Of Man of Steel, The Avengers & A Sea of Spoilers
How much information is too much information when it comes to the production of a highly-anticipated film? It’s a question that has no doubt been raised over the past month or so with intensive online coverage of two Comic Book Movies that are currently in production: Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.
Take a look back over the past couple of weeks, and you’ll find almost daily video and photographic reports covering the on location production of both films, whether it be actor Chris Hemsworth flipping over a car with the wave of Thor’s hammer, or Henry Cavill’s Superman – sometimes with a cape, sometimes without –in action in “Smallville”.
Michael Shannon, the new General Zod in Man of Steel, actually verbalized the point, musing to one journalist, “It is surprising that people are snapping photos and stuff and then putting them on the Internet. For me, it’s like, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ It would be like knowing what your Christmas presents were before Christmas morning. It is taking all of the fun out of it.”
Of course, for anyone who has had the Internet as a presence throughout their life, this kind of all-pervasive coverage seems like a natural progression; the logical next step in a virtual world where scoops, sneak peeks and presenting precisely what the studios DON’T want out there in this raw shape is what it’s all about. Hell, there are many times where I find myself looking despite my determination not to do so, so I absolutely understand the temptation. At the same time, there’s something about Michael Shannon’s words that struck a chord with me.
When I was a kid, there was no Internet. There was no TMZ, no photographers or videographers with super-telephoto lenses that managed to capture even the best efforts to keep a production under wraps. Frankly, there were very few ways for genre fans to find out about films in production besides an errant item in a print newspaper, a new movie trailer or a poster in a theatre lobby heralding a new production of interest was coming. On a personal level, I can still remember the unbelievable excitement I felt when I unexpectedly saw the trailer for a new James Bond or Planet of the Apes film, having had no idea that there was one coming.
There were some exceptions, of course. In the 1960s we’d pick up the latest issue of the magazines Famous Monsters of Filmland or Castle of Frankenstein, where we’d get genre news or interviews with filmmakers. The early ‘70s saw the debut of Cinefantastique (truly one of the most innovative of the magazines published) and even a tabloid newspaper, The Monster Times, which was published every other week. This Brooklyn, New York native couldn’t wait until that Monday or Tuesday morning when he could run across the street to the newsstand where, sitting on the rack next to The New York Times, Daily News and New York Post would be TMT. Unlike today where one site after another presents virtually the same coverage of the same news, each of them offered their own unique take and focus of interest, providing different tidbits which, all told, served as powerful previews of what was to come.
The next step came in 1976 with the debut of Starlog magazine, which, for anyone who followed the genre at that time just before the launch of Star Wars and beyond, was an incredible breath of fresh air, going, month after month, behind the scenes on various films, television shows and books. To this day I remember being in a store in Yaphank, New York and seeing Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the eclipse behind them adorning the cover of Starlog #1. It felt like my world had been rocked in the very best possible way (which would be brought to its zenith about a decade later when I found myself a regular contributor to the mag, eventually being given the title of East Coast Correspondent).
And to provide a sense of what a lifeline a magazine like Starlog was, I find myself thinking back to the late 1970s when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was in production. Fans of the show that refused to die were DESPERATE for any information on the film, and in one particular issue of Starlog - which had begun a column called “The Star Trek Report” – there was a single black and white image shot on the bridge of the new starship Enterprise. It was mostly covered by a drop cloth….MOSTLY. In that pic we managed to see a bit of the console and one of its small, circular screens . That was it and yet it felt like the ultimate gift because it served as undeniable proof that Star Trek was going to live again. Like I said, it was just a piece of a console, yet somehow it seemed to be enough.
I obviously recognize that all of this musing for the way things used to be merely makes me sound like a dinosaur; someone who doesn’t want to embrace the final frontier the Internet offers, but nothing could be further from the truth. As a lover of all of this stuff I can’t help but feel that as much as we’ve gained, we’ve also lost a little something. Hollywood at its best has always been about creating magic; about making the impossible somehow seem real, but more and more it feels as though filmmakers are being denied the opportunity to pull off feats of wonder. The magicians’ secrets are being revealed before they even get to the stage with widespread judgments of films being made, in some cases, YEARS before they even make it to the screen.
But let’s face it: Pandora’s Box has been opened, the genie is out of the bottle, the Delorean has hit 88 miles per hour and there’s no turning back. So I suppose all of this has been an ode to innocence lost and the hope that a little of it can somehow be restored, though it's not very likely.
What’s your feeling about all of this? Do you agree with Michael Shannon and this editorial, or are both completely off-base? Please sound off below.
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