Does Too Much Information Actually Spoil a Movie?
In a subjective medium, it should come as little surprise that movie fans disagree on what studios should show in trailers - and where to draw the line in marketing memorable moments and plot twists (especially prior to release).
Did the studio show too much and/or spoil moviegoer experience when they:
- Included Hulk catching Iron Man in The Avengers trailer?
- Showcased a standout scene of Koba playing ape to play with guns in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer?
- Revealed that Will Atenton is Peter Ward in the Dream House trailer?
- Broadcast that Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta are clones in The Island trailer?
- Featured Hiccup's (presumed dead) mother in the How to Train Your Dragon 2 trailer?
Some will argue that movie lovers are just being overly sensitive - and that avoiding or accepting spoilers is part of being a film fan (especially if that fan closely follows movie news sites). Still, while some spoilers might "come with the territory" of consuming pre-release film marketing, there's no doubt that, for many cinephiles, studios are not striking an acceptable balance between building excitement and maintaining surprises.
Bringing the point full circle, Terminator: Genisys isn't even the first time that Paramount Pictures has played fast and loose with spoilers in Terminator trailers - marketing their prior installment, Terminator: Salvation, on the back of a major second-act reveal: Marcus Wright is (unbeknownst to him) a Terminator.
Check out the trailer for Terminator: Salvation below:
Interestingly, while the Marcus Wright reveal got a greenlight from the studio, Paramount was more prudish when details of the film's original ending were leaked online - resulting in a different ending (and fate for both John Connor as well as Wright in the final act). Apparently, it's okay if a studio chooses to spoil viewers for the sake of attracting casual moviegoers but not okay when viewers reveal spoilers to fans who actively seek out spoilers. Either way, too much information can spoil a movie - or, even worse, force filmmakers to stray from their original (and ofter superior) story.
In case readers are unfamiliar with the alternate Terminator: Salvation ending, here's what director McG told EW about Internet reaction to the leaks:
There was talk on the Internet about an alternate ending where Connor dies and they take Connor’s likeness and put it on top of Marcus Wright’s machine body. So that it’s actually a machine that’s leading the resistance! And the Internet caught wind of that and people went, "That’s bulls—! We don’t want that!"
McG added that the actual ending was even darker - and its easy to see why many at the studio became weary of how the summer blockbuster would ultimately sit with casual viewers:
Connor dies, okay? He’s dead. And Marcus offers his physical body, so Connor’s exterior is put on top of his machine body. It looks like Connor, but it’s really Marcus underneath. And all of the characters we care about (Kyle Reese, Connor’s wife Kate, etc.) are brought into the room to see him and they think it’s Connor. And Connor gets up and then there’s a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins.
At the end of the day, the Terminator franchise (or any other film) does not belong to the fans - no matter how invested moviegoers may be.
Understandably, fans are passionate, with very specific ideas of what should/should not be shown in pre-release trailers but studios are not fans, they are businesses - run by business men and women. When they think spoilers are going to hurt potential box office returns, they clamp down, and when they think spoilers will help get butts in the seats, they open the floodgates. As long as spoilers in movie trailers add to the studio's bottom line, there's no reason for a large shift in marketing approach.
What Can You Do to Avoid Spoilers in Movie Trailers?
Until things changes (and don't expect it to happen any time soon), what can moviegoers do to avoid pre-release spoilers? We've previously written about How to Avoid Movie and TV Spoilers (read: Stay Off the Internet) but, in the specific case of film trailers, the only true way to combat cavalier studio marketing is to become more selective about which movie trailers you watch - and who you follow on social media.
If you already know that you're going to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, decide whether or not the risk of being spoiled is worth being part of pre-release water cooler conversation. Some fans enjoy spirited debate and speculation in the run-up to a film's release but that insight comes at a cost to surprises a moviegoer might experience in a darkened theater with little knowledge of what to expect.
Given that things are unlikely to change, every movie fan has to ask the same question, "What is more important to me? Reveling in the hype and buzz leading up to a film release or experiencing an unspoiled time at the theater? Fans who truly dedicate themselves to remaining unspoiled will, without a doubt, be navigating a minefield of marketing but being actively aware of what they do (and do not) click on is the first step.
After all, even knowing that movie previews are often chock-full of spoilers these days, how many viewers actually stop to think about whether they're prepared to be spoiled when they click to watch a new trailer online?
Next time, take a second to make a conscious decision about whether you are willing to be spoiled - because the studios have already made their decision: spoilers sell.