With Star Wars Episode VII on the horizon, spoilers have been on my mind lately.
I have never been of the mindset that spoilers actually detract from a film with intense visual and aura stimulation. Spoilers especially do not detract like from films like Star Wars. Sure, finding out something huge like who Luke’s biological father is could dampen the experience, but how many films have those moments? Star Wars only has one out of the six we currently have. Out of six films, we only have one solitary “oh damn!” moment and for most of us, we already knew Darth Vader was Luke’s father before we even saw the movie (unless you lived under a rock). There was no reveal, no big surprise for me, Luke’s heritage was always a solid stated fact for me. I was born the year before Episode V came out and that story motif of “I am your father” was everywhere. Lucasfilm did not tell me who was Luke’s father, television did.
When I think back to the prequel era, so many spoilers hit over those nine years. Yet it never detracted from the film itself or the experience of seeing the film for me. My imagination is not identical to George Lucas’ or the artists who brought unique vision to life. When George Lucas would ask his artists to draw something, they interpreted his words. A game of telephone already occurred in that process at the moment he ordered something to be worked on. I have to imagine for Lucas, a man not drawing the images himself, the experience must be one where the artists fall way short of his expectations or hopefully exceed them and make his vision, which resided in ambiguity, into something concrete and tangible.
That’s why spoilers do not matter to me. You can tell me the new Sith has tattoos on his face. You can tell me he has horns. But the design I draw up in my mind is not exactly what we saw on screen. Because there is another game of telephone that occurs in this process. Basically, the person leaking the information puts that idea into their own words, which can mislead or give off its own impression. So we had Lucas writing a script. Artists attempting to draw what he wrote or intended to write. Then we had someone down the way in production leaking that information, which by that point was practically the fourth generation of those ideas. Then we the spoiler hungry audience, interpreted that stuff once again.
During the prequel era, I read every spoiler that hit T’Bone’s page and TFN back then. I got the script early when they leaked and read them over and over again. Then when I went to the theater, all three times, what I saw on screen was the outline of what I’d learned over those three years. But I never knew the film. It was never what I had in my head, even though I knew everything about it. I didn’t know what it felt like. I didn’t hear the sound of the actor’s voices or the music John Williams wrote. I didn’t guess the lighting or the mood or even the pace of the scenes as they were directed by George Lucas (for instance the “I’m just a simply man” scene from Attack of the Clones reads drastically different than it was played on screen).
The weeks before the films hit, I read the novel (all three times). It was basically a jumble of everything we had heard in those years but this time it was deeper than the films would be. But it still did not compete with watching the movie. We direct movies in our minds when we consume spoilers.
I’ve always had an open mind with Star Wars so nothing I ever read made me dislike the movies. I never had any cognitive dissonance because of what I had read, just fun pondering the meaning to the bigger Star Wars ethos. In fact, I think it make me say “interesting” about scenes that were rather arbitrary. For me it just added another layer to the fun celebration of new Star Wars films.
Let us look at this spoilery description of Darth Maul that hit late 1997 on T’Bone’s Star Wars Universe (StarWarz.com). Please read it while blocking your memories of Darth Maul as you know him. Imagine you’re reading this in January of 1998. The mental imagery this leaker gives you, while good, is not enough to actually inform you in a way that you could draw a perfect image of the Sith Lord we all know and love:
“He is a thin, athletic man 30-35 years old. He carries a red double-ended lightsaber whose handle is approximately 18 inches long and almost entirely brushed aluminum. It has a distinct division line in the middle. He uses this staff gracefully. His costume is almost exactly like Luke’s black Jedi uniform in Return of the Jedi. He wears a black robe similar to the Emperor’s but it has a lighter appearance like a silk kimono with a hood. The majority of his bald head is black. His face is red. The black juts into the red of his face in a very tribal/technological pattern… very symmetrical… very geometrical. His irises are primarily red with yellow streaks. His teeth are sharp and stained. He has as many as seven ivory colored horns distributed over his cranium. Roughly in three rows, one on each side and one down the center. They are about an inch long and look vaguely like rhinoceros horns. He is energetic, fierce and unpredictable. He is fast and looks like he uses the dark side and LIKES it. The fans are gonna love him.”
These things feel different, look different, and are different. Describing visual reality is not easy.
It should also be noted that I attempted to fish out Darth Maul’s description from the script by George Lucas and Lucas never actually describes what Darth Maul looks like on any page!
After all of this information you have now seen, none of it really comes close to seeing the film in action. That is why I am pro-spoiler and I do not think spoilers hurt a film like Star Wars. If anything, spoilers generally help us understand the intentions of the filmmakers and understand where they want to take their story.
Only a handful of storyboards actually leaked onto the internet back during the prequels. Spy shots where few and far between. Pieces of the script are rare to come by. Call sheets acted to confirm things we had heard about characters and their names. But none of it let us know what the movie really truly was.
For Star Wars Episode VII, I am pro-spoiler within reason, as long as it stays at a word of mouth level and not too much leaks.
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