The new Spider-Man: Far from Home trailer, released today, dropped an Avengers: Endgame spoiler in its first line of dialogue. The actor Tom Holland even appears before the trailer, warning viewers that spoilers lie ahead.
Avengers: Endgame, released April 26, has had a particularly intense reception when it comes to spoilers. That of course makes sense, since this film is the long-awaited pinnacle to the 22-film Marvel universe. It is also the direct sequel to the similarly groundbreaking Avengers: Infinity War, released last April. Doing our best to avoid spoilers ourselves, let’s talk about the concept of spoilers and the culture that has grown up around them.
Simply put, a spoiler is an element in the description of a piece of media that reveals points of the plot that threaten to give away important details. Some spoilers have become so ubiquitous that either everyone knows them or they are the major element that the work is known for. The Sixth Sense comes to mind as an example. However, is there a time limit on spoilers? I think there is. For me, a work has to be released for at least two to three years before spoilers can be widespread. Society has to decide whether the media has made a significant impact on the culture of the time. Has it become so important that the main spoiler is commonly known? In Endgame’s case, it hasn’t even been a month. I appreciate Holland’s attempt to shield watchers of the trailer, but there’s a sense of urgency around the trailer’s release, as though the creators wanted to capture the specific emotions from Endgame and bring them into Far from Home. Part of the problem with this, of course, is that both films are connected by a universe, and there isn’t any way to disconnect them. From the trailer especially, it would be hard for new viewers to jump in. They’d have to go back to the beginning. It’s possible to choose different scenes for the trailer, but then the mood they were shooting for wouldn’t be evoked. We’ve never seen anything quite like the universe Marvel has created around these films before now, and the creators wanted to keep that going. Though, for me, the timing is unfortunate, it’s clear where they were coming from, and what their overall goal was.
Right now, the two main topics of conversation in pop culture are Endgame and the HBO series Game of Thrones. Thrones’ last season is currently airing, and the past few Sunday nights have become just as famous for the leaks of the episodes beforehand as for the episodes themselves. It’s a spoilerific world out there right now. On social media especially, people are complaining about Endgame spoilers. On Twitter, I noticed a few people saying they had to stop following other people because of spoilers, and a post went around explaining that a relationship had been ruined because one person had spoiled the film. Someone else deliberately asked author Jay Kristoff to spoil the upcoming finale to his Nevernight Chronicle because his girlfriend, who loved the series, had spoiled Endgame for him. Sure, for some it might just be all in good fun, but spoilers have become so important in terms of climactic series and movies that we panic at not being able to experience the plots for ourselves. We all want to have this beautiful experience of watching something unmarred by prior knowledge. However, is it really worth changing relationships for? Humans like familiarity. Why do you think reruns are such a staple of television? On a rewatch or when watching with more information, we notice visuals we hadn’t noticed or wouldn’t have caught, catch the echo of an important theme, take in that ending with a bit more emotional weight and understanding. There is comfort and knowledge in watching something with prior knowledge, or in rewatching it.
Big twist endings, like, again, The Sixth Sense, generally make or break a movie. People either love them or hate them. Regardless of their feelings, people love to spoil them. These films, in particular, are easy targets because after the twist occurs, it’s the only part of the film that actually matters. Sure, the beginning of the film happened, but it’s not the part we care about. With Endgame, and for that matter, Game of Thrones, a similar element was spoiling who died in the final battles. Debates raged for months over who was really going to die among Marvel’s heroes, especially after the infamous ending of Infinity War, which upped the stakes significantly. In this case, even if you are spoiled on who dies, you’re not sure of how that happened, so you at least get to keep the journey for yourself. It’s unfortunate that big twist endings are so ripe for the telling, because those films in particular are meant to be watched for the first time with no knowledge whatsoever. Sadly, sometimes people like to ruin our fun.
Spoilers should wait a while before being said. In the case of Spider-Man: Far from Home, I admire the valiant effort to shoo virgin watchers away, but ultimately it doesn’t really work. It cuts first-time viewers out by making them aware of another film they are meant to see first, and the trailer’s proximity to the film that preceded it causes it to feel desperate. Spoilers alone shouldn’t break up a relationship, but make it stronger through the sharing of ideas and theories. On the other hand, if there’s any film that should be watched without any prior knowledge, it’s films with big twists. Later, in a group with your friends, you can go through and dissect all the clues, creating the spoilers together as you go.