March 21, 2010

Essay Question: Is it possible any longer to maintain the secret of a film's twist or surprise ending?

OFCS members answer the question:

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, is it possible any longer to maintain the secret of a film's twist or surprise ending? Will the easy dissemination of spoilers change how filmmakers make films?

Answers after the jump.

James Plath,

That's like saying, “In an age of immoral behavior, is it possible to be moral?” Of course it is. Just because others give away plot points and endings doesn't mean that a critic has to. In fact, I'll wager there's a large segment of the public out there who thinks that Twitter and Facebook are abominations. And they'll seek out reputable critics expecting nothing less than honesty from them... and the courtesy of including no spoilers.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

Rosebud is a man. A dead man. And it's really Earth. #nowyoudonthavetoseethemovie

Seriously, I imagine anyone who made a habit of twitting spoilers would be ostracized, blocked/unfollowed, and generally called a mangy eater of stale oatmeal. But if spoilers run rampant on the Intertubes, maybe filmmakers will have to rely on gambits other than gotcha endings. Like, y'know, compelling stories, fleshed-out characters, cute kittens, gratuitous nudity, etc. Yes, nude kittens with complex backstories: that's what we need more of in our cinema, and less of "the nude kitten is actually a 32-year-old Russian dwarf."

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope:

Even before the age of Twitter and Facebook it was always possible to discover a film's twist or surprise ending if you really wanted that information in advance. Even now, it is also possible to avoid that kind of spoiler information in most circumstances. More than ever, it is now up to the audience to avoid spoilers so that they can enjoy the surprise for themselves.

I think there are still large numbers of people who enjoy films, like "The Sixth Sense" that have surprise endings. Filmmakers will continue to make films for them. Of course it is impossible for producers, directors or studios to keep any secrets about the plot of any film once it has been seen by audiences, and that has always been the case. The only difference now is that it is easier to get that information.

One thing that studios can do, however, is to stop giving away these kinds of surprises in trailers. That is one place where an audience can't easily avoid finding out something about a film they don't want to know in advance.

Margot Harrison, Seven Days:

It seems to me that the recent films best known for their widely spoiled twist endings (Seven Pounds, Remember Me, Orphan) are also known for not being very good. If easy dissemination of spoilers keeps filmmakers from relying on a promised twist to sell the movie, that's all to the good. I guessed the twist at the end of Shutter Island just from watching the trailer (and I know I'm not alone), but it didn't keep me from wanting to see the movie, because I figured it would be a fun ride. Anyone can write a "shocking" twist -- it's much harder to write a good movie.

Don Levit, Reel Talk:

I don't Facebook, Tweet, Twitter, Chat, etc., myself, but imagine that with everything that's out there it is impossible for any film not to be known down to the smallest details weeks before theatrically opening. A critic's doing a spoiler will make no difference. Filmmakers have to accept the fact, with no requests that a reviewer not reveal the "surprise ending." No way around it.

Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Films:

This is the sort of question it makes more sense to answer in the manner of a simple moviegoer and not critic, and from that perspective the answer is, yes, of course it is possible to avoid being spoilt on a movie, although it does perhaps require a little self-censorship on the behalf of a viewer. To take a recent, large-scale example, I went in to Avatar with a fair knowledge of what to expect by way of story setup, themes, and major characters, but I still found the story's eventual direction mildly surprising, so therefore I was not "spoilt." Ironically, I've seen many, many films, particularly classics, where I've known for years, sometimes decades, what's going to happen at the end before I actually see a film, and it rarely troubles my experience of a film if the film is any good. If I wanted to find out everything about a film before stepping into a theater, I could, but it's very easy not to, as well. Of course, some of this comes down to definitions of what constitutes a "spoiler." Traditionally it has meant not giving away endings to films with significant twists or revealing the fates of major protagonists, but I've seen insistence on spoiler alerts slapped on the most innocuous aspects of movie narratives in discussions, and on stories which are historically based. As to whether or not filmmakers might change their act because of how easy it is to spoil a film, well, if it means the end of the stupid twist climax, a la High Tension, I'm all for it.

Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:

Honestly, I don't think Twitter and Facebook make it any more difficult to keep a film's secret. These things were leaked in newspapers and on television long before the dawn of the internet. Spoilers are always out there if you look for them, and they can also difficult to avoid. The main problem in the blogging age is that new critics often aren't as disciplined about reviewing a film without giving away key plot points.

1 comment:

Mike White said...

Sure can. I sure was surprised by the "twist" in Hancock and just how crappy that movie got.