Jewish World Review Oct 13, 2011 / 15 Tishrei, 5772
Hollywood: Stop spoiling our movies
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The two most meaningless words in Hollywood today are "spoiler alert."
Movie critics traditionally use the words before revealing a particular scene or action while writing a review. It's a considerate thing to do, but hardly necessary in the gutless climate that now pervades the selling of movies.
There is nothing for critics to spoil anymore. Everything is revealed.
Movie studios are so fearful of failure that they want to leave nothing to chance. They won't hesitate to include a movie comedy's funniest lines and an action film's most exciting scenes in trailers that are shown in theaters and on TV. They believe that movie-goers are as fearful as them, and want the studios to reveal everything so that tickets are never purchased without knowing everything about a movie, including the ending.
This practice has riled me for many years - I'll never forget the trailer for the 1993 family film "Free Willy," which actually included the surprise ending when the whale jumped to its freedom - but the occasional sprinkling of spoiled scenes has turned into a downpour.
The most recent example was the Taylor Lautner action film "Abduction," in which the "Twilight" werewolf plays a teen who discovers his own photo on a website dedicated to missing children.
Since the movie underperformed at the box office its opening weekend, I am going to assume that most of you have little interest in this movie and never intend to see it. Therefore, I will proceed freely with a discussion that once would have begun with the words "spoiler alert." If you plan to ever see this movie, and have not paid attention to the trailers or TV ads, then please skip the next few paragraphs.
Lautner's character lives in a nice neighborhood, and is the only son of tough but caring parents. As he attempts to discover how his picture wound up on the Internet, it becomes apparent to the moviegoer that something more sinister is going on, and men with bad intent are pursuing him. When those bad men appear at his front door, the unaware moviegoer thinks that the boy's sweet and innocent mother is in serious danger when she opens the door. Instead, it turns out that she is adept at martial arts and easily can defend herself in a dark alley. It was a nice surprise to the casual moviegoer, but it probably came as no surprise to anyone who had seen the trailers beforehand. I saw the film in an advance screening, but when I finally saw the trailers weeks later, I felt sorry for moviegoers who don't have the luxury of seeing movies before the marketing campaign begins.
In fact, when people ask what I enjoy most about my job, I say that it is not seeing movies for free, or even meeting the biggest movie stars in the world. It is, by far, the privilege of seeing movies long before the studios have ruined them for the serious movie fan.
Just before my interview with Lautner, I was standing in the studio's hotel hospitality suite watching a loop of the various trailers for "Abduction." I couldn't believe how much of the movie's surprises were revealed in the trailers, including a scene in which a couple of federal agents pretend to be dead to lure some bad guys into a diner. There was no reason to reveal that scene, except that the studios have grown so accustomed to spoiling movies that they don't even think about what they're doing.
While I was watching the trailer, a studio executive walked in and stood beside me. "I can't believe how much you give away in these trailers," I said.
"What are we supposed to do?" he responded. "We can't trust people to come see the new Taylor Lautner action movie just because we ask them. We have to show these scenes, or people won't want to see the movie."
Hey, guess what? Nobody wanted to see the movie anyway, and I believe that one of the reasons is that they felt they had already seen the movie in the marketing campaign.
It is fear that drives these marketing campaigns, but it is also laziness.
These studios are dream factories inhabited by creative individuals whose sole job is to entertain. And they entertain by being clever. They are clever in making movies, and then for some reason forget how to be clever when trying to sell their movies.
That's all I'm asking - I want the studio's marketing people to put as much creative thought into selling their movies as the filmmakers do in making them. There is nothing creative about giving away all the best parts of the movie.
If "Citizen Kane" were released today, I assume the trailers would include the revelation that "Rosebud" is a sled. Oops, I should have said "spoiler alert."
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