Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spoilers Suck

Scott D. Parker

What kind of world to we live in when a man dressed up like a bat gets all of my press?
--Jack Nicholson as The Joker in “Batman” (1989)

I’m a Batman freak, plain and simple. He’s always been my favorite superhero. As a kid, I watched the TV show from the 1960s, then segued into the 1970s animated version from Filmation. Actually bought the DVD of the cartoons this summer and enjoyed them again. The 1980s saw the mature Batman which led to the 1990s animated series. There was also some movies, some good, some not so good. The 2000s brought to us a seemingly dichotomy: excellent, dark, moody live-action films and a whimsical animated version that hearkens back to the silly days of the 1960s.

The thing that is always good about following a character through the ages is the surprise element. I remember in the spring of 1989, I actually bought a ticket to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” just because the Batman trailer ran ahead of it. I scoured movie magazines like Starlog for official images from the production, pouring over them in loving detail much the way I did with “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. But for every photo and story in a magazine I found, the glorious revelation of the film stayed tantalizingly out of reach. There was only one way to find out what happened: watch the movie.

Except for the novelization. If you can believe it, the book was published ahead of the film. For many a Batman geek who couldn’t wait for the movie, all you had to do was read the book. In those pages was the story of the first, true live-action Batman film, in all the detail save one: the medium. Batman the movie was something to behold, not something to be read. You read the novelization after you’ve seen the film to set those images in stone. For all the description the author used to describe Jack Nicholson’s Joker, seeing the man in the makeup was so much better. Seeing Michael Keaton do his thing in costume was magnificent. As a writer, I hate to say it but those images were better than a thousand words.

I read that novelization early and ruined the surprise of the film. I thought I was being cool to know ahead of time all the plot points, to be able to lean over, tap my dad’s shoulder, and say “That’s not how they did it in the book.” The book?! It was a freaking novelization! There was no book. Unlike, say, Lord of the Rings, the Batman novelization was an expanded script. What the heck was I thinking? Better question: who was I trying to impress?

Cut to 2007 and 2008 and the lead-up to “The Dark Knight.” We all knew what Christian Bale looked like in the Bat-armor. All eyes were on another Joker. And, in a case of a textbook rollout of anticipation, the filmmakers fed us with little teases and glimpses until the trailers hit. And then the images in Empire magazine. Again, I poured over the photos and watched the trailer over and over. It was intoxicating. And I couldn’t wait for the movie to see how it all played out. Sure, there were a few grainy images that popped up on the Internet of Heath Ledger in costume. Sure, I looked at a few of them, but nothing compared to the official images, released when Christopher Nolan wanted them released.

Things are changing with this last Nolan Bat-flick, The Dark Knight Rises. This Bat-franchise is so money that the entire city of Pittsburgh is proclaiming loudly and proudly that Batman 3 is filming in their city. They should be rightly excited, true, but do they have to have news stories about it all the time? There was a time back last month where many of the SF sites I read posted images of the filming, of Bale in costume reading the script, of Tom Hardy in his Bane costume. In fact, just now, I googled the movie’s title to verify Hardy’s name. I saw a headline that summed up my feelings right now: “Dark Knight Rises”: What Hasn’t Been Spoiled Yet? BTW, I didn’t read the article.

What am I getting at? Am I just a grumpy dude not in tune with the way things are now? No, I don’t think so. I like the revelations of things to be delivered in the way the creators want, not spoon-fed or spoiled by a grainy TMZ photo or a spycam. Is our desire to *know* trump the gentle grace of waiting and watching? I’ve even had to cancel on of my “Castle” twitter feeds because the title of the tweet was, in itself, a spoiler...even thought the word "spoiler" was in the title. Sheesh.

It’s the beauty of being an author: you have complete and utter control of your work. If you want to provide excepts, go ahead. If you want your readers to learn about your story in the manner you want, get them to buy the book. It’s the only way. And the most satisfying way.

Am I the only one who wants to watch a movie in a theater and just see what happens?


Dana King said...

I'm with you on spoilers. I like to see what happens as the movie lays it out, even if I've read the book. (If it's an adaptation.) That's half the fun of the movie.

Mike Dennis said...

NO SPOILERS! One thing I hate more than anything is a movie trailer that reveals the film's entire story: trailer tells all.

Gerald So said...

I'm moderate when it comes to spoilers. If I know I'm going to see a movie no matter what (Superman, Indiana Jones, James Bond), I don't want to see any of it ahead of time. If I'm not sure about the movie (GREEN LANTERN, CAPTAIN AMERICA), I'll look for some footage.

I subscribed to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for a year, but didn't renew because it was full of spoilers about movies and TV shows. I don't begrudge EW. A lot of people love juicy details or they wouldn't be in business. I just like to be surprised.

On the other hand, I don't consider every detail a spoiler, only the final twist.