Greetings, fellow cineastes, to the latest installment of B-Movies Extended, where William Bibbiani and I, the hosts of Crave Online’s B-Movies Podcast, can do a little post-credits musing and editorializing on some minor point made on the previous Friday’s episode. If you listen to the show regularly, you’ve probably noticed that we’re frequently pressed for time, and tend to chatter (perhaps a bit too often), frequently straying from the topic at hand. Luckily, we can catch you up on some of our more relevant points in this very venue. Feel honored.
There was a minor news item mentioned on this last episode (#21, for those keeping score), where someone leaked onto the internet some new information on the upcoming Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises. We didn’t say what this information was, preferring to leave it a surprise for anyone who is not intimately following every last detail of this film’s production as it is meted out – sanctioned or otherwise – to the public. Bibbs in particular expressed his mild chagrin in having to remain on the inner echelons of the movie news cycle, having to give away surprises and plot details as part of his job.
This news story is, I feel, indicative of an unfortunate trend in not only movie reporting, but on the way enthused young consumers choose to consume their entertainment. There was once a time, not too long ago, when the secrets of film production were relegated to hyperventilating fanzines, the lectures of pompous experts, and rumors that were likely made up by your friends. Not only did the public remain largely separate from big-budget event films’ production histories, but they had few forums through which they could attain such information.
In the age of the internet, the public now has an up-to-the-minute connection with every last detail of a film’s production. They learn right on the spot who has been discussed to play the newest Batman villain, the size of their role, their ultimate function in the plot, and perhaps a few choice pieces of dialogue from the leaked screenplay. And while up-to-the-minute reporting can be an urgent and sometimes vital way to report news (who doesn’t want to hear about a large disaster, or a positive boon?), it’s become an outright detriment to the way films are consumed.
Having instant access to production details has spoiled fans. Rather than postulating, musing, guessing, re-postulating, and working yourself into a frenzy of anticipatory excitement over the next upcoming superhero flick, you now have direct lines of content to everything you want to know. If you can’t wait to see The Dark Knight Rises, worry not. In a few days someone will reveal something else, and you’ll get your fix of the flick. If you missed it on the first cycle, someone somewhere is compiling details, so you can read a litany of everything currently known. If you haven’t sought out the litany, then you’ll see some leaked trailers online, or, as is all too common, you’ll see an eight-minute portion of the completed film at the latest Comic Con in San Diego.
It’s getting to the point where people who want to be surprised, startled, freshly amused by a big product can’t hide from the secret-revealing machine.
As the years pass, and I slowly slip away from the relevant youth demographics, I find myself becoming increasingly skeptical of the enthused, information-seeking-contest fanboy mentality that I once was so pleased to be a part of (I, for instance, was one of the first members of the general public to see Star Trek Generations back in 1994). Perhaps this is just because I’m older and a bit more calm these days, but I feel that fanboys (and especially fanboys) need to temper their enthusiasm. Oh sure, we can spread rumors, and seek information if we must, but wouldn’t it be better to wait until the film comes out… and then get excited about it? You will no longer need to compete and squabble for information. You will likely be less disappointed by bad movies you were looking forward to if you didn’t artificially inflate your anticipatory glee. And, most importantly, you won’t be taking part in a machine that stands to ruin big films for the rest of us.
FROM THE DESK OF WILLIAM BIBBIANI:
Geez, everybody remember to get off Old Man Seibold’s lawn, okay? He’ll whip out his walker and beat you within an inch of your life… after the half hour it takes him to get off his E-Z chair and creep to the porch. I don’t mean to say that he’s old, but let’s just say that Witney remembers when being ‘incontinent’ still referred to Europe. Hey Witney, if you don’t like the internet… you can get out.
But he’s right, of course. To some extent anyway.
I have a memory of my own from years ago (insert your own ‘geezer’ joke here), back when Premiere magazine was an actual magazine and not just another lost tome like the Apocrypha or that fabled original folio of Romeo and Juliet which ended in a line-dancing competition. William Goldman, the screenwriter of The Princess Bride, Marathon Man and Misery (amongst other classics), was a semi-regular contributor and like a Bizarro-version of Witney and I in last week’s podcast he actually bemoaned the state of entertainment journalism pre-internet, although obviously that’s not what he called it at the time. At the time Goldman complained about the lack of pre-production news that has come to dominate the internet news cycle today. Back then people would just be walking along, minding their own business, and then BAM! There’s a new Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman movie coming out in a few weeks. Sounds exciting, right? Those are two reliable stars. This new Ishtar thing’s bound to be an instant classic.
Oh wait… Dang. If only we’d had some warning.
And that, really, is what the whole Dark Knight Rises news cycle is all about to me. On one hand, yeah, obviously it’s just another gold rush, except that the gold is every little scrap of news we can find and its value is based on how many hits it gets you on your website. On the other hand, it threatens to spoil any genuinely anticipated movie before you even get to the theater to actually watch the damned thing. And on a third, obviously mutated hand, you get an early warning system, good and bad. That’s the theory at any rate. In reality you get cases like the early leaked pictures Bryan Singer’s X-Men costumes, which had everybody pissed until the full movie came out and they saw that, in context, they kind of kicked ass. Or you get Snakes on a Plane, which had the internet a-buzzing but ended up reaping no apparent benefits from fanboy enthusiasm.
As Hugh Laurie used to say on House back before I stopped watching it, “It’s always better to know.” That’s the prevailing attitude towards news, at any rate. If it’s information about a subject anybody cares about, it’s worth reporting. That works just fine for political scandals and Starlet A’s Valtrex prescription (you know who you are), but it’s important to remember that when we report on movie news we are, ultimately, reporting on an upcoming surprise. People are divided on the subject of surprises. Some people love to be caught unawares, while others find them so uncomfortable that they’ll skip right to the end of a book just to make sure it all turns out okay. Or at least they would if we still books still existed.
I’m all for having the information available, but I pretty much fall in the former camp, making it a little annoying at times that I have to be exposed to these kinds of spoilers just to inform everyone who isn’t. I don’t have much right to complain: it’s one of admittedly few downsides to a pretty sweet gig. But I do feel a certain responsibility to folks like myself though, which is why if I absolutely have to report on spoilers I try to keep the details out of the title of the article at least, something not everyone does with big scoops like the recent Dark Knight Rises news. There’s room for all of us on the internet, and it’s just as unfair to keep this kind of story away from people who want to read it as it is to spoil the movie for people who actually want to go into the theater unsullied.
And that’s my take the Dark Knight Rises debacle… I can’t think of a good way to conclude this edition of B-Movies Extended, so instead I will just give you this picture of me wearing a hat. You’re welcome.