Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Marketing, Spoilers*, and How Much to Reveal About Episode VII (*There are no spoilers in this post)
First let me say up front that this post will not reveal any spoilers. I was reading something the other day that sparked what I thought could be an interesting discussion. There were some complaints about how the lead-up to this movie is way too secretive, and could ultimately be detrimental to the movie in general. There were also comparisons to how apparently at Comic-Con in San Diego there was quite a bit shown of Batman vs. Superman and we have barely been shown anything at all about Star Wars aside from scant few images and a mere three words of dialogue. They called it the most secretive movie, ever, and that even with the prequels we were shown more than this.
I thought this was an interesting discussion. First of all, as far as marketing goes, I'm probably not the only person who is fairly certain that they can do no wrong in marketing this film. They could show us everything, and they could show us nothing, and it would still make at least a billion dollars. So in terms of that, and in terms of "hype" created by whatever snippets we are shown, I just don't think that is something that the promoters of the film are the least bit concerned about. I'm probably not the only one who was thrilled with every tiny little bit that we've been shown of the movie so far.
Personally I don't feel cheated by this. I don't want to see too much before I actually see the movie. I think we need to remember what a unique opportunity this is, and how this is very different from the prequels, or even a Batman vs. Superman movie. I mean, let's start with hyped movies in general. These days, most of the movies with the biggest hype are based on characters or comics or something else that we have seen before. There isn't much surprise there. The characters are all well established, and sure, maybe they'll take them in a different direction or have something unprecedented happen to them, but the characters like in, say, comic book films we are looking at situationally, rather than focusing on their lives and character development. I mean, often times there is almost no character development, but in the case of the types of films these are, it can often work anyway. I mean, I guess Tony Stark softened a little and settled down (sort of) with Pepper Potts, but that isn't really why we watch those movies. It adds a human element, but nobody watches Iron Man for the character development or the story to see where it goes. We just want a cool movie.
Harry Potter and The Hunger Games were based on books. Anyone who wants to know what is going to happen can just go and read the book. They can show us whatever they want because anyone who wants to can go see how it ends long before the movie comes out. I guess people complained about JJ being all secretive about the new Star Trek movies too (which I watched and enjoyed, but I know almost nothing about Star Trek and paid basically zero attention to the hype for those before they came out) but they were based on characters and situations people had already seen before anyway.
Or, look at Batman vs. Superman. I mean, we know what the movie is about, because the title says it all. Interesting concept, for sure, two supposed "good guys" battling, which you don't usually see. But it's based on previous material. I'm sure it has been changed somewhat, but you can show a lot of that and I don't think it could "ruin" the movie, because we already know what it's about anyway.
Then there are the prequels. I don't specifically recall how much of the prequels we really saw before the movies came out, though I'm sure it was more than we're getting now. I'm sure there was dialogue and a bigger glimpse at the characters. Here's the thing, though: we already knew the story we were going to be told. We knew Anakin was going to be trained as a Jedi and be a great pilot and have twin Jedi babies and eventually turn into Darth Vader. We knew in the end that the Jedi would be destroyed and the bad guys were going to win. There was no way, after seeing the original trilogy, to not know that that was how the movie was going to end. They could've shown us the Vader mask, or Anakin starting to go dark (they probably did; again, I don't remember exactly) and it wouldn't have been a spoiler or ruined the movie for us, because we knew it was going to happen anyway. We got that moment of, "Wow, that looks cool, can't wait to see the rest!" without feeling like, well, now I don't really need to see it, because I already know what is going to happen.
I was actually discussing this just last week with some Star Wars obsessed family members, and how the incredible thing here is that we have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. I mean, sure, some of you have maybe gone and read the spoilers, but for the rest of us who want to be surprised, really all we know is that everyone grew up and now there are some new people and it looks like things aren't going so well now that they have crazy lightsabers. There are no books or source material out there (yet) that can tell us where this is headed. They are actually giving us the opportunity to go into this movie "fresh" and not just going to see something where we know what is going to happen, and I think that is pretty amazing and I want to keep it that way. How often does this happen? Pretty much never, and it might never happen again.
I have no idea whether or not this was the case when the original trilogy came out, if we knew what was going to happen. I think actually that the novelizations came out before the movies did. Probably nobody was paying that much attention until after A New Hope came out, but at least for ESB and ROTJ we were coming off the heels of the last movie. We had some sense of where everyone and everything stood. Vader was still doing pretty well, the Rebels were still, well, rebelling, Luke was becoming more of a Jedi and the Empire still had the upper hand. Thirty years later a whole lot of other things could've happened, so we don't even really know where things are going to stand to begin with. It's amazing and scary at the same time.
So, people complain about not being shown enough, but I think this is an excellent strategy and I really do hope that they don't show us much more. I'd honestly be happy if they didn't show us anything else until the movie comes out. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. That said, when the next trailer comes out, I'm sure I'll cry again and feel my heart beating in my throat and will be just as excited as the rest of you. But I also secretly hope that it doesn't tell us too much. Like I said, when is this opportunity going to come up again where we will know so little about a franchise we are so incredibly well versed in? Even with Episode VIII and IX and beyond, just like with the original trilogy, we're going to have a much better idea of where things are going to stand when the movie starts. This could be almost anything. And I would prefer that "almost anything" to be revealed to me on December 18th, not months before while I sit and wait to see the movie that shows me all the stuff I already read was going to happen.
What do you guys think? I just thought it was interesting that people were complaining about the lack of information, and how these other movies have more hype and are showing more. And it just feels as though those other movies have nothing to lose really by showing more because everyone knows what to expect. You could probably show us the end and tell us who wins but it won't even really matter because that isn't what those movies are about.
I'm not trying to stop anyone from reading spoilers who is into spoilers, just making a point based on what I was reading about hype and secrecy, and sort of saying like, why not, when given this incredibly unique set of circumstances, say as little about it as possible? It really sets us up (or those of us who were able to stay away from spoilers) for a movie-watching experience of such a well known franchise that we will probably never get again. And I think that is pretty cool. So, JJ, as far as I'm concerned, don't tell us or show us another damn thing! Although if you do, I'll totally watch anyway. Just don't tell us too much.