The cycle is familiar by now. When a major tentpole film is announced, the scramble begins in certain pockets of the internet to dig up any and all information concerning the plot and characters of the film. Cameos are revealed, key story points are detailed, and by time the comic book movie or blockbuster opens, it can sometimes feel like you know what’s going to happen before it does.
In the past week alone, we’ve seen key sequences and story beats from “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War” spill onto the web. And that’s not all. The past year saw lots of information from “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” leak out before it opened, and the same for “Terminator: Genisys,” and even bits about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” got out there. And there’s plenty more, too. To be fair, The Playlist is not blameless in reporting some of those things and indeed, it’s easy to get caught up in talking about the potential direction that anticipated movies and beloved characters will be headed. More and more, however, it feels we’re reaching a tipping point. No longer do these nuggets and kernels of intel seem to be bubbling up somewhat organically as they had in the past. Rather, it feels a cottage industry exists that is simply devoted to digging this stuff up and sharing it.
The common defense from those scooping this information and putting it out there, is that they love these movies — but then why ruin them? What is the benefit as a Marvel fan to know exactly how their next film will play out months and months before it opens? Where is the joy in knowing every cameo in a superhero movie before it happens? Wouldn’t those be better served as genuine surprises?
Another argument trotted out is that scooping is akin to journalism, and thus, these items are newsworthy and have merit. But this ignores the fact that actual journalists (of which movie bloggers, for the most part, are decidedly not) have checks and balances to follow before anything is published. They weigh not just the veracity of their stories, but also what is germane to a particular report or not. There is a thought process and consideration that follows, and everything is vetted, before a single word finds real or digital ink. But that kind of approach seems absent in this era of getting out there first.
Indeed, that seems to be the driving force for many of these kinds of spoilers — bragging rights. Being able to say you were first on the beat to reveal a certain detail often feels like the primary motivation, with any thought toward the reasoning of why the information should be disseminated. Rather, because it can, seems to be enough for many.
For the past year or two, there has been numerous pieces contemplating when audiences might begin to feel “superhero fatigue” given the current number of comic book movies that are headed our way over the next half decade. But I’d suggest part of that potential wearing down of enthusiasm has something to do with a culture that serves up persistently every morsel and factoid months and years before the next Marvel movie hits (for example) whether or not the demand is really there. It’s hard to drum up excitement for something if it’s continually buzzing in your ear.
I’m not advocating for a complete end to spoilers (that will never happen, even if I was), and again, nor am I saying this site hasn’t been part of the system that spins this stuff out. What am I perhaps calling for is that for those who bring these spoilers to light to perhaps pause a moment before hitting publish and consider if they are actually doing justice to the movies they supposedly love or if they are revealing these details for reasons that have nothing to do with excitement and anticipation of an upcoming blockbuster.
If these spoilers and details disappeared, would they truly be missed? Would fans truly be at a loss? Or would the culture evolve and find a new way to appreciate and discuss the genre that is so beloved? I think the answers would be truly surprising to find out.