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Do Constant News Leaks Ruin The Element of Surprise For Blockbuster Movies?

Spider-Man

Nowadays it seems almost impossible to go into a film without knowing at least something about the plot. It seems like anything and everything can be revealed in the run-up to a release. Sometimes this is intentional, such as Doctor Strange’s appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home. But often-times these things leak, like all the other characters rumoured to appear in the film.

On one hand, these updates do build excitement for the film. On the other, it can sometimes have a negative impact on the film. Audiences can just be waiting for a character or moment to show up, rather than enjoying the film for what it is. It also makes it a lot harder to avoid spoilers. In the age of the internet and camera phones, where anyone and everyone can get set photos, can blockbusters still be surprising?

The Marketing Push

The marketing for Avengers: Endgame featured Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with this look, but his appearance was very different in the film // Credit: Disney/Marvel, 2019
The marketing for Avengers: Endgame featured Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with this look, but his appearance was very different in the film // Credit: Disney/Marvel, 2019

It’s important to distinguish between the types of information that comes out. That being official and leaks or rumours. Offical information includes things confirmed by the studio, such as who actors are playing, or things shown in stills or trailers. These can still give away too much, especially when trailers are released online and able to be replayed and paused infinitely. This trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming gives away almost all the plot beats. However, the actual twist involving the Vulture was kept hidden. Although the twist isn’t game-changing, it is nice that it managed to stay a secret, given how much the trailers had given away.

By contrast, the marketing for Avengers: Endgame, was much less revealing, even going as far as to shoot scenes especially for the trailer, or digitally add and remove characters. This extended to shooting itself, with cast members only given the relevant pages that include their characters. Some plot details did leak for Endgame, which even prompted the directors to request a spoiler ban, in the hopes of giving fans ample opportunity to experience the film for themselves.

Disney also struggles against leaks to one of its other franchises, Star Wars. As one of the biggest franchises ever, it’s understandably something that people want to stay updated on. Most of the new films had several plot elements leak, although some did turn out to be fake. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had its script leak weeks before the film (as well as a draft of Colin Trevorrow’s version). The second season of The Mandalorian had several character’s leak, namely Ahsoka Tano and Bobba Fett.

Loose Lips Sink Starships

The Mandalorian was plagued by leaks, but managed to keep one secret // Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm, 2020
The Mandalorian was plagued by leaks, but managed to keep one secret // Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm, 2020

The Mandalorian did manage to save its biggest surprise though. The behind-the-scenes documentary of the final episode goes into a lot of detail about the scene. Dave Filoni remarks how they actually planned for a leak, with a placeholder of Plo Koon (Filoni’s favourite Jedi from the prequels). The idea being that, if it were to leak, there would still be a surprise when the episode aired.

Leaks come about in a variety of ways. It could be something as simple as an Instagram post from someone on set, even in the editing room or of the script. Many cast and crew are given strict guidelines on what to say in interviews. Of course, that doesn’t stop people sneaking onto the set, or getting hold of toy listings. Toys are a huge source of leaks, with many characters or set pieces being revealed as part of a toy range. Jon Favreau was so determined to keep the reveal of The Child (better known as Baby Yoda/ Grogu) that no toys were made of the character until after the first season.

Ironically, the harder studios try to keep secrets, the more likely they are to leak. With communities on the internet dedicated to searching for any possible information, it seems almost impossible to not have any info leak out. However, it does seem that leaks can be used to throw people off the scent of other twists, so perhaps there is hope after all? It might be best to think about spoiler etiquette before we go talking about something from leaks though…

Also Read: Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not To Spoil

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