Thursday, May 16, 2013

An open letter to the assholes who can't stop spoiling STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

Warning to all who venture into the comments - despite this post explicitly indicating a desire for people to stop spoiling the film, internet dickbags just gotta be dickbags, I guess.  Spoilers are in the comments, so if you want to go in fresh, stay out of there.

There's been a curious trend lately.  People in the know seem to be incapable of keeping their damn mouths shut when it comes to spoilers for STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS.  Normally, you'd think I'd be targeting inconsiderate moviegoers who pull a "Homer Simpson exiting Empire Strikes Back" and can't help blowing a major plot point for those mere hours behind them in viewing something.  Those people exist.  I don't watch Mad Men or Game of Thrones, but every Sunday my Twitter feed explodes with people angry at other tweeters from ruining plot points for them.

But this isn't a rant at the general public.  This one is targeted largely at the last people who should need this lecture - critics.

A not-insignificant number of critics and web journalists are basically acting like J.J. Abrams is that hot girl who dumped them and as such, they are taking every chance they can to foam at the mouth about how much he sucks.  Specifically, it feels like they resent his "mystery box" method of keeping too many spoilers from prying eyes.  One such individual with a tie to the Trek franchise went on a Twitter binge lashing out at J.J. for keeping too many secrets - and he wasn't alone.  I don't follow most of the others on twitter, but retweets kept pulling some of those conversations into my feed, and it was bizarrely fascinating to watch.

The detractors lashed out at INTO DARKNESS because J.J.'s mystery box resulted in concealing some large elements of Trek mythology that said critics felt should have been used in the marketing campaign.  Problem - in going off on angry rants about what should and should not have been put out to the audience prior to release, these individuals naturally exposed those elements.  So the joy of being surprised by the plot twists was taken away by a whining critic's need to pre-emptively bitch about a marketing campaign.

It's a little like having someone rip open your Christmas presents for you on December 23 to demonstrate that the box size and wrapping paper were offering an inaccurate picture of what awaited you under the tree.

A couple thoughts here:

* WTF difference does the marketing campaign make with regard to the quality of the film? Ten years from now, none of the conversation about the film will be about how it was marketed and all of it will be about the artistry of the project itself.

* The movie was still two weeks away from being released domestically when the bitching started up.  How the hell are we to know if the marketing was a success or a failure?  Who are we to make that call before release?  If it lays an egg opening weekend, then yes, by all means do an autopsy and tell Abrams he should have known better.

*It bears repeating - the movie was JUST released today!  Why do I even have to explain why openly tweeting plot points is fucking inconsiderate, no matter what your reasons are?  (Discussing in reviews is fair, so long as there are adequate spoiler warnings.)

* In several cases, the critics attacking J.J. are also among the people most vocally antagonistic to Abrams' first film.  Yes, big shock - the people who've spent four years bitching about how Abrams' Trek is a betrayal of everything Star Trek stands for ended up loathing every minute of the sequel.

I don't understand why it's a bad thing that some people are going to see Star Trek Into Darkness without knowing every plot twist in advance.  I also cannot get sheer glee some of these haters are getting from deliberately robbing those viewers of their spoiler virginity.  If your problem with a movie is that the trailer was too cryptic for you to know everything up to the third act, you really need to (in the words of the great William Shatner) "Get a life, will you, people?"

So what's this really about?  Why do so many web critics seem to have their knives out for this film?

I truly believe a lot of this is about web hits.  A lot of these guys work for sites that subsist on the traffic from movie spoilers.  The more J.J. withholds, the fewer stories these guys can write, and thus the less link bait they can post.  A lot of filmmakers play ball.  Usually when you see "EXCLUSIVE," you can safely translate that as "I was fed this by a studio publicist."  So costume photos, set stills, and sneak-peak clips become the currency that allows both the websites and the marketing departments to win.

But Abrams doesn't play ball.  And so it seems he must be punished for that.

Seriously, if you're going to write a negative review of Into Darkness and your focus is more on the secrets the film kept until release rather than the merits of the film as a work of entertainment itself, then you've lived far too long inside the 310-323-818 fishbowl my friends.  Take your petty resentments of the leaks Abrams plugged, the denials and the "no comments" and shove it.  Most people don't care about this inside baseball shit.  Hell, I wouldn't even care about it if it wasn't threatening to ruin my Trek experience.

If the film really sucks, then it shouldn't be a problem to write a thoughtful essay decrying it on its own merits.  My problem is that I feel like many critics are taking perverse pleasure in undermining the experience for others, making the audience collateral damage in a firefight with the film's director.


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  2. My understanding is that there has always been a symbiotic relationship between the studios and the press. I believe that critics who spoil major plot points and surprises are likely to weaken the relationship (which would only make the problem worse). I was going to suggest these people are as annoying as somebody who sends a text message during a movie, except they are much worse. They don't just distract you for a minute or two. They potentially ruin the whole experience.

  3. Don't drop the mic. Smack it upside their arrogant faces. That needed to be said. And you said it well.

    I have absolutely no problem with folks like Matt Weiner pushing back against those in the media who disrespect their work by spoiling that "Christmas morning" suspense, which was intended as a gift to audiences on opening weekend. If critics must prattle on about plot points, they can easily do so with careful warning of SPOILERS. It's a simple, respectful choice, and once upon a time it wasn't such an issue.

    It's a careful balancing act when it's your job to "critique," but the good critics can do so without writing a recap. Though it wasn't spoken in regard to twittering dipshits, a respected director once made a statement about movies that fits this matter well: "The essence of dramatic form is to let an idea come over people without it being plainly stated. When you say something directly, it's simply not as potent as it is when you allow people to discover it for themselves."

  4. Your excessively harsh condemnation of critics of the film is a bit offensive as you dismiss a very legitimate criticism of racism and whitewashing directed against the movie that is impossible to address without "spoiling" a key piece of information withheld in the movie's marketing.

    There may be inconsiderate and ill-motivated attacks on the film designed just to spoil other's enjoyment of it - all films have this problem, and ST: Into Darkness is not unique here - but there are valid arguments to be made about a key part of the movie that has been purposefully withheld. Some might call this a 'twist' that should be left unrevealed for audiences, others would call it deliberate obfuscation of a possible racial bias in the reimagining of Star Trek that should be revealed ahead of viewing for audiences and should be debated, if not condemned, by the public.

    The twist is a "surprise" for white audiences and a disappointment for (redacted) audiences and any who care about them or who care for a broader portrayal of groups historically (and still currently) marginalized and/or demonized in Hollywood.

    As a non-white reader of your blog, I am disappointed to see such a harsh condemnation of all criticism that addresses the film's (spoiler). Perhaps you have simply not considered a minority perspective on the matter? I recommend checking out's article (easy to find on their front page) for a perspective on the movie's "secret" that you might not have considered.

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    2. It's Not "racialbending."

      SLIGHT SPOILERS TO FOLLOW (highly recommend not reading if you've yet to see the movie):

      Does the fact that the character in question was originally offered to Benicio del Toro still make J.J. Abrams a "whitewashing" racist?

      This is a combustible topic that would be interesting to explore/debate next week, after the spoiler edges have dulled a bit.

      My two cents at the moment: Abrams would catch hell either way regarding casting. If he cast a darker-skinned actor there would still be several "analysts" who would ask, despite the "intelligence" of the character, why must villains be certain foreign-born races? What about domestic terrorists? JJ should have bucked history and shown he's not a racist!

      One could just as easily argue that associating a certain name with race IS racist. My hunch? Abrams wanted to make the superfan Trekkies scream "NO WAY, OH WOW, HE FOOLED ME!" when the reveal came. It wasn't about anything else. The fact that the role was first offered to del Toro proves it.

    3. 3 Chainz - the topic was "The movie's not even out yet - can you please have some courtesy and not spoil details before people have a chance to see it." I wasn't saying it was wrong to have a critical opinion on the film. In fact, I even said that spoilers in reviews were fine, provided there was adequate warning.

      And no matter HOW offended something might have made you in a film, I don't get how that somehow makes it okay to ruin the experience of others who have been anticipating the movie. I personally am with T.A. Snyder's opinion on this, but my larger issue is that there is no compelling reason for this debate to be shoved into an audience's face before the film even comes out yet.

      With regard to the character in question (and here I'm going to get into some vagueish spoilers, so people who haven't seen the film are advised to stop reading), I don't think you can necessarily argue that his race in the original series necessarily correlates to the ethnicity of the actor who played him. (And if Wikipedia is any guide, the actor who previously played the character in question was explicitly NOT the same ethnicity as the role.)

      To wit, John Chu is Korean, but he's playing a Japanese character. There's also the fact that Simon Pegg isn't Scottish in real life, nor does he look ANYTHING like James Doohan, yet in the first film Nimoy's Spock recognized Pegg's Scotty as the younger version of "his" Scotty. It's just generally accepted that in-universe we accept they are the same character.

      I think we just have to accept that there will be cases where a character's ethnicity isn't integral to who they are as a character and that it might be up for recasting. A good example of this might be the fact that Lawrence Fishburn is playing Perry White in MAN OF STEEL - the first actor of color to do so.

  5. I thoroughly agree with you on this one. As an aspiring writer and a cinema worker, I see many trailers. Most of which show me enough to work out the entire plot, twists, ending, everything. It's annoying. I watched Star Trek and loved every moment. I really enjoyed how they messed with the details of the trailer to purposely misdirect.

    Also, as someone who lives outside the US, I find I have to actively avoid any discussion on a movie I wish to see because it often won't come out until several weeks after the US release. Star Trek and Iron Man 3 were exceptions. But it is annoying to not be able to participate in those discussions for fear of spoiling all the good parts.

    On a side note. I am not a Trekkie. Clearly than means I missed something because I have no idea what all the fuss is about.

  6. I agree quite a bit:

  7. Thanks 3Chainz, in a forum telling fuck-heads to stop spoiling plot-points you went and told us there is a major focus on race. I did not know this and was careful not to expose myself to any promos or Trek conversations so that I wouldn't know anything before the watch. I thought an anti-spoiler post would be safe. Some people are just so effin clueless.

  8. I haven't actually seen "Into Darkness," but I too have had the movie "spoiled" if you can call it that, by online reviews. All the movie spoilers did was confirm what I knew what Abrams, Kurtzman and Co. were going to do; attempt to redo "Wrath of Khan," but make it shittier, which apparently is exactly what they did.

    If everyone forgets we were mislead for years that the second movie wasn't about Khan, and if I can remember the writers said that they wouldn't dare to try to remake such a classic movie.

    Instead of taking effort and writing a good, original movie, they just simply did a "pump and dump" with this fake "Wrath of Khan" movie. The producers/writers simply TRICKED EVERYONE into thinking that the Cumberbach character was an original character, and NOT Khan, only to go, "Oh, ha, ha, remember when we told you it wasn't Khan? LOL, SUCKERS!! IT WAS KHAN THE WHOLE TIME, BUT WITH A FACE JOB!"

    There is a HUGE difference between spoiling let's say the twist in "The Usual Suspects," or "The Crying Game," or "The Sixth Sense," and a movie who has its "Mystery Box" based on an outright lie in an attempt to fool the audience.

    The worst part is that the writers simply WASTED Cumberbatch as Khan, as the "new audience" that Paramount is targeting, HAS NEVER SEEN WRATH OF KHAN. WOK was made over thirty years ago, so why trick an audience when they could give a shit less if Jim from Taxi shows up in Klingon garb to re-kill Jim's son? It's irrelevant to NewTrek.

    Not that I've lost any respect for you, Bitter, but I'm confused why you're defending a POS popcorn movie that will be totally forgotten by this time next year.

    1. Auditor, I don't give a shit what your respect level is for me, but know that my respect for you is at about nil after this comment.

      I'm not "defending" the "movie!" I hadn't even SEEN the movie at the time I put the post up. I was defending the audience's right not to have their enjoyment of the film ruined by a dickbag who was gleefully trying to ruin their experience.

      I can't fathom why you thought it would be a good idea to post spoilers at all on a post that EXPLICITLY was asking people to spoil spoiling unrevealed information about the film. I am astounded at the lack of reading comprehension displayed.

      Further, ANY opinion you have to offer on the film itself is invalidated by the first few words you type: "I haven't actually seen 'Into Darkness.'"

      Oh, you read a plot synopsis. Good for you. I'd hate for you to have to actually see the film and gain an informed opinion about something you've already decided you were going to hate.

      And if it doesn't look like your bag of cats, bully for you, you don't have to go see the movie. I'm not going to seen THE HANGOVER III for the same reason I didn't see THE HANGOVER II - it doesn't look like it's gonna be very good.

      But here's the thing - I'm not going to write a post talking about how "shitty" HANGOVER III is when I haven't seen it, and I sure as hell won't feel the need to look up a plot synopsis so that I can scream all the gags, plot twists and ending to anyone who will listen, just so their experience is ruined.

      Even on a post that wasn't begging for spoiler respect, your attack would have been out of line. On THIS post, it's pure assholery.

  9. I was spoiled on the reveal. When the moment came, people around me were obviously pleasantly surprised. You could hear noises of happy surprise all over the theater. My husband next to me was also surprised, and told me afterward that he really enjoyed that he didn't see it coming.

    I didn't get to have that cool moment - the moment that was meant to be part of the viewing experience.

    I don't care if you hated the movie. It's not your place to try to ruin my experience because you didn't have any fun. Don't be an asshole.