It’s a week before The Dark Knight Rises is released, but I haven’t watched any new footage since the last time I posted a trailer for the film. And boy, has that been more difficult than I make it sound. It seems like every other day there’s a new TV spot or a clip being released. Last December, like The Dark Knight before it, the prologue to the film aired in certain Imax cinemas. Warner Brothers even taking the somewhat unexpected step of releasing the production notes to the public. While Warners and Nolan have actually managed to do a great job keeping the movie under wraps, this level of awareness is hardly uncommon these days. Do we get to see too much of a movie before it’s released these days?
Take, for example, The Amazing Spider-Man, the recent reboot of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which will open a trilogy of films featuring the wall-crawling superheroes. Despite the observation that the film was somewhat less hyped than the conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, the film managed to turn in a fairly respectable box office result. Still, apparently there were twenty-five minutes of the film in circulation on the internet – perfectly legally – before the movie was even released. People were able to string them together to create a reasonably effective truncated version of the film. (In fact, there was so much that fans could even tell certain sequences had been entirely removed.)
It’s not even a problem confined to big-budget blockbusters either. I’m quite looking forward to Looper, the upcoming sci-fi film that will see Joseph Gordon-Levitt re-team with director Rian Johnson, his collaborator on the superb (and under-seen) Brick. However, Johnson himself has apparently come out and asked fans not to watch any more of the trailers- apparently they give too much of the movie away. I am heeding his advice.
I know that it’s the reality of the information age. When I was younger, all those clips and trailers would have been limited to entertainment magazine programmes on television or trailers in front of other movies at the cinema. In the internet era, all this information is placed squarely in the hands of the people browsing. I check my movie news sites daily just to get a sense of how things are going in the world of cinema, so it’s very hard for me to avoid this constant surge of trailers and behind-the-scenes clips and so forth. And I am absolutely sure that I’m missing the vast majority of them.
I do find it interesting, though, that the way to sell a film isn’t so much to tease it as to reveal it. It has been said before that modern movie trailers have a tendency to effectively reduce the first two-thirds (at least) of the film into a two-and-a-half minute summary. It’s not too difficult to come across spoilers or twists in production materials or interviews. It seems like the studios are convinced that the way to get people into the cinema is to basically show them exactly what they are getting.
And, to be fair, I can understand that approach. As much as I might like to restrict media output to a teaser and a trailer, I can see why the studios and their marketing consultants might not agree. We live in a world where movie theatres have had to worry about viewers attending Tree of Life expecting something entirely different, or going to Greenberg only to be upset that it wasn’t a typical Ben Stiller comedy. I have a hard time imagining a situation where I would ask for a refund due to the film itself, but I can see why studios might see the need to spell things out for audiences. (Then again, this is somewhat undermined by the fact that so many trailers are actively misleading.)
While it might sound like I’m being a little sarcastic or caustic about viewers unwilling to take any sort of chance in what they go to see, perhaps there’s a principled reasoning at work – something like “truth in advertising.” Perhaps it’s perfectly reasonable to make these materials available so that people can make up their minds in their own fashion. After all, it’s up to the individual themselves as to whether or not they choose to watch the material in question. (And I freely confess that I am very bad at such self-restraint.)
I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. While I know that it’s ultimately down to people to choose what they watch, I can’t help but feel like some of the mystery of cinema is gone. Of course, it’s not just footage that has eroded the sense of mystery in cinema. While IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes have made it increasingly easy for people to find information about films they want to see, there’s also a bit of a loss in our innocence.
I remember that I used to go to the cinema and see a random movie. It could have been terrible, it could have been great, but it was just me and the vacuum of my opinion. I could arrive at the cinema and be legitimately surprised to find one of my favourite actors in a new film, one that I had heard nothing about. These days it seems it’s impossible not to follow the project from the first furtive negotiations through to the lavish world premiere.
And, again, I’ll concede that it’s not an inherently bad thing. After all, any process that allows me to be more certain of seeing a good movie (and avoiding a bad one) is a good thing. Would I have seen Shame if I hadn’t been tracking it on-line? Would Martha Marcy May Marlene have slipped right by me? Those are the kinds of films that I might never have seen if I hadn’t been listening to various commentators raving about them for months. So I’m not being a curmudgeon or seeking a return to “the way things were.”
I just find it interesting to reflect on how technology has influenced and affected our consumption and attitudes towards media. Still, I am convinced that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Well, at least to have too much information on a good thing.
Filed under: Movies Tagged: | Amazing Spider-Man, bane, batman, christian bale, Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises, imax, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, joss whedon, nolan, Rian Johnson, sam raimi, spider man, Television advertisement, Warner Bros