Rosebud is the Sled: The Fine Art of the Spoiler

I saw Spider-Man 2 over the holiday weekend. Upon returning to work Tuesday, still a bit buzzed from the rush of such a kickass movie, I was eager to discuss it with someone else. Alas, it seems I’m the only one in the office who had seen it. So my eagerness to discuss it became an eagerness to praise it and urge everyone within earshot to run-don’t-walk and suffer the highway robbery of theater ticket prices and the insult of being forced to watch commercials that you just overpaid to see, and revel in the exhileration that is Spider-Man 2.

However, one of my co-workers didn’t want to hear it. As I said “There’s an awesome fight between Spidey and Doc Ock that–” he cut me off and told me not to say another word. See, some time ago in a similar situation I jokingly “gave away” the ending of Kill Bill vol. 2 and he seems to actually be upset about that. My only response is “dude, how could you not know that? It’s in the damn title!” It’s not as if I described the scene in great detail, I just stated a self-evident tidbit as a joke. Mentioning a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus is not really revealing a major plot point. If anyone out there who hasn’t seen it thinks for one second that the entire film would pass by without an epic and awesome battle between these two characters, you should be drawn and quartered.

Now sure, he couldn’t have known what I was about to say about Spidey v. Ock and he was just exercising caution. But it was the Kill Bill incident which made him distrust me. I have been forever labeled as “that jerk who gives away endings.” I read about movies that interest me before they’re even released. I read reviews and message boards and articles, I catch the buzz. So inevitably most of the plot is known to me by the time I see it, and I guess I just presume that everyone else does the same kind of due diligence prior to catching an anticipated flick. So at the time, the Kill Bill incident was just a snide joke, I meant no harm. I never could have anticipated that my comment would be taken as a serious spoiler.

Which raises the question: just what is considered a spoiler? As far as I’m concerned, it’s only a real spoiler if it reveals some secret that the filmmaker deliberately holds from the audience as part of the craft of storytelling. If someone gave away the big important twists in Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Memento or The Others before I saw those movies, I would never forgive them. The entire impact of those films relies on the careful revelation of a major secret, and with the secret blown you just can’t enjoy it at all.

If a plot point is blatantly obvious from the start, I see no harm in “giving it away” when it’s all in good fun. Some movies are just predictable. Hollywood is unoriginal and the majority of movies suck anyway, so you can usually see the twists coming from a mile away. I hardly think it ruins the experience of seeing Independence Day to know that Earth defeats the alien invaders in the end. But if someone went into a detailed explanation of exactly how the noble Earthlings win the day, that would be rather annoying, but the fact itself is a foregone conclusion.

So just to get it out of my system, here are some real spoilers. Stop reading if you don’t want to know anything.

Aragorn takes the throne. Ferris gets away with it. Joe Gillis dies. So does Jesus. Private Ryan survives. Marlin finds Nemo. Marty returns to 1985. The Titanic sinks. Neo is the One. Dorothy makes it home. So does E.T. The Terminator is destroyed. Bond foils the villain’s plot. Only one teenager survives and it’s the hot-yet-innocent girl. The terrorists are all killed. The team wins the big game. The guy gets the girl. The best friend is the killer. The hero saves the day. The good guys win.

Whew, I feel better. All those secrets were just eating away at me.