These days it's more difficult than ever to go into a movie cold, without knowing too much about it ahead of time. There are no surprises anymore, or so it seems.
And if you think you don’t like it, how do you think the filmmakers feel?
Pity the poor movie director who’s being coy in interviews so as not to reveal that a famous actor appears in an unbilled cameo or that there’s a plot point designed to give the audience a jolt or that the ending has an unexpected twist.
If you read about movies online, it doesn’t take long to discover there are way too many spoilers out there.
Sometimes the writer of such an article or blog will warn that there’s a spoiler ahead before launching into something you don’t want to know. But not always.
Of course, a spoiler can also come from well-meaning friends who have already seen the film or have read about it and just can’t wait to share the information.
Then there are trailers that reveal spoilers, or perhaps offer too strong a hint about something you don’t want to know ahead of time.
Movie trailers are usually pieced together by a studio’s marketing department, in most cases without the editors getting input from the filmmakers. And for some reason, the editors seem to have no filter regarding what material ought to be kept close to the vest.
So here’s my own warning: There are a few spoilers coming about a variety of movies, so be advised and tread lightly.
If you’ve seen any of the teasers or trailers for “Thor: Ragnarok” — or if you’ve seen a poster — you know that the Hulk, Thor’s fellow Avenger, is a prominent character in the film.
But in the movie itself, it’s pretty clear that the buildup to Hulk’s first appearance is setting the stage for a surprise.
For me, the surprise was that it’s treated like a surprise. The trailer doesn’t just hint about Hulk’s appearance — it’s what most of the trailer is about. And the poster prominently features Hulk’s face.
I also discerned from an early trailer of Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” who the victim would be among the all-star cast members. Having read the book and seen other film versions, I knew the resolution, but until I saw that trailer I wasn’t sure who would die to set the mystery in motion. But the way the trailer played out made it obvious.
All of this took me back to January 1985 when Woody Allen’s comedy-fantasy “The Purple Rose of Cairo” had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
In Allen's film, an abused housewife (Mia Farrow) escapes her unhappy life for a few hours by seeing an old-fashioned black-and-white B-movie titled "The Purple Rose of Cairo" over and over. Jeff Daniels plays a Hollywood actor, circa 1935, who stars as an adventurer in the film, and during one showing at Farrow's New Jersey-neighborhood movie theater, Daniels’ character on the screen stops the action, turns to speak with Farrow and then steps off the screen and into her life.
At the Sundance premiere, no one in Park City’s Egyptian Theatre knew anything about the movie, except that it was set in the 1930s and that writer-director Allen was not in it. And when Daniels halted the movie-within-the-movie and stepped off the black-and-white screen and into the colorful real world, the audience went nuts. It was a hilarious moment and completely unexpected.
So imagine my reaction when, just a couple of months later, I saw a trailer for “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and it immediately revealed that surprise!
Spoilers are nothing new; they’re just more prevalent and accessible in the age of the internet.
I’m not sure when the statute of limitations is up on spoilers, so are twists in old classics fair game?
What if the person you’re talking to or someone who is reading online hasn’t ever seen “Citizen Kane” and has no idea about the mystery of Rosebud or who it was that really killed Janet Leigh during her shower in “Psycho” or why Charlton Heston is shocked at the revelatory finale of “Planet of the Apes” or the truth about Bruce Willis’ character in “The Sixth Sense?”
See how coy I’m being about these older titles, when, really, is there anyone even remotely familiar with them that doesn’t know what the twists are?
Maybe modern moviegoers don’t really care about this as much as I do.
Maybe in this era of everybody-knows-everything social media they don’t want surprises in movies.
Maybe I need to move to an off-the-grid cave.