Saturday, 27 June 2009

Of movies, trailers and revealing reviews.

I love movies. I love walking into a movie and not knowing a thing about it. I love experiencing the cinematic art form as it was meant to be experienced - seeing the plot unfold as envisioned by the writers and directors. Unfortunately, these days you're more likely than not to see half the movie plot given away in some silly trailer months before the movie is released! I believe there was a time when we could watch trailers and they would make us yearn to see the movie, without spoiling that essential element of surprise. The way trailers are made these days, you'd be lucky not to have a scene from the last 20 minutes of the movie flashed shamelessly in your face!

Who makes these things?! Surely the writer and directors can't have much input. My bet is on the big marketing machine of the studios who don't care much about the art form - it's all down to dollars and cents (or pounds and pennies as the case may be!) There are clearly many people who don't mind half the plot of a movie being given away before they see it, else this monstrous marketing exercise would've stopped by now. I have now decided to steer clear of trailers as best I can. Some of the most memorable cinematic experiences I have had occurred when I walked into a movie "blind." No prior knowledge, no review, nothing. Then again, I've had my share of howlers, when I've walked into movies I wouldn't have touched with a long pole, had I watched a few trailers! Gotta take the rough with the smooth!

How about those movie reviews? Now these are actually much, much worse than movie trailers. Is it that hard to write a review without including some pretty horrific spoilers? Would it hurt too much to place a "spoiler alert" at the top of a review, if it goes on to tell you the beginning, middle and end of a movie before recommending that you see it? Mister Critic, why bother recommending a movie to me if you've spoilt it already by giving everything away? I'm only left with a sense of loss, rueing the beautiful movie experience I will miss due to your tactless writing!

Specific examples: Seven Pounds. Awful movie? Yes. Should I have been given the opportunity to judge this for myself without undue influence? Most definitely! In the very first line of the first review I read, I basically came to understand that the guy kills himself in the end. Oops. You've all seen this one by now, right?

How about the movie "My sister's keeper". Here's an extract from a review for you: "Kid gets sick, then sicker and dies. Does this appeal to you? Then watch the movie." What???!!! Just because you thought the movie was so bad, does it mean you won't give any of us the chance to judge for ourselves? Must you chase us away in such a heartless manner?

Spoiler alert: The paragraph above will totally destroy the possibility of a proper viewing experience for the movie "My Sister's Keeper." If by some chance you have already read it, please seek the assistance of the nearest Man in Black.

While I'm ranting like this, I must give a mention to a particularly annoying situation I experienced a couple of years ago, when a certain radio reporter was interviewing a child about what was then the latest Harry Potter book. Not a movie, I know, but the principle's still the same.

Miss Reporter begins: "A major character dies at the end of the book, right?" At this point my eyebrows lift.

"Erm.. yes.." says the child hesitantly.

"You've read it all, haven't you? Who is it?" asks the infuriating reporter. My mouth drops open. This book had only been on sale for a few hours.

"Are you sure you want me to say?" says the intelligent child.

"Oh go on," says the reporter whose name and residential address I wish I knew. "It's our secret, I won't tell anyone, I promise." Shamelessly lying to an eight year old girl on a national medium of mass communication.

By this point I'm lunging for my radio, letting out a slow-motion scream: "Noooooooooo!" The name drops from the little girl's lips before I can get to the button. I'm left staring dejectedly at my radio and wondering what has become of the human race...

1 comment:

Dementius Praecox said...

I feel your pain. Or maybe I should say “I understand your pain without feeling it”. It is, admittedly, irritating to have plot twists needlessly disclosed but I would argue that a movie which can’t survive these revelations is unlikely to have been very good to begin with. How many productions of Hamlet are ruined by the churlish reviewer who whispers, as the lights dim, “By the way, he dies in the end.”?
My usual gripe with trailers is not that they are often overly revelatory (which they frequently are) but that for a certain type of movie they are usually a perfectly crafted distillation of the movies best lines or scenes. You watch the masterfully edited 90 second clip and think “and now they’re going to disappoint me”.