Building a Wall (no, not THAT wall)

Spoilers are nothing new in the cinematic world, but they seem to be an especially sensitive topic in the Star Wars world.  Perhaps it has something to do with the length of time between the classic trilogy, the prequels, and the Disney-era films.  Perhaps it has to do with the population of fandom that feels heavily invested in it; I cannot say I have noticed anyone being particular sensitive to any spoilers for the Fast and the Furious franchise (though I suppose it is possible?).  But reports now come out regularly with the tiniest of tidbits regarding The Last Jedi that may or may not even be remotely close to the truth.  If you searched the internet today for spoilers on Episode VIII, you could find articles that purport to tell you.

  • When the first trailer will debut
  • What that trailer will contain
  • The identity of Benecio Del Toro’s character
  • The length of time Luke Skywalker has in the film, and
  • The screen time that General Leia Organa has from start to finish.

Now, before you go on a rampant search engine quest, ask yourself: is it worth it to spoil Episode VIII before seeing it?  How much information is too much?  Where will you draw the line?

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Going into The Force Awakens, an effective spoiler wall helped keep the major plot points a surprise for me until I saw them on screen on December 17th (that’s right, the 7 PM showing that night, that topped off a marathon of all seven films in the theater; surely the longest amount of time I’ve spent in a theater ever).  I had no idea that Luke was missing, nor that his lightsaber would be returned, nor Han’s demise, nor Kylo Ren’s parentage, nor anything else.  I followed three simple rules that made it the single most enjoyable Star Wars experience I’ve had since first watching The Empire Strikes Back.

And for those keeping score at home, the first time I saw ESB was on USA, a Friday night, when I was about 6 years old, with my dad.

The three simple rules:

1-Never EVER read an article about the film.

Don’t do it.  Just don’t.  You will be tempted as if by the very Dark Side itself.  You will want to see whatever promotional or behind-the-scenes pictures they release.  Or what someone surreptitiously shot from a drone, 100 yards off the coast of Ireland.  But it will not be worth it.  Without proper context, you will never be able to appreciate the desired impact that the filmmakers are going for.  You are missing out on the magic of the complete experience by consuming every bite that becomes available, so that by the time you sit down to enjoy the meal of the full movie, you are already full and unsurprised.

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Special mention must be made about the soundtrack as well.  While this has only had an impact once, it was so unforgivable that special precautions must be in place each time a new Star Wars movie is released.  The soundtrack for The Phantom Menace was released a few weeks prior to the film’s debut, but contained the track “Qui-Gon’s Funeral,” completely bursting open the door on the character’s death.  While the public was not privy to how or when the death would occur, we all knew going into the film that Qui-Gon Jinn was not long for that world.  So, to avoid such disastrous spoilers in the future, avoid the soundtrack until after the release.  

2-Only watch the officially released theatrical trailers; no TV spots.

Crafting movie trailers has become an art in itself, separate and apart from the actual film itself.  If we use The Force Awakens as a template for The Last Jedi, there will be two major trailers: the announcement teaser, and then the story trailer.  The announcement teaser for TFA debuted our first glimpses of a black stormtrooper (!), BB-8 in action, and Kylo Ren’s ridiculous lightsaber hilt.  The story trailer brought the flight of the Falcon to life and informed us of the evil First Order.  These were massive successes, both on a marketing front in the excitement they generated, but also for their artistic merits.  That story trailer, taking musical cues from the love theme for Han and Leia, paired against the Falcon racing through the ship graveyard of Jakku, inspired emotion and a connection to the classic trilogy better than anything the prequels had ever done.  It validated what director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy had been saying since news of its development was first announced: these new movies would be made with love.  If there were ever any doubts about the quality of TFA pre-release, this trailer blew them out the door.  

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So to effectively enjoy The Last Jedi when it is released and only expose yourself to the appropriate level of information, restrict your viewing to the official trailers released by the filmmakers themselves.  If they would show the trailer in the theater, you can watch it yourself.  If it is a TV spot, or an interview, or a featurette, or a behind-the-scenes reel, or some shaky-cam-disguised-as-a-fruit-bowl exposé, skip it until the film is released.  

3-See it opening night.

There truly is nothing like enjoying the wonder and splendor of a good Star Wars film in the theater.  When we were kids, it was much easier because we were able to suspend our disbelief sooner and for longer periods of time.  As we age, we lose the ability to be sucked into a compelling story.  We often notice things such as over-usage of special effects, poor acting or directing choices, and unlikely (or untenable) leaps in logic.  The more information you acquire about the film prior to seeing it erodes what little opportunity films already have to captivate your attention.  You have the opportunity to insulate yourself from the cynicism by allowing the filmmakers’ work to wash over you.  Quality filmmaking will last the entire run time; poor filmmaking will not be able to sustain itself.  However, the more spoilers you absorb before showtime already predisposes you to be on the lookout for those extra tidbits.

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“Oh, I know this was filmed with wires and green-screen, so it isn’t harrowing as it should be.”  

“I know this person is only signed on for a single-picture deal, so I bet this character doesn’t survive.”

“I’ve heard that there were massive reshoots and rewrites of the entire third act, so it must either be terrible or horribly disconnected from the first two acts.”  

If you set the expectation (as many of us die-hard fans do) to see a new release that opening night, or even that opening weekend, you get to experience the film the way the filmmakers intended and you can still participate in the immediate post-viewing discussion.  Exposing yourself to spoilers for months will have a negative impact of your viewing experience.

Spoilers provide two things: 1) attention and traffic for the site that breaks the spoiler first, and 2) warnings of potential problems with the film.  Spoilers do not have the ability to increase the positive aspects of the film, nor do they make viewers more excited for the film.  The only effect it has on a viewer can be neutral-to-negative, whereas the avoidance of spoilers leaves open the possibility for a better film experience.  You will like it better when you do not see the twists and turns coming.  So if you want to ensure that you retain the ability to actually enjoy the new movie, and you are not bent on trashing the film no matter its content and quality, put these rules into place.  Then, when that magical night in December rolls around, kick back, settle into the recliner, prop your arm up on a bucket of butter-flavored popcorn, and enjoy it.  

But before you go, the number one rule to always keep in mind: don’t spoil it for anybody else.  There’s a special cell in the spice mines of Kessel for people like that.

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Drew Brett

@TheDrewBrett

One thought on “Building a Wall (no, not THAT wall)

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