The folks over at Disney continue to draw a great deal of ire from yours truly. This pent up indignation that rests deep within my fanboy loins is not something directed at the dudes and dudets who dress up as characters at the parks and charge families who already had to dip into their retirement to afford the trip $20 for a photo, nor is it even aimed towards the most executive of execs who run the conglomerate. The following harsh diction is specifically pointed at Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios, the company’s live-action film production/distribution branch. If I see one more studio-sponsored spoiler for Star Wars: The Force Awakens between now and December 18th, I will make it my personal mission in life to break into every home in America, steal each family’s copy of Frozen, and then wash away the perspiration that would surely build up with the sweet, salty tears of children as I hum the melody of “Let It Go” to myself.
(Disclaimer: breaking & entering is a serious crime. Also, I still haven’t actually seen Frozen.)
In case you missed it, Disney has recently amped up its film distribution division. On top of its own classic original properties, Pixar, and the princesses- Disney also purchased co-financing and distribution rights to both LucasFilm (Star Wars, duh) and Marvel Studios (the division of Marvel that owns the rights to basically every important character other than the X-Men). For the most part, it’s worked out for both Disney and the consumer. The films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have gotten even bigger, and rest assured that come the holidays every goddamn store in the country will be stocked with Star Wars toys.
But I’ve noticed something with Disney’s ownership of these franchises that, for lack of a more nuanced vocabulary, kind of sucks. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. More so than any other studio, Disney publicly and unapologetically gives away key details of their blockbusters long before the release date.
I get it. It is 2015, after all. People tweet, take pictures with their phones, and speculate. It is very difficult to keep secrets, especially when they pertain to movies expected to gross over a billion dollars. But despite the presence of the interwebs, most studios have found interesting ways to keep things relatively quiet when it comes to spoilers. Studios often will use a different, completely random, title for a film when applying for shooting permits and tax credits. Directors like to ban the cast and crew from using social media during production. Also, a lot of “trailers” now are really just “teasers”. Things still leak, but most studios have done a decent job at combatting it, much like how music streaming companies have found a little bit of hope in the world of illegal downloading.
Not Disney, however. Not only is the studio completely inept when it comes to keeping things secret, they don’t even seem to care. I started to first notice this with the way they marketed Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s carried over to numbers one and two on my hypothetical “most-anticipated” movies list- Star Wars: The Force Awakens and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. We knew they were adding more characters to the Avengers, but Disney went out of its way to announce every fucking detail of all the new characters months before any stills or footage was released. I understand that when you cast Elizabeth Olsen, it’s not hard for us to put two and two together and come to the shared opinion that she’s going to be Scarlet Witch. But what about Paul Bettany? He already had a role in the franchise as the voice of the A.I. system J.A.R.V.I.S., but he was also cast as The Vision, and Disney told us this well before the films release. The way the film plays out, the revelation of The Vision should’ve been a shocking and exciting moment for fans; but because we all knew he’d be included, the reaction it drew was more of an “ugh, finally”. Then there was the issue of the studio showing essentially the entire Hulk-Hulkbuster fight, the only truly great action sequence in the film, weeks before the release date. Again, these details weren’t leaked onto the internet by some cat in Japan. They were publicly announced and shown by Disney.
I struggle to understand why Disney thought this onslaught of shameless spoiler-based promotion was necessary. Did it really help the films receipts? Was anyone of the mindset that they weren’t going to see it, but then did because of the leaked details and footage? I’m pretty sure almost everyone who went and saw Avengers: Age of Ultron was highly anticipating the film for a couple years.
The following paragraphs are in BLUE because they contain some discussion of spoilers specific to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War. If you’re lucky enough to still have virgin eyes, I’d recommend you skip down to where the text is black again.
The first big announcement for Star Wars, well, after the decision to hand JJ Abrams the keys to the starship, was the all-at-once cast confirmation back in April of 2014. That was great, really. It was the moment when us fans realized, “this is actually happening”. Nothing else was announced, just the principle cast. But in the succeeding months, slowly but surely, details about whom these actors were playing became public via Disney press releases. Too many details if you ask me. We quickly learned that John Boyega was playing a Stormtrooper named Finn, and then learned that he’d become a Jedi over the course of the film, and then saw images of him with Annakin Skywalker’s lightsaber. We were told by Disney that Oscar Isaac will be playing a Han Solo-type pilot, and that Adam Driver is Kylo Ren, the films primary Sith lord. Then it was confirmed that Andy Serkis’ mystery role was that of a Sith master who trains Driver’s Ren. I didn’t actively search for these details, I tried to avoid them. But I saw them, and there’s no turning back. Fuck this.
Captain America: Civil War had a little trickier go of it from the start seeing as the film is based, at least in part, on a very popular comic storyline that ran as a limited series nearly a decade ago. Once the casting was announced and we realized that everyone was in the film, speculation ran wild. Who was going to be on team Iron Man, and who was going to be on team Captain America? How was this superhero conflict going to start? Who, if anybody, wins? It was fun to speculate. While those familiar with the comic series may have been able to answer some of those questions, most of us were in the dark. That is until the reported “teams” were released, and then confirmed by sources at Disney and JEREMY RENNER (Kiss my butt, Jeremy Renner. You don’t even matter. You use a bow and arrow). What we know…
Team Iron Man (in favor of superhero registration/regulation): Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, The Vision.
Team Captain America (opposed to superhero registration/regulation): Captain America, Falcon, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Winter Soldier
For a much more humorous and detailed breakdown of this matchup, read this piece from Grantland’s Dave Schilling, but note that Marvel and Grantland both fall under the Disney umbrella (ding! ding!). The coming months will be filled with guesswork as to which side is stronger, and why certain players chose their respective teams (Hawkeye-Black Widow against each other?). It’ll give us something to talk about, but much like with Age of Ultron, the revelations seems pointless from Disney’s perspective and a little insulting from a viewers perspective. Disney, please- we’ve proven time and time again that we’re going to see your movies. The least you can do is humor us and not treat us like the sheep we are.
Okay, you’re safe now. I will say nothing more of specific details regarding those two films.
For another example of how this habit of spoiling their own films is at least semi-exclusive to Disney, consider both Jurassic World and the upcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (actually, consider all of the announced projects in the DC/Warners shared universe). The slew of trailers for Jurassic World were perfect in terms of what they did and didn’t show, and they certainly factored into the film shattering box office records. Based primarily around Chris Pratt’s star power, the trailers teased the films biggest set pieces, and gave a nice elevator-pitch of the basic premise without actually showing us the most buzzed-about element, the Indominus Rex. Eventually, images of the dinosaur leaked, but only in the days immediately prior to the films release, and the images weren’t supported or even confirmed by Universal. It was, as they say, not a big deal. The only people who saw those images were the diehard fans who had been following every detail of the film since day one.
Fans have been salivating for any new info regarding Batman vs Superman, yet Warners has done a fine job keeping the key plot points and shots from the film secret. It doesn’t come out until March, so we’ll surely get more as the calendar pushes forward. But at this point in the Age of Ultron press tour, we knew everything already. These movies are seen as “too big to fail”, and like I said earlier, it doesn’t really matter how they’re promoted.
But…Disney, for us fans, cut the shit. Next time I go to see a blockbuster I’ve been anticipating for years I’d like to not know the film well enough to write a damn 25-page treatment on it before the opening credits role.