Warning: Spoilers ahead
The TV world was set on fire by certain twists in last week’s Game of Thrones – although the twists were technically over 10 years old. Yet the Game of Thrones book fanbase somehow kept “The Red Wedding” secret from unspoiled TV fans, at least until 10 pm est last Sunday. The aftermath triggered a huge online debate about spoilers and how they are distributed, yet that has already been a major issue in some of the biggest movies of the last few months.
Oz: The Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 have all been coy with spoilers in recent months, especially when it comes to their villains. But in at least two cases, there was virtually no point in being so paranoid about giving things away – especially when everyone figured it out well in advance.
Before Oz came out, the new incarnation of the Wicked Witch of the West was shrouded in secrecy. And before Star Trek Into Darkness, the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s new villain was a gigantic guessing game. Yet in Iron Man 3, it was advertised right away that the major villain was the Mandarin, with Guy Pierce likely playing some kind of secondary bad guy.
However, Iron Man 3 turned out to have more substantial surprises about its evil pecking order and identities. On the other hand, Oz and Star Trek’s major mysteries about their villains were easy to guess before they ever came out. In fact, it made the whole exercise about protecting those spoilers completely useless, since they were easy to find out in seconds before even seeing them – like it was for the Red Wedding.
In the case of Oz, it was simply a process of elimination. Although the Wicked Witch wasn’t seen in full in trailers, they already showed off three other witches played by major stars. Ruling out the unlikely chance that an unknown or secret star would be the Wicked Witch, it was just a matter of guessing which witch would turn green at the end. Since Michelle Williams’ Glinda was obviously out, and Rachel Weisz’s more sinister looking witch was a walking red herring, it left one other candidate – albeit not someone one would instantly picture as the Wicked Witch.
Still, it was a twist that Oz could justify keeping quiet on for story reasons. On the other hand, Star Trek Into Darkness had less of an excuse for keeping “John Harrison”‘s true name secret for so long. Although it was revealed halfway through the movie, those in the know – or those experienced in playing J.J. Abrams’ mystery games – likely knew it before the film even started.
How much did it really benefit Star Trek Into Darkness to keep the return of Khan a secret? Would it have been better off advertising it from the start to build up more hype, instead of making it a mystery that really wasn’t? Whatever the reason, the pretense of keeping Khan under wraps and keeping spoilers so close to the chest really didn’t work – no matter how the new Khan actually worked in the movie.
Oz and Star Trek had new versions of two of the most iconic villains in pop culture history. As such, there was really no reason to add any more intrigue with mystery and secret spoilers. Ironically, while the Mandarin is a far less famous villain than the Wicked Witch and Khan, his secrets in Iron Man 3 were an actual surprise – especially since they did not come from the comics.
For all of the teases and questions Oz and Star Trek posed about their villains, Iron Man 3 was the only movie to really surprise audiences about theirs – mainly by not giving away that there was a mystery to them. But the bitter irony is that although Iron Man 3′ s Mandarin twists came out of nowhere, it’s debatable whether they actually worked beyond shock value.
Oz and Star Trek failed miserably to keep their secrets about the Wicked Witch and Khan, while Iron Man 3 spectacularly succeeded in keeping secrets that may not have really worked. It would have been nice if these movies had evil surprises that worked at the same time, but these days, audiences are lucky to get things that halfway work.
It makes it almost refreshing that Man of Steel has been straightforward about having a new version of General Zod, unless there’s an Iron Man 3 like turn there too. Still, even Man of Steel had a tight embargo about reviews until the night of June 10, despite a lot of unofficial but positive buzz reported by blogs.
The spoiler sensitive culture is clearly here to stay, as the Game of Thrones aftermath famously made clear. But even before loose lips spoiled the Red Wedding after keeping quiet for a decade, spoilers had made their mark in the movie world this spring. For those who thought the paranoia over Game of Thrones spoilers was a bit much, it was still nothing compared to the unwarranted panic Oz and Star Trek Into Darkness showed over revealing its villains – and ultimately paid the price for.
In some cases, audiences are too smart to be fooled, or are just given way too easy clues like Oz and Star Trek gave out. In other cases, audiences can still be shocked if they’re kept in the dark, like with Iron Man 3. But if future movies want to stun viewers with twists that have more than just shock value, they might want to borrow from TV and Game of Thrones more than the recent efforts from Hollywood.