thing has been a big deal lately, but like Cabin in the Woods (which I haven’t seen, but have ready fully spoiling reviews) if you went in expecting a straight up horror movie and found out it was something else, how many people would have been ticked off? Also, how many people would have written it off right away as a standard horror movie without the semi-spoiling trailers?
Tough to say, but like you said, that’s a topic for another day.
Revealing spoilers is such a fine line…I used to believe anything revealed in a trailer could be open for inclusion, but there are so many trailers now that give away far more than they should (just as Tom stated). I’ve found myself discussing the performances, direction, etc. and leaving as much of the plot out as to not give away anything and ruin anyone’s experience in seeing the film.
I do think that true-life events shouldn’t fall under the spoiler category. I mean if someone wasn’t already aware that Lincoln was shot, that the Titanic was sunk or that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor than shame on them. At the same time if there’s a fictional story intertwined within, that portion should be excluded or limited without revealing anything that could be deemed a potential spoiler.
Personally, as someone who loved The Sixth Sense, I’d have been pretty ticked off if the surprise had been revealed to me prior to seeing the film.
At the time I believe I was pretty ticked off, but it faded after a while and it’s still one of my favorite movies. Honestly, I find myself typically avoiding basic plot summaries in my reviews in favor of looking at more specific elements of the movie, although I will throw in a plot summary if it’s a movie that I think is more obscure.
I’ve never been called out on a spoiler; if I do a plot synopsis I usually just describe the set up of the film rather than the whole shebang. I tend to shy away from reviews of films I know I’ll see, but usually because when I come to write my review I want it to be my own thoughts and not be influenced by anyone else.
There are certain films I want to know nothing about before I see them (I have so far successfully avoided learning anything about either Dark Knight Rises or Prometheus). I’m sure none of the trailers give much away (somehow I doubt that is either Chrs Nolan or Ridley Scott’s style) but for me it is sometimes the little details that really make a film great, and seeing them for yourself for the first time is part of the magic. For example, seeing Darth Maul’s double-ended lightsabre. Hardly a spoiler, but I feel it would have been far cooler to have seen it for the first time in the movie.
I’ve actually already heard complaints about some of the Prometheus campaign being too spoilery. But it’s actually off of my radar at the moment so I haven’t been following it too much. I was a fan of Aliens, and I enjoyed AvP, but those are the only ones I’ve seen from the franchise.