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Hollywood’s loyal opposition | by maryann johanson

QOTD: How much does a sense of mystery surrounding a movie impact your desire to see it?

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Tomorrowland poster by Greg Maletic

I recently linked to a Movies.com article about the upcoming Brad Bird Disney project Tomorrowland, in which Erik Davis discusses the speculation — which originated with Disney historian Jim Hill — that Tomorrowland might be about Disney’s work with the Air Force in the 1950s to make a TV show about UFOs. I thought that was all very interesting, but mostly it just alerted me to the fact that Brad Bird has another movie coming up, and I’ll watch that no matter what it’s about.

But I am not an ordinary movie geek, apparently. Cuz this Drew McWeeny piece at HitFix left me a bit mystified. From Exclusive: The secret of Brad Bird’s ‘Tomorrowland’ is not what you think:

I remember when I broke the first information anywhere about “Cloverfield,” before anyone was even aware there was a project called “Cloverfield.” … I laid it out pretty plainly in that first article, and then the infamous teaser trailer arrived, and suddenly people started speculating about what the film was going to be. And despite me having given the game away up front, people began to speculate, and speculation was eventually misreported as fact, and for months, I just sort of marveled at how invested people got in information that was never right. People argued over every single little clue, especially things that turned out to have nothing to do with anything. Until the day I die, I’ll never understand how a certain percentage of people managed to convince themselves that “Cloverfield” was an elaborate cover story for a “Voltron” movie.

What I’ve noticed in the sixteen or so years that I’ve been doing this online is that when people accept misinformation as truth, they tend to get very angry when the eventual film does not match up with that misinformation. People get angry when fake spoilers turn out not to be true because they’ve had time to get attached to the untrue rumors, and if that sounds crazy, that’s because it sort of is crazy. And yet, when you’ve got angry fans, it doesn’t really matter how or why they ended up that way.

Disney obviously wants “Tomorrowland” to be a major tentpole movie, and I think the notion of Brad Bird directing with Damon Lindelof writing is very promising. The whole “mystery box” set-up that they’ve been playing out in the media is fun, but now that people are starting to publish detailed pieces about what they think the box represents, they’re getting into that territory where expectations are being established, and people may be setting themselves up for another moment where they end up sitting in a theater opening day and, for reasons that seem perfectly rational to them, get angry that they didn’t just see “Voltron.”

That’s a long excerpt, and yet it’s only a taste of the piece, because McWeeny goes on to share in great detail the information he has received from his sources about what Tomorrowland is actually about. You can click over if you want to read it, but I won’t discuss it here. What I want to know is this:

How much does a sense of mystery surrounding a movie impact your desire to see it?

Secondarily, how did we get to a point where film fans get so invested in speculation about a movie that it overshadows their enjoyment of the actual movie itself? And is this situation helped by film writers — like, ahem, McWeeny — who seem to take such pleasure in crying “First!” and spoiling things so far in advance?

Image above by Greg Maletic, and available to download and print yourself.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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