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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

Nick Fury IS in ‘Iron Man’ after all!

So, a couple of days ago I mentioned that I’d seen Iron Man, and despite the fact that it is many kinds of awesome, the long-rumored cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury had not materialized. But then came news from Comic Book Resources, which attended the London premiere, also sans Fury, that perhaps a different version of the film — one with the Fury cameo — would be released to theaters. And now it’s confirmed. If you want the cameo spoiled for you, click on over to MovieHole, which has a detailed report from the first public screenings in Australia.

What? How? Why? Director Jon Favreau had this to say to MTV News:

As a filmmaker, we like to have some surprises left for the audience. I found, when I looked at my Christmas presents [early], my parents knew that I opened the tape up. I never confirmed that Sam Jackson was in the movie…. I will tell you this: I pay attention to what people are talking about. The Internet is a big watercooler, and we’re all allowed to take a sip from the cup….

I just want to have some surprises left for the fans. I care what they think, and I want to make sure they’re happy. I think at the end of the day, they’re going to be happy with how I handled this.

New York Magazine’s Vulture blog is thrilled with this deception. “[T]his is an impressive bit of film manipulation by Jon Favreau and Paramount — we don’t think we’ve ever heard of audiences getting a different cut of a film than critics did. Clever!”

It’s not clever, and I’m not impressed. I’m mad. I’m audience, too. I’m a fan, too. And I’m worried about what this means for the future. Sure, in this case, we’re only talking about an Easter egg after the credits, not, apparently, anything that impacts the plot or themes or characters of the film — it sounds like what was missing from the print I and every other critic was shown was more on the order of a teaser for the next film than anything else.

But still: If there are “surprises” in a film that are somehow not worth showing critics in order that they not be ruined, why stop there? Why not withhold the ending of a murder mystery from critics so we can’t spoil that? Why not show us the cut of a monster movie with the monster FX not yet inserted so we can’t spoil what the creature looks like. (This was apparently a big concern with Cloverfield, also from Paramount, that we critics would somehow ruin the experience of the film for everyone else.)

The thing that really bugs me, though, is that Favreau and Paramount are trying to have it both ways. The buzz from those who saw the film early was amazing, and so the director and the studio knew they would be foolish to withhold the film from us critics — and indeed, the reviews are glowing. But they also didn’t trust us enough not to “spoil” an Easter egg after the credits, which most critics probably wouldn’t have even mentioned, even if they did sit through the entirety of the credits. (At the press screening I attended, very few people were still in the theater by the time the credits ended, even with the rumors around that there could be bonus cameos.)

And that’s real smell of bullshit around this stunt. This “surprise” Easter egg has now gotten way more publicity than it would have if it hadn’t been withheld from the press and premiere prints of the film. If Favreau has been following the Internet watercooler conversation — and I have no doubt that he is savvy to the Net’s ability to market a movie like this — then there’s no way on Earth he wasn’t aware that this is exactly what would happen.

I have a motto, a slogan, that I use sometimes to explain why I do what I do as a film critic: I love movies, but I hate what Hollywood does to them sometimes. This is a great example of that. Iron Man is a terrific movie in absolutely every way. It doesn’t need any tricks or stunts to help sell it — it would have sold itself anyway even if it weren’t as good as it is. But now I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth about the way the industry felt the need to manipulate all of us, and for no reason except that it could.

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