The Spoiler Conundrum


So far, we have seen a very strong summer for film. The majority of the blockbusters are making their money back and although some have been received with less than total enthusiasm by critics and audiences, including The Great Gatsby and Hangover III, many have held up as exciting, interesting and entertaining. With so many more to look forward to like: Kick-Ass 2, Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Pacific Rim, it’s going to be a great year for film.

This is all good, but, my question today is whether it’s socially acceptable to discuss important plot points of these films. Can critics, bloggers and people using social networking sites reveal any spoilers or will there be a huge backlash against them as they, in effect, ruin the film for those yet to see it.


It is a very serious and complicated issue to understand and is an absolute minefield for those with blogs or Twitter accounts. When is it ok to spill the beans about a plot twist, which is some cases is intrinsic to reviewing or discussing the movie? I ask these questions because the two biggest films of the summer so far, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness, both have huge plot points that are vital to the story. Once these are revealed they completely change the concept and direction of the movies and some would argue these have to be revealed to discuss the film frankly and fairly.

I will not reveal these plot points yet because the films are still at the cinema and I assume there are many yet to see them, despite their hefty box office takings, and this is our problem. I do not want to be accused of ruining a film for anybody, especially films I really enjoyed myself. I want people to discover things for themselves and be able to discuss their thoughts with an open mind devoid of too much external influence. Which is why I find trailers that reveal key plot points and jokes so offensive, such as Fast and Furious 6 which leaves nothing to the imagination.

For example, though, if I was going to be writing a review or feature about Star Trek, I would need to reveal this key plot point to explain the majority of the plot and thoroughly debate the movie. IMDB revealed spolierific pieces of information quite prominently on their page for a while before the film was actually released.

In my experience, the online public is very thoughtful of when to flash up the spoiler alert klaxon and will often over compensate by not revealing anything at all on various forums. There are some, however, who won’t wait and continue to blurt out the conclusion of a film the moment they get home from the cinema. Who’s to say they can’t though? Since the dawn of the internet the complication of the situation has certainly been exacerbated. Everything is at risk of being revealed, although, on the other hand, I certainly believe more people have become spoiler conscious and the fact audience members have a secret they know and other people don’t can be quite perversely intriguing.


If we take the biggest plot twist in recent, cinematic history: Bruce Willis being a ghost in The Sixth Sense the big spoiler was still flooding the media despite the lack of the social networking. Once people knew that Willis had been dead all along, it spread like wildfire through word of mouth. Every form of popular culture would reference M.Night Shyamalan’s surprise finale and before long it was public knowledge. My mother, to this day, remembers the movie being ruined for her on a talk show as comedien Jack Dee made jokes at the expense of this “secret” piece of exposition. No one is safe from certain spoilers.

Which types of films are critics allowed to reveal though? Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen adaptations always seem to have their key plot points explained. We all know Hamlet’s going to die. There is a consensus that a piece of literature that is adapted isn’t safe from spoilers because there is a feeling it should be public knowledge. This is certainly the case with many of these century old works but what about more recent films. Many critics revealed who died in the Harry Potter series because they thought everyone had read the books. But, there are always those who won’t have and will have been disappointed.

So, when can we reveal these points? A week? A month? A year? Some would think it depends on the film and the magnitude of the film. Some assume that once the film has left cinemas, people have had enough time to watch it and if not it’s the viewers fault and not theirs. I usually take every case on its merit but it is getting increasingly hard to judge and one day I know I’m not going to be able to avoid spoilers. I just hope I don’t ruin anything for you!