Everything about Marvel typically runs like a well-oiled machine. For the past decade or so, the company has churned out hit after hit and enjoyable film after enjoyable film, mirroring the early run of fellow Disney subsidiary Pixar. Yesterday, however, the studio may have made a horrific blunder when it released an overly honest soundtrack listing. If so, the rookie mistake revealed a major plot point in Captain America: The Winter Soldier months ahead of its release date.
It’s not the type of screw-up any of us would have expected from Marvel, but then again, history has shown us even the best companies have given away movies thanks to serious lapses in judgment by the marketing team, the creative team or the studio itself. From major plot points to gigantic twists to character secret identities, pretty much every type of spoiler possible has leaked out at one point or another, and it has happened through both obvious and not so obvious ways.
So, in honor of Marvel’s (alleged) big mistake, let’s take a trip back and examine 6 different ways movies have been spoiled ahead of their release dates…
Warning: This article contains spoilers. Obviously...
With Toys, As Evidenced By The Amazing Spider-ManHardcore toy collectors have been on to this glitch in the system for years, but the media and casual fans have only started catching on recently. Basically, in order to sell as many toys related to event films as possible, the studio needs to ensure two things. First, kids need to be able to buy products directly related to the plot, and second, they need to be able to buy them as soon as they’re released. In order to do that properly, Hasbro or whoever needs to be given key details months in advance, and this often creates a very big problem.
Check out the image at the top of this post. Not only does it tell us a climactic showdown between Spider-Man and Lizard will take place in Oscorp’s Tower, it tells us it will involve a SWAT team being transformed into Lizards. That’s a pretty serious plot point, one director Marc Webb no doubt would have rather remained hidden from fans prior to The Amazing Spider-Man’s release date, but that didn’t happen thanks in large part to Mega Bloks and all the furious rumors the pre-release pictures of the box art created.
With Taglines, As Evidenced By Ender’s GameI don’t know what percentage of the audience at an adaptation the average studio thinks has read the book, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot lower than they’d guess. How else would you explain so why so many films based on classic novels seem to treat their marketing materials like a spoiler free zone, at least when it comes to major plot events? They straight up show characters getting hit by cars, and they take iconic lines of dialogue and turn them into movie taglines. Take Ender’s Game and, yes, spoilers are coming.
The biggest single moment in the movie is supposed to be when Ender finds out his war game wasn’t actually a game at all. The shocked look on both his and the audience’s faces is supposed to be the money shot, and yet, there it is in big letters on the poster. I’m sure a very high percentage of non-readers forgot the tagline while they were sitting down and watching the film, but I can guarantee you it still stuck with a healthy number of people, especially as the movie presented them with a final big simulation.
With Trailers, As Evidenced By Cast AwayI love Cast Away--like a stupid amount. The runtime flies by which is incredible given the subject matter, and the relationship between Hanks and all of his co-stars, including Wilson, is oddly touching. It’s a great, great movie, but the trailer is basically a blow-by-blow outline of what happens. It’s about to get really specific up in here. So, Spoiler Alert…
Here’s a list of things we see in the trailer. Hanks leaving for his trip and telling Helen Hunt he’ll be right back. The plane crashing. Hanks learning to feed himself on the island. Hanks learning to make fire and fish. Interacting with Wilson, building a raft, sailing into dangerous seas on that raft and even the reunion with Helen Hunt outside her garage. Why not throw in the plot twist with the dentist while we’re at it? Or God forbid, show Wilson slowly floating off into the distance? Most movies give away way too much information in the trailers, a fact recognized by theater owners, but Cast Away takes that common problem to an entirely new level.
With Soundtracks, As Evidenced By The Phantom MenaceSong titles often leave a little bit of mystery about themselves, but the various pieces of music on a soundtrack are usually a little more explicit. In fact, since they’re linked to hyper-specific moments in the film, they’re often simply named after what’s happening in the scene they’re played atop. So, Jurassic Park has a track called "Hatching Baby Raptor" for example. That’s not in-depth enough to ruin anyone’s good time, but unfortunately for George Lucas, the same cannot be said for the Phantom Menace soundtrack, which included a pretty big bombshell spoiler.
The track was called "The High Council Meeting And Qui-Gon's Funeral", and more than a few Star Wars super nerds were beyond pissed off when they saw the track listing. In fact, the bitterness even lingered long enough that it’s been mentioned almost constantly over the past twenty-four hours thanks to Marvel’s soundtrack mistake. The key here is to not release track listings when they come out or to simply hint at big events like "The Aftermath" or "The Assembly" instead of overtly saying the character and funeral in the same clause.
With The Entire Movie, As Evidenced By X-Men Origins: WolverineAbout one month before the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the unthinkable happened. A working print of the film found its way onto the Internet. Exactly how is still unclear. Someone working in special effects seems to have copied it to give to a friend, or a friend secretly copied it and give it to his or her friends. It eventually expanded out wide enough to get to Korean bootleggers who sold it to a man for $5 who then put it on the Internet. Exactly how many people watched the rough cut or used the rather negative reviews to avoid going to the box office is unclear, but years later, FOX is still irate about it and with good reason.
Many studios have increased security measures to make sure things like this don’t happen again. Copies are watermarked or individuals are put in sole charge of them and told never to let it leave their sights. That’s the way it has to be too because unfortunately, if there’s one single weak link in the chain of hundreds of people who work on movies, the entire film worth of spoilers can end up online.
With Movie Posters, As Evidenced By Rocky IVI’m not saying there are people out there who thought Rocky would lose to Ivan Drago, but the whole point of watching Rocky IV is to see the boxer take on the beast from the USSR. As you can see in the picture, he clearly beats him, much to the joy of not only himself but the entire country who has clearly gotten behind him and turned the event into an Olympic like referendum on national pride.
The basic goal of marketing is to get people into the theater. Consequently, I understand why it would be appealing to let Americans know Rocky IV would offer a Cold War ass whooping, but there are better ways to imply that than by outright showing people on the poster. You can picture the two men in the ring. You can offer a stare down pre-fight. You can pretty much show anything that’s not the embrace of the victor.