Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do spoilers spoil films?


Apparently, a study out of the University of California at San Diego suggests that "spoilers" may actually enhance the viewing experience, according to a recent Reuters article.
Ummm, yeah no.

We recognize some merit in the findings of the study, but will maintain that a first-time viewing experience should be the way the writer intended, which is allowing the story to unfold itself and discovering the twists when presented within the crafted story.

I certainly agree that subsequent viewings of a movie won't necessarily diminish the enjoyment even though one "knows what's going to happen". At one point I'd almost memorized every line of Beverly Hills Cop ("Listen, listen to me. I do security checks...") and Police Academy ("You people are going to hate my guts, for the rest of your lives..."), and they're just as enjoyable to me as when I first viewed these films decades ago. Other People's Money lands here too, as does Pulp Fiction, and others...

I might even support the notion as, with each viewing, little nuances are noticed that likely were missed on previous viewings. I love the scene during Ferris Bueller's Day Off where they are talking about parking Cameron's car, the attendant says "I'm an American" or something to that effect, and Ferris looks through the fourth wall at the audience. I missed that back in '86, just caught it recently.

However, there's no way The Empire Strikes Back  is as impacting on a first viewing if you already know...well, you know (warning — a spoiler lurks on the other end of that link). Search your feelings, you know it to be true. 

For those who've seen Predator, remember the first time we finally saw it? There's no way that scene would have been anywhere near as impactful had I seen a poster of that "ugly M-Fer" beforehand.

Here's the thing — as far as I reckon, a writer who writes a twist at the end intends for it to be discovered at the end. Had the writer intended for it to be discovered at the beginning, it would have been written in at the beginning. Seems simple, doesn't it?

There are some great movies that begin from a position that essentially reveals the ending. For example, Sunset Blvd begins with the viewer knowing...um...that the story is not going to end well for our protagonist (it begins with our hero speaking from after death), following classic film noir as established with the confession at the beginning of Double Indemnity (both Billy Wilder films, by the way - I'm a big Billy Wilder fan) before the ensuing story proceeds to show us how the protagonist got to that sorry state. For the viewer of these movies, there's an inevitability, a dread that the actions of the protagonist are wending their way inexorably to the bitter end, and we feel for the protagonist, like a moth caught in a bulb's light, soon to be burned. I get that, very cool film-making, especially as you follow the story to that "ah-ha" moment when the end connects to the beginning becomes clear.

Be that as it may, we'll continue to shout out that, if you come to DRD's Movie Musings before you actually see a movie we review, our content may spoil the first-time viewing experience for you. If you want to be sure we don't spoil it for you, please see our movie list, and then come on back and please join the discussion.

If, however, it so happens that you do discover a twist here before seeing a movie and want to blame us in spite of all our efforts to warn you beforehand, we're going to reference this research in our defense :-)

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...good post for thought on this topic...

    Personaly, I find that some hardcore movie goers take spoilers FAR to seriously in a film and even worse if they find out something about that film from a outside source (ie overhearing a converstation about a movie they have yet to see). Yes granted at times I get annoyed at times about spoilers for a film I want to see and havent seen yet, but at the same time I won't waste energy arguing with someone about revealing something signifigant about that film. Life is too short for that.
    The sad thing is, I've actually seen someone once before get so worked up about finding out accidently about key information about a movie he wanted to see, he literaly went into shock...which was actually good at the time, because it seemed he was about to go phycial on the person that accidently spoiled it for him, and the person was a woman. Not cool in any case.

    By the way, have there been any complaints or issues with anyone visiting the site about spoilers here? I mean like what you already said, It's all written in our "what we're all about" section of the site...
    Just checking.


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