16 Apr 2015

Thought Balloon: AVOIDING AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON SPOILERS, THE END IS NIGH!

Stewart R's wait and journey draws closer to the April 23rd (UK) release day for Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Here he summarizes how his attempt has gone following his initial article back in October (which can be found here) and shares some final thoughts on the subject of modern teasers, trailers and our exposure to them.

Stewart R: And so here I sit, just 7 days away from entering my local cineplex with my PCG comrades to bear witness to the movie event of the year (no, not Star Wars!). Nearly 6 months ago I set out my plan to avoid any spoiler-related material for Avengers: Age Of Ultron, particularly video media, but also pictures, posters and written articles, interviews and news pieces, in an attempt to maintain the full shock and awe element of such a big screen endeavour. Compared to my similar efforts with Iron Man 3, this journey has been slightly easier in some respects and more frustrating in others. I have, in the main, managed to stay relatively untouched by Disney/Marvel's marketing push and side-stepped several social media 'landmines' on the way, but those unexpected 'shrapnel wounds' of knowledge, how hard have they hit?

The strange thing about trying to avoid details about media projects these days is that when you do happen to stumble across the smallest sliver of information it can play far larger in the mind as it's less likely to get lost amongst the noise. When you're making concerted efforts to close your eyes and plug your ears to spoilers it also feels like a failure and betrayal of what you're attempting when small things slip through. During the course of 6 months I've actually unfollowed two Twitter accounts because they tweeted pics and details about AAOU unabashedly. Empire Magazine was one of these and to be fair the final straw was Daredevil-related (they posted a pic of the costume, unhidden, the afternoon the show hit Netflix). Being a news site, their idea of what a spoiler is will be very different to mine in this context, the pictures and clips they post being sourced and released from official channels and, more often than not, with studio prompting and blessing. Their very existence is based upon delivering exclusives and ‘news’ to an audience and I of course do not begrudge them that.

Cropped by me here, shown in full on the tweet....GAH!

But I have also taken to visiting Empire Magazine’s site less these past 5 months as they continued to post more pics, and feature articles largely and proudly on their homepage. Yesterday and today I’ve had to be quick and careful when visiting Bleeding Cool's site as they’ve taken to embedding an actual banner-shaped trailer at the top of their homepage. At the turn of the year, New York Comic Con shared a trailer via Facebook which instantly played when my browser scrolled over it. Smaller sites that I’ve visited for completely unrelated comic book reasons are now beset with picture links to A:AOU articles in their sidebars to the point where I actually have to focus harder to avoid my peripheral vision and stare intently on what I came to that site for.


What’s been more of a problem for me has been the occasional misstep from individuals and sites actively trying to place spoiler warnings down, but not necessarily paying attention to what they’re doing. Whilst scrolling through my YouTube subscription feed two weeks back, Beyond The Trailer chucked up a video, the thumbnail having ‘SPOILER’ emblazoned across it. All fine and dandy, except the thumbnail also included two actors who are apparently appearing in A:AOU and it seems that their casting IS the spoiler!! The associated blurb which sat alongside the thumbnail indicated that their specific roles are currently unknown, the video consisting of Grace Randolph postulating on who they might be playing (I haven’t watched it), so the casting alone WAS the spoiler! Slow clap goes in the direction of Beyond The Trailer there then!

Auto-play videos are becoming more annoying and invasive
Outside of dedicated news sites and the people who work for them, I have to say it’s actually not been that hard to miss advertising for this blockbuster event. Walking around Bournemouth town where I reside, it seems that bus shelters and buses themselves are free of posters to this point and I’ve not picked up on any other publicly placed promotion for A:AOU. There is the possibility that audience awareness is so damn high that Disney and Marvel feel they can spend a little less this time around pushing a film that will, outside of catastrophic failure, ensure a $1bn take at the global box office with ease and possibly push for the record.

With a week to go I’ve only been exposed to a handful of images posted here and there online, a few posters dotted about or, once again, posted online, and the tiniest amount of moving imagery taken from the film and embedded into my daily internet experience. I watch little in the way of TV so haven’t been bombarded with TV spots and have barely been to the cinema this year so there’s been no requirement for me to close my eyes and pop a finger in each ear. I’m pretty pleased with how little I know, though what I have seen has undoubtedly made an imprint and impression and will likely be recalled when the relevant frame appears on that glorious 3D screen.

What’s been interesting these past few months has been to see some of the points I’ve made through this series of articles actually come to the fore elsewhere and also to look at the effect that undertaking such a project has on my social life.

When it comes to the former, no less than 7 days after my first A:AOU article went live back in October, I was reading the 'i' newspaper and lo, there was not one, but two articles specifically looking at the hype that trailers bring, audience reception to the growing trend of bigger, plot-spoiling trailers and how perhaps ‘less is more’ when it comes to teasers. I’ve still got that paper today and have taken a photo of those pieces for you to look at and take in. A little closer to today and on 9th March I was briefly perusing CBR’s site and happened to spot a tiny thumbnail of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man and alongside it the headline ‘“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Trailer Gets Chronological Edit’. That’s right, people out there are now dissecting and reassembling the trailers to anticipate the order in which the plot events will play out! Yes! The same way I knew my brain was undertaking this same task when watching new trailers and which in part fuelled my pursuit of this challenge in the first place. And these people were actively pursuing the idea while I was trying to get as far away from it as possible!

Fans doing your brain's job for you
Then there’s the social aspect of these trailers. Every member of the PCG, save for myself, has watched these trailers. They’ve felt that initial buzz, watched them over again and built up that excitement. They’ve spoken to each other, at some length, about what they’ve seen, what’s promised and what perhaps hasn’t yet been shown. And I haven’t been able to be part of this. They’ve been gracious and humoured me when wanting to speak about the trailers as a group in my presence, but I do feel like I’ve missed out. Movies and visual media are a very large part of our everyday lives in the 21st Century and when you actively shun or block out just one tiny part of that you can find yourself removed slightly from an element of your social life. 

That's the hazard of stopping a conversation before it’s really started, and yes, while some people have spoken to me about the challenge I’ve undertaken, that’s never a subject that will continue to engage on the same level as time wears on. As the target draws nearer I’ve also realised that, though we at the PCG will be sat alongside each other through that initial viewing, I will be having a very different experience to my peers sat around me. I start to ask myself, given the chance to do this again, would I? Next Thursday’s experience may well be a 10/10 barnstormer of a cinematic extravaganza thanks to this journey, but weighed up against the exciting interaction that coalesces and builds over months of teaser releases and conversations with friends...well, we really are living in the time of Avengers: Age of the Trailer!

2 comments:

Rob N said...

Quote: 'Every member of the PCG, save for myself, has watched these trailers.'

Actually, I haven't either. Mind you, I haven't seen the trailer to the first Avengers film yet... Or the first Iron man film come to that. ;)

- Rob N

Stewart R said...

Egads Rob! I do apologise for the generalisation here! When even Andrew B has watched trailers that I haven't seen I tend to assume that 'everyone' has. ;)