Spiderman – No Way Home came out this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet. I’d like to at some point, but I’m busy and broke. What I have seen, though, is incessant chatter about spoilers. People asking, begging, and imploring others not to spoil the movie. Reviews labelled as spoiler-free or with spoiler cautions at the beginning. All this spoiler talk is a bunch of nonsense. There’s far too much nonsense in all of our lives, so I wish everyone would just cut it out.
The term “spoiler” itself is silly. It means giving away plot details or twists that happen in the movie. But a movie can’t be spoiled by someone telling you about it. The movie is what it is whether you read a review or talk to someone who’s seen it or live in a bunker off the grid for six months prior to the movie’s release. None of those things change the movie. They change the audience. If the only way a movie can be enjoyable is if the audience is in the proper condition before seeing it, it’s just not a good movie.
I often make this point by pointing out all the things that are, were, and will remain great after having been spoiled. Anyone younger than I knew that Darth Vader was Luke’s father before seeing Empire. That didn’t stop generations of people from falling in love with it. In Romeo and Juliet, not only does Shakespeare tell us in the prologue that it is a tragedy, he tells us that the two leads will kill themselves at the end. If spoilers were real, how did it become the classic that it is? I can’t speak for everyone, but I knew the ending of Psycho before seeing it. I still liked it. The same is true for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Rear Window, West Side Story (The original. I haven’t seen the new one.), Bambi, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Old Yeller, Of Mice and Men, and I can go on and on and on.
But a better way to look at it might be to look at some movies that truly relied on their twists and surprises. One I remember distinctly was The Crying Game. We didn’t use the word “spoilers” at the time, but it’s the first movie I can remember where there was a ton of buzz, but no one wanted to, “give it away.” When I saw the movie, in the theater with some friends, I honestly didn’t know what the big twist was. I had to ask after the movie ended. I didn’t find it surprising in the least and it actually took away from the movie experience that the other character in the movie was surprised by a penis. And there wasn’t really anything else to the movie. There’s a little Stockholm Syndrome pop-psychology and some underdeveloped IRA politics, but everything in the movie rests on the surprise. In other words, it’s not a good movie.
Everything M. Night Shyamalan has done falls into this category. They are mildly diverting at best when you watch them, but once the reveal happens, there’s nothing left. If you try to watch The Sixth Sense after knowing that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, it comes off as pretty weird, stilted, and awkward. And that’s his best. Unbreakable fell apart before Sam Jackson outs himself as a supervillain. When the reveal came, I completely didn’t care. They aren’t good movies.
JJ Abrams is another. Star Trek Into Darkness probably would have been better if I had known it was a Wrath of Khan reboot going in. It still would have been completely wretched. But all the added stuff to make it a surprise made no narrative sense whatsoever. It made me feel jerked around and angry. Alias (I know, it wasn’t a movie) had a “shocking” reveal every week to the point where I just stopped watching. Lost alienated its audience with its reliance on secrecy and twists. And don’t even get me started on the Star Wars Sequel pieces of crap. If someone had told me that Rey was a Palpatine, maybe I could have saved some money on the ticket. A spoiler would have helped a lot.
The point is, we don’t watch good movies for the surprises and twists. It’s fine if they include a surprise or twist, but those are, at best, just momentary thrills. Any good movie can be seen more than once, and they get better with more views. So, stop worrying about spoilers. If you see a movie, like the new Spiderman, and you think that telling me about it will spoil it, just tell me not to waste my money.