Well hi, last week’s post about how you can’t spoil a movie opened a can of worms. So many questions still unanswered, not least, why does anyone put worms in a can? Anyway, I thought many of you would like to read a defence of no-spoiler culture and the most eloquent was definitely that I received from my mate Adam. It goes roughly like this…
It’s good to know that Mads Mikkelsen is in the new Star Wars movie, I’m a big fan. This is something I’d expect to be privy to before seeing the film. But, do I need to know who he’s playing, or if he’s a Good Guy or a Bad Guy? My answer is “no”; I don’t need to know and I certainly don’t want to know. But I do. I didn’t seek it out, I didn’t even click a link – it was simply offered up in a headline in my Twitter feed.
At some point over the last several years, Cinema has become an interactive treasure hunt. A game of online, precognitive Minority Report-themed Cluedo (the murder secondary to the working out the whom, when and where of it all in advance). From project announcement to release day, the Internet is consumed with rumour, speculation and innuendo, over time coagulating until the hive-mind consolidate months of intrepid reporting into their, now routine, Everything You Need To Know About… posts. Characters are scrutinised via blood-from-stone interviews with the cast. Every trailer (of which there are always too many) is deconstructed and reconstructed; juiced for every last drop of information that might allow you to see the jigsaw puzzle with the majority of the pieces missing. It’s exhausting to behold and a nightmare to avoid (suggesting otherwise is like saying it was easy to avoid passive smoking in a pre-2007 pub).
Then there is the assumption that every human being intending to see any given film will have done so by opening day’s end. The grace period for online discussion is non-existent, differing theatrical windows make it worse so. It’s not just websites and blogs; the public’s desire to share and expose in real time exacerbates matters no end – it has become the prevailing culture. Avoiding opening weekend crowds makes the journey to week 2 akin to crossing the Bog of Eternal Stench – try not getting anything on you. Don’t want to know who did what to whom? Log off, power down and good luck.
Then again, it’s been argued that none of this really matters. Can a film truly be spoiled by knowing intimate detail in advance? It certainly didn’t hurt my 367th viewing of Big Trouble In Little China. But the longevity of a film isn’t what I’m arguing for; it’s that first viewing experience that I see as crucial to anyone’s relationship to a film; they will always reveal more on subsequent viewings. Those revelations may further your appreciation of, or detract from, them, but shouldn’t we aim to experience a film for the first time with as little knowledge as possible? Shouldn’t we allow filmmakers to unveil their stories to us whole, not the remnants of a carcass picked at by vulturine website contributors?
It may be that films can’t intrinsically spoil simply by having exposed what lies within, but someone’s debut experience of a film surely can, and that’s something that should be protected.