There’s been so much hype and hullabaloo around Star Wars: The Force Awakens it would be easy to miss the other notable thing emanating from Hollywood.
That would be the sound of silence, or something close to it, regarding this very same blockbuster film. The secrets and reveals of The Force Awakens have been kept under wraps for a remarkably long time.
Not in recent memory, at least not since the widespread use of social media, has a big movie managed to make it to release day free of major spoilers. It’s like the King Tut’s tomb of Tinseltown, miraculously escaping the raiders who want to make off with the treasure.
I had a big goofy grin on my face while watching The Force Awakens at a top-secret press preview earlier this week. Part of my joy was realizing how often I was surprised by plot turns, which doesn’t happen very often for a movie critic. When you see hundreds of films a year, you get to know the favourite plot twists of directors and screenwriters, especially since they’re so often repeated.
The Force Awakens was a totally different experience, and I hope it marks the start of a trend back to the day when people were surprised at the pictures — sort of how people were stunned by The Empire Strikes Back, back in the day before the Internet took over the world.
Disney took unprecedented measures to block spoilers for The Force Awakens, with very strict non-disclosure agreements for cast and crew members and serious warnings to the press not to squeal any major story details. The studio even delayed the publication of a companion novel to avoid any plot details leaking out through the bookstore, as happened prior to the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999.
Director J. J. Abrams cut his trailers and teasers to provoke interest in The Force Awakens but not to give anything major away. Having now seen the film, I can attest he managed a brilliant job of deflection. Things that seemed a certain way in the trailer aren’t necessarily that way in the film.
Abrams, the studio and everybody involved with The Force Awakens really seemed to take it to heart not to diminish the experience of seeing the film by talking too much about it beforehand.
Harrison Ford said exactly that in my interview with him, as he expertly dodged any query that might accidentally unleash a spoiler response: “Why would I or anybody in my business want to predispose the audience with any kind of information about what’s in the movie? Don’t do that! Just resist the impulse to do that. It’s very easy. Watch this!”
It’s a great attitude, one that moviegoers have for the most part adopted. I noticed that the tweets coming out of Hollywood following Monday night’s world premiere were mostly raves about the movie, but free of plot details.
I’ve also noticed with dismay that a group of troublemakers, hopefully a very small group, has been trying to get a hashtag going with a major spoiler for The Force Awakens. May the Force not be with them.
But social media isn’t entirely to blame for today’s blabbermouth film culture. Too many trailers these days seem deliberately cut to reveal every last plot point of a movie, so much so that it sometimes feels as if you’ve already seen it. Many studios and filmmakers seem to think that their slogan should be the same as for the Holiday Inn hotel chain: “No Surprises.”
Imagine if we’d been able to see Jurassic World this past summer without knowing in advance that a ferocious new dinosaur was a big part of the story. Wouldn’t that have been more intriguing, not to mention frightening? But the trailers gave the game away.
I enjoyed the new 007 movie Spectre, but it would have been a lot more enjoyable if I hadn’t already known who the central villain would turn out to be. The trailers left little doubt about the creep’s identity, and the back story was telegraphed way in advance of the film’s release.
Worrying about embargoes and obsessively checking for spoilers in my review of The Force Awakens has been a tad stressful, I must admit. I’m always careful about spoilers, but this time I fussed over every word, mindful of not writing anything that might inadvertently diminish someone’s viewing pleasure.
It’s a small price to pay if it helps people experience The Force Awakens as blissfully in the dark as I was.