30 Oct 2014

Thought Balloon: COULD THE AVENGERS EVEN SAVE ME FROM SPOILERS ABOUT AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON?

Stewart R: We’re coming to the end of October 2014. We’ve had both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy light up the cinema screens this year and add considerable funds and fan trust to Marvel’s coffers. With the comic convention season behind us, the big draw for excitement comes with the anticipation of the comic book-based cinematic exploits for 2015. And next year is going to be big. Huge. A behemoth even. For 2015 heralds the release of Joss Whedon’s follow up to 2012’s The Avengers, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. With that in mind, and carefully considering my experience of that engrossing, exhilarating spectacle some two years ago I vowed earlier this summer that I would, once again, attempt to get to release day of a big Marvel movie without seeing a single trailer, viewing a single poster or reading a single article about the film. The large hope with this mission is to enjoy the film with as little expectation and pre-loading of narrative and let EVERYTHING be a surprise on the day. But can I possibly accomplish such a feat, even with my previous effort being successful?

At the end of last year I’d spent a little time pondering on whether I might try and avoid trailers for James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. From late 2012 and into 2013 I’d made a good effort to avoid any spoilers, trailers and most posters for Iron Man 3 and to this day I still believe I had a far more enjoyable viewing experience of that film than my friends because I didn’t know what to expect. I even chronicled the ups and downs of my efforts at that time in articles on this very blog. I didn’t end up going through with my withdrawal from GOTG trailers as it turned out, and I’ll admit that I think the advertising campaign and movie’s script allowed for a fairly spoiler-free experience when it came to the trailers whilst still allowing me to get a gauge on how it might be visually.

That was perhaps an exception to the general rule for movie trailers in recent years which have seemed hellbent on force-feeding us as much of the high level story ideas as possible before release day. This assumedly is so that the audience heads in generally knowing they want to see the film, that style will be matched with substance and, where possible, we don’t come out bleary-eyed, confused and sputtering B- to D worthy reviews to Cinemascore or going home and typing out our bile on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviews and opinions count and word of mouth can add or remove millions of dollars from the end of a movie’s run. Avengers: Age of Ultron (hereby nominated for shortening to AAOU for the rest of PCG time) seems like an unavoidable hit and success, but the superhero bubble still has a delicate shell - just look to the Spider-Man franchise’s dwindling box office for evidence of that - and the Marvel/Disney machine will surely not stand for this sequel making less at the global box office than its bar-setting predecessor. This then may well affect the information released through the next six months until AAOU hits the big screen as they attempt to guarantee as high a return as possible and that’s why I want to avoid as much information as possible.


To this day I still think of my viewing experience of that first Avengers movie and - here comes a spoiler if you haven’t watched that blockbuster already! - the moment where Hulk catches a falling Iron Man straight after the action climax of the film. Thanks to the various trailers in the months before release, I knew that scene was coming. I was 99% sure it was coming, I just didn’t know when and found myself actually wondering at what point it was going to appear. That’s a distraction that removed me ever so slightly from my immersion in the spectacle for a moment. The immersion that I’d looked forward to and paid good money for. The very reason I elected to watch the film in the cinema. I then realised that these modern trailers and our insistence, through the medium of the internet, of breaking them down, dissecting them and postulating on their meaning has us building a narrative of our own before we’ve even given the director his/her chance to show us their vision of the entire narrative.

Black Widow is rumoured to return WITH hair once more
I don’t necessarily mean to change the way that you watch trailers and then watch films, but I’ll give you an example of how my brain started dissecting and reassembling trailer information following years of moviegoing and increasing trailer length, and I’ll link it back to that first Avengers movie. Whenever a trailer shows off a brief flash of an action setpiece, I now find myself automatically taking note of whether it was a scene set at night, or during the day, inside a building or outside. These are small bits of information in themselves, but when your brain starts trying to analyse and rearrange them into an order, perhaps you’re getting too much of the story. Or piecing together an incorrect version of the story and setting your own expectation. So when the first trailers came out, you could see Thor and Iron Man going at it in a forest at night, while the apparent big setpiece was clearly during the day and in a large city. That sets a time difference and location difference between the two sequences and since the three-act formula hasn’t changed a great deal for blockbuster movies it was relatively easy to guess where those individual parts might fit in the greater picture, relative to each other.

Of course, there’s now the first teaser trailer out there. It leaked last week. And I haven’t watched it. Most of the other PCG members have. You probably have. Millions of people have. 34.3 million people worldwide in the first 24 hours to be precise (figure courtesy of avclub.com) and then countless millions since. I imagine in the time you’ve been reading this a good ten thousand people have probably watched it and you may have possibly started putting those cluttered bits of information into some sort of order yourself. But I’m not going to watch it. I will remain unspoilt if I have anything to do with it. I even wonder how director Joss Whedon feels about trailer releases for his movies and note that he himself has not put a link up for the teaser at this time on his Twitter account.

For AAOU I want to know NOTHING going in. I want to have no guesswork involved. I want to have all the twists and turns unfold before my unknowing eyes and to remain genuinely surprising through the entire two hour (assumed) run time. I’d be quite happy to not know anything about the plot, how any of the returning characters look and I’d certainly LOVE to not know what Ultron looks like…


Skottie Young will not illustrate Ultron for the live action movie
But of course, I do now know what Ultron looks like. And I do know other details about the film. Not because I’ve seen the teaser trailer; I think you’ll agree I’ve stated my case quite firmly and my resolute stance on getting to April 24th 2015 - the UK release date - without watching one. No, dear readers, my knowledge of the film has been altered against my will thanks to others, my own friends in some instances, and they couldn’t have infected my mind without the gift (and blight) of social media.

Late last week I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, a good couple of days after the trailer had leaked, and comic book writer Brian Reed chucks up a picture of Ultron from the teaser trailer. You can turn your head away, close your eyes, bash your head against the desk, but you know it’s too late. These are the things you cannot unsee! Not long after that, one of the PCG’s own popped up a tweet, thankfully picture free, but containing a hashtag which clearly points to Tony Stark’s armour in the film. So now I know that’s in it! I mean, at least my colleague and friend didn’t put a picture up, so I can thank him for that. Thank you good sir for limiting the spoiler information you included in your tweet. (insert winky smiley emoticon here)

*Phew* thank goodness I haven’t seen that armour, hey!? I mean that might really have been a kick in the pants for my plan if say, he'd put it up on Twitter! But he hasn’t. And once again, I thank him....


I don’t however, thank Facebook. Facebook can take a Hulk-sized fist to the chops! For they took it upon themselves to show me the image on Monday 27th October thanks to their ‘Suggested Post’ nonsense! That’s right, because I stupidly liked the first Iron Man movie on their social network web of frustration some years ago, they decided that I might like a post by American technology news and media network, The Verge, which specifically talks about and shows a picture of the Iron Man armour from the film! Instantly angered by that I even turned to Twitter to contact Facebook and have a go at them for the spoiler...which led to me seeing the same image when someone I followed - yep, they’re gone from my feed now until April 25th 2015 - posted up the same damn image without hiding it.  Well, great, so in less than a week I’ve been subjected to two visual spoilers when I wasn’t looking for them and that’s thanks to social media, the people who use it and the companies that provide that service!

It’s only been 8 days since the teaser leaked! There are still 176 days to go. One hundred and seventy six days through which tweeters will tweet, news websites will report and the studio will release further trailers. Cinemas will put up posters and show the trailers before unassociated films that I might go and see, where I will be forced to close my eyes and put my fingers in my ears in a temporary and very public cocoon of ignorance. Buses will carry advertising as they pass me on the street, YouTube will constantly provide me with a minimum of five second footage before allowing me to proceed to the video I actually wanted to see. And of course there’s the Superbowl which I will definitely watch in February and have to remain on tenterhooks to press mute and look away at a moment’s notice whenever the game cuts to commercial.

*Sigh* this is a monumental task ahead of me, going up against an obstacle so big, so great that, if I could, I might call upon Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to help me in my hour of need. But, truth be told, I’d like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stay the heck away from me for the next 176 days until I’m ready to see them at the cinema if they wouldn’t mind!

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