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Do We See Too Much of a Film Before It’s Released?

Last month I bemoaned the fact that trailers give away too much of a film, but I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t just the general way that the Hollywood publicity machine works. I bring this up because I’ve been thinking a bit about Inception, which in opening this week. With the exception of the (rather excellent sounding) trailer, I’ve been trying really hard not to spoil the film for myself. And, in attempted to so, I’ve only really started to notice just how much of a movie we put on-line before its official release.

The internet is flooded with Inception clips...

I’m not talking about things like a review embargo (which – despite the studios’ attempts to enforce them – are never observed). Any competent review should be able to offer you insight into a film without spoiling it – or at least let you know it’s going to spoil it before it does (hence my spoiler warnings on films that I may accidentally spoil like The Comfort of Strangers). I’m talking about clips and behind-the-scenes looks and photographs and official press releases.

Staying with the Inception example, I can watch five minutes of the film at multiple places on-line. Rope of Silicon has, at time of writing, a gallery of 92 pictures. That’s an image for every eighty-odd seconds of screentime, which is a lot. And this is a film which has been notoriously kept under wraps, to the point of actively irritating some people (I found it a breath of fresh air).

So the question occurs to me: is this a by-product of the information age? Microsoft have been aggressively running television advertisements for their new search engine – bing – with the tagline “look what information overload has done to us”, as random people begin sprouting nonsensical gibberish linked by keywords when asked a question by a friend. In a way, perhaps that is kinda the problem with mass media in this age of the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite complaining about the information age’s impact on movies on a movie blog, but I’m not really complaining, more reflecting. I am young enough not to remember an age without mobile telephones – I can’t imagine a world where everybody was not in contact for every second of every minute of every hour of day. Similarly, I sometimes feel that sort of curious nostalgia for a simpler time in the era of movies and television. I wonder what it must have been like to experience an event like “Who Shot JR?” without having the web to spread gossip or leak information. Or to see Jaws without hearing whispers on the internet about how it was going to revolutionise cinema before it did.

It’s been a while since I’ve randomly gone to the movies and seen something I know nothing about. It isn’t because I’m afraid to spend my money on a risky proposition (what with rising ticket and snack prices), but because I’ve heard rumours and snippets about every film. Hell, if I’m following a film particularly keenly – and Watchmen is perhaps a great example of this – I’ve probably seen about twenty minutes worth of footage of it before I set foot in the cinema.

I have my own methods dealing with spoilers...

This sort of information overload always somewhat confused me. It occurs to me that the only people who get more stoked about a five minute clip of a movie on the internet than in a thirty-second teaser on the television breaks are the kind of people who are likely going to see the film anyway. How likely are you to load a five minute clip of a movie you’ve half-heard-of, compared to a movie you are foaming at the mouth to see? Still, what do I know, the studios employ people on huge salaries to work this sort of thing out, so I’ll defer to their judgement – but it’s something that doesn’t occur to me.

Maybe there’s a word-of-mouth benefit to this. The more stoked I get for Inception, the more likely I am to tell my friends about it and encourage them to see it. The more you tease me, the more excited I get and the more I talk about it. And anyone close to me will tell you that you haven’t been able to shut me up abotu Inception since it was first announced. So maybe it works like that. You please the nerdier obsessives and they do the groundwork for you. I don’t know.

Of course, I’m hardly an objective observer. I write about film. A lot. I live film, I love film, I breath film. If it were legal, it is quite possible that I would marry film. I trawl the web looking for things that can be nebulously defined as “film stuff”, so it’s little wonder I stumble across stuff like this. Surely it’s entirely possible, for example, that regular people can stumble around the web in a state of ignorance-related bliss. So maybe my observations aren’t exactly unbiased, but I don’t pretend they are. I’m just remarking from my own experience and my own experience tells me that there’s a lot of a film out there before it’s even released.

I’m not going to do a complete reversal on my Inception policy at this late stage – I’m a few days away from release and still have only seen the trailer and read the early announcements. I’ve tried hard not to be spoiled – and it turns out that it’s quite difficult in this day-and-age. Hopefully, it’ll pay off.

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10 Responses

  1. Absolutely, we do. It’s fairly easy to see 20 minutes of the movie with all the various trailers, 1-minute TV sequences and other behind the scenes. Add to that the hundreds of pictures and official stills and is it a surprise if a movie is less entertaining than expected?

    Thankfully, I also have done my best to tune out everything about Inception so I’m going in next week with very little knowledge about it except having seen the teaser trailer 🙂

  2. I’ve only watched one clip of Inception, one that was vaguely spoiler-ish, but not any since. I’m trying very hard to go in completely clueless.

  3. I felt like the tv spots for TDK pieced together way too much between themselves and the trailer. By the time I sat down I felt like I knew where it was all going.

    Luckily, I didn’t. I’ve avoided spots for Inception because of that.

    • Yep, I think Nolan kept an ace in the hole, publicity wise with Two-Face. I remember people were still guessing what he’d look like going into the week of release.

  4. I think this is a product of our ‘lazy age’, and as you mentioned, information overload. Because we’re all bombarded with trailers, pre-emptive reviews, press reviews, TV spots, posters, movie trailers & web teasers (and that’s just for films) that they’re far less likely to actively go and seek out information on new, smaller, releases.

    The thing is, it’s getting much worse, I’ve already seen Toy Story 3 / Twilight car adverts, Iron Man and pretty much every corporation jumped in to bed, Kick Ass/A-Team comics… what’s worse, is that it’s the kind of films that we’re all going to see anyway!

    Inception-wise, the last few weeks (and months, at the cinema) have been a real test of nerves. Such an intense campaign isn’t good for keeping spoilers at bay. Hoping to catch a staff showing with my in-demand buddy on either Tuesday/Wednesday this week!!!

    • I’ve noted those car adverts too. I mean, seriously, is Twilight the target demographic for new cars?

      • I had to LOL because it’s VOLVO… the least youthful, cool or awesome cars on the planet. Talk about a crazy re-invention!

        Also LOL’d at the Toy Story car ad; THE FILM’S PRIMARY AUDIENCE IS FLIPPING KIDS!!!

  5. I somehow do remember the pre-mobile phone, pre-internet and pre-any-decent-channels times and do cherish them. However, I also recognise the benefits of communication, particularly with those overseas and see where the benefit lies 🙂 Balance is the key, definitely! Inaccessibility during ones free time can be a great thing though. It also leaves more time for films…

    In terms of films, the PR through little PR line that Inception has taken is such a clever route and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a bit more of it with other films over the next year or two. Especially in the sci-fi genre.

    One of the things I’m guilty of following too intensely is the progress of some adaptations or even the making of films like A Scanner Darkly, which I followed like rotoscoping stalker!

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