Spoiler alert! We won WWII
A few years ago, a handful of friends and I saw Valkyrie – the historical thriller about a daring plan by an eye-patch wearing Tom Cruise and his fellow German officers to knock off Adolf Hitler.
Waiting for the movie to start, somebody casually mentioned that it was too bad the assassination attempt ultimately failed (probably because it had only been three years since the couch-jumping thing and Tom Cruise probably could have used a win).
To our surprise, one member of the group flashed with rage: “Great,” she scowled. “Thanks for spoiling the ending!”
Obviously, the term spoiler can mean different things to different people (especially those unfamiliar with world events occurring after 1944).
I even have a friend who doesn’t read any news relating to American politics because he’s six months behind in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is concerned it might “spoil” potential punch lines.
Then there those who even consider casting news spoilerific (which is true in the case of Jason Statham, because you know that every single other person in the movie is going to die in a violent, shirtless frenzy). It’s almost impossible to discuss a movie with anyone today without speaking in only the most generic of terms.
But at what point does something actually become a spoiler? Usually, it’s when it detracts from the final experience in some way. But the most irritating spoilers today come not from inconsiderate friends and family - they come from the very people tasked with promoting films created to surprise and delight us.
The popularity of viral marketing campaigns and pre-production hype machines have conditioned us to hunt for on-set pictures, teaser trailers, theatrical trailers and behind-the-scenes footage, long before the film is due for release. By the time we finally enter the cinema, we’re numbed to even the most brilliant of peaks.
That’s why I’ve made a conscious effort, over the past month or two, to avoid any promotional material for Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises - two films I’m particularly keen on seeing (mostly so I can ruin the ending for strangers on the train by shouting about it into my mobile).
I’ve made a special point of dodging trailers, which tend to show entire movies, these days. Who are these people, I continually wonder, who must see every major plot point condensed to a two-and-a-half minute clip before they decide to see a film? It’s like barging into the kitchen of a restaurant and shoveling piles of food into your mouth straight out of the pan because you’re not sure you’ll like the menu.
For various reasons, I might not be able to get to cinemas when The Dark Knight Rises comes out. That means I’ll have to avoid the internet for another whole month - because once the trailers stop running, the idiots start chattering.
Visit, for instance, a random news article about the Greek debt crisis and you can almost guarantee that at least one of the comments will be: “Everyone dies at the end of The Dark Knight Rises and Morgan Freeman turns into a pterodactyl!!!!”
The rest, of course, will either be obnoxious, unrelated comments about a major Australian political party or some variation of “this isn’t news” – even though the thing about Morgan Freeman turning into a pterodactyl is clearly news.
Of course, there are instances when spoilers aren’t really spoilers.
Take, for example, movies that were released more than 20 years ago. Do you still have to ask people if they’ve seen Star Wars before casually mentioning that the good guys win at the end of Return of the Jedi, leaving George Lucas free to spend the next couple of decades using his endless wealth to essentially troll aging nerds? Obviously not.
But when a movie is yet to be projected onto a public screen, there’s no need to cram a highlight reel of all three acts into a YouTube clip that auto-plays when you click on a piece about Morgan Freeman (or pterodactyls, for that matter).
Those incredible, marketable moments should leave us stunned in the cinema, not mildly-interested in front of a laptop screen. That final confrontation, tension-breaking kiss or crucial line should never be something we’re seeing for the hundredth time.
For those of you, however, who don’t mind spoilers, here’s one for you: I’ll punch you right in your movie-spoiling face if you ruin Prometheus for me this week (note:by “punch”, I mean cry).
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