Frozen

Me, I don't really care that much about spoilers. They're largely unavoidable in my line of work, firstly, and secondly I can at least agree with the previously mentioned "B-type" critics that a bad movie with a surprise plot-twist is still a bad movie. Secrecy-obsessed (as a marketing tool, if not a creative one) J.J. Abrams loudly lamented his inability to keep The Internet from guessing that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan, but he probably should've been more concerned about the equally easy-to-guess "surprise" that screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman had delivered yet another godawful script.

In my own work, the policy is generally to not give away anything clearly intended as a surprise or meant to catch the audience off guard -- for example, Frozen builds to a hidden-in-plain-sight reveal that's specifically engineered kick generations of audiences reared on the Disney fairytale formula square in the gut. But I also bend that rule liberally (with appropriate warning) in cases where not much interesting can be discussed about a film otherwise. I know that there are some who question the whole premise of that, i.e. why does a critic need to go in-depth like that in the first place. I get that. But I also know that I have very little talent (and even less interest) in drafting up basic-info-only reviews that read more like consumer reports than real analysis -- I don't know how to say it other than, if I can't talk about anything interesting, I won't have anything interesting to talk about.

To use another Disney example of more recent vintage, Maleficent's trailers make it pretty clear that the titular antiheroine is motivated by the loss of her wings, but they don't even hint at the grim reality of how that situation came to be -- a shockingly dark "twist" that arrives in the film's first act. From my perspective, it was impossible to have a meaningful discussion about the film's most interesting aspects i.e. the eyebrow-raising metaphor that it seemed to suggest (now confirmed to have been intentional, by the way) without getting into details (on the other hand, a secondary twist at the climax was best left unrevealed).

There was also the question of lasting relevance: My intuition was that the subject was so explosive (let's be real here: "Disney reboots children's fairytale as gothic metaphor for sexual-assault survival" was always going to be a big effing deal) that the discussion, "spoilers" or not, was going to spill out into the general pop-culture discussion-space almost immediately -- and that once it did, any reviews that didn't at least touch on the subject would feel dated and pointless. Returning to Frozen for a moment: While "the twist" was widely treated like a state secret, the question of Elsa's story-arc (and "Let It Go" specifically) as a not-too-subtle LGBTQ self-acceptance/coming-out metaphor was fodder for the journo-mill almost immediately.

I don't honestly know if there's a real answer to any of this, other than to wait for the consensus on decorum to catch up to the realities of a world where the "norm" is everyone having their own largely-customized viewing schedule -- at which point I imagine we'll come up with some kind of reflexive arrangement or just decide that the "threat" of spoilers is now a fact of life.

I still don't plan to give away surprises or ruin the audience's experience unnecessarily, but I'm also not going to start treating every single detail of every single movie like a scratch ticket "just in case" someone is trying to know absolutely nothing (but is still, for some reason, watching a review). Upcoming example: There are robot dinosaurs in Transformers: Age of Extinction. They're on the poster. That's not a spoiler.

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