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The rise of the internet has made it so every aspect of pop culture can be shared instantaneously on a global level. In some ways, this has been a fantastic advancement that allows fans from all around the world to celebrate or groan together within a virtual community that understands them. For instance, after the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones aired, millions took to the web to vent their frustration, share in convulsive grief, or laugh at the watchers who hadn't seen it coming. Of course, the downside to all this is the rise of spoiler culture. Stoked endlessly by leaked set photos, casting rumors, and slips of the tongue from stars, it's getting harder and harder to be surprised by big movies when they finally open.
Of course, you could blame sites like ours, who dedicatedly share whatever we can find out about new movies with you. But really, you're to blame too, because of course you click the links to these stories. It's supply and demand, and its drive is insatiable. And yet Marvel has managed twice in one year to keep some serious spoilers completely hidden until their films debuted. As you probably have guessed, SPOILERS AHEAD for Iron Man 3 and Thor 2.
Prior to the release of Iron Man 3, movie lovers and Marvel fans had been picking apart every piece of information we could glean from the trailers and character posters to get a better sense of what they had in store for the menacing Mandarin, as played by Ben Kingsley. That growling voice! Those ten rings! What did it all mean!? And after all the speculation, Marvel punked us with a plot line that made The Mandarin a ruse. Aside for be a fantastically fun twist in the movie, it was also a true surprise. And such a thing is rare, especially to those of us who cover all these developments for a living. It was a total joy to have thought I knew everything about this movie from my months of coverage, only to be proven wrong. And not in a Star Trek into Darkness way, where we all figured it out but were repeatedly lied to. Marvel gave us a misdirection, and we followed it eagerly, making the perfect rubes for a well executed slight of hand.
The big reveal in in Thor 2 was nothing quite so sensational, but nonetheless is a moment that has tongues wagging. Loki, just freed from his bonds by Thor, is taunting his brother by shape shifting into various forms, including patriotism-lovin' Captain America. It's a throwaway joke in the film, but one that was perfectly executed with Tom Hiddleston snidely mimicking Chris Evans performance, then Evans mimicking that mockery. But more wondrous than its execution is that Marvel managed it without any of us finding out in advance. This means a massive cast and crew of people saw Hiddleston in a Cap costume, saw Evans do this tricky impersonation, and said exactly nothing to those outside of Thor: The Dark World. It must have been difficult to sit on that, but the results made for a moment so silly and unexpected that it is already among fans' favorites.
So, what does all this mean? I'm not so naïve as to think that either sites or readers will back down on their end of this spoiler supply/demand cycle. Part of the landscape of web-based fandom is an entitlement complex that demands more, more, more now, now, now. That movie was great! What else you got? We spawn fan art, GIFs, memes, Tumblrs, listicles, and cosplays to feed or fandom, and it's not enough. We want to know what's next sooner than as soon as possible. And really, that's probably good news for Marvel. It means we're hungry for their next adventures, and hopefully keeps the pressure on to keep the quality high.
Plus, there's something delicious about knowing a movie's "secrets" in advance. But as much as it's my job to wheedle information, to chase down rumors, and to share with you everything I'm able to uncover, I am deeply grateful when a movie is able to sell itself honestly, yet manages to surprise me. Because when you're sitting in a theater, and something like The Mandarin being a down-on-his-luck actor or Loki turning into a overzealous Cap happens, all the accumulated facts and stories that you may have collected in my brain slip away, and you just get to be in the moment, laughing and surging with the fan community all around you, no longer separated by wifi connections or great distances.
So, Marvel, I know it's not easy an easy balance to strike. But please keep it up.
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