While answering questions about something very few people care about (NBC’s Revolution) writer/director/mystery boxer/producer J.J. Abrams went on the defensive about his secrecy concerning projects. The filmmaker, who has his hands in many, many different pies, has long been known to keep relatively mum about his projects, whether they’re television shows like Lost or the upcoming sequel to Star Trek.
Abrams said that it was no fun always having to keep mum on his projects, but ultimately it’s worth it. On the subject, he said “all the work we’re doing is about making this a special experience for the viewer; let’s preserve that as long as we can.” He went on to say that, as a movie fan himself, he doesn’t understand why people are always clamoring for information.
While Abrams and I may disagree on the subject of lens flares, on this one we are 100% in agreement.Being somewhat in the loop of film news and stuff, I’m constantly surrounded by, let’s call it, advanced insight into movies, and as close as I am, I try to avoid it. On the flip side, there are people who just want to eat up every little bit of it, whether it’s a writer looking for a good story or just a fan wanting to know more. People read advanced scripts, hunt out set photos, and hungrily snatch up any scoop, breaking news, and casting report.
But why? What’s the reasoning? I mean hey, if that’s what you dig, cool. You do your own thing. It doesn’t really bother me what you do personally. If you want to whack it to behind the scenes photos of Iron Man 3, by all means, lube up. That said, now we must part ways, because from here on out I’m kind of anti-the stuff you like. I’m not anti-you, friend. You do what you like. But the people with the keys to the castle need to settle down, as far as I’m concerned. Now, outlets are never going to give up posting advanced anything. There’s a market for it and that’s what pays the bills. Which is unfortunate.
Creators, however, can slow it down. In the article linked up above, Abrams specifically mentioned behind the scenes stuff and making of features – those totally shouldn’t be released ahead of a film. Trailers should be crafted not to reveal anything too major – they should just whet the appetite. On that front, The Grey is a great example a movie that was actually hurt by its trailer — one that advertised what appeared to be an ass-kicking adventure film about the dude from Taken fist-fighting wolves. In reality, the film was a serious dramatic thriller and the trailer gave away the climax of the film.
While you’re sitting there watching the movie you’re like “When does he fight the wolf?” We all knew it was coming. It’d be like if the trailer for Star Wars showed the Death Star blowing up or the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back showed Han Solo in a block of carbonite. Those are all cool images, but showing them in trailers would create front-end buzz at the expense of powerful moments that would, without foreknowledge, rock your body and mind. They bring sexy back, as long as you don’t know sexy is already coming back, so it’s bullshit that modern marketing has succumbed to that crutch.
In the end, Abrams says “I would rather people experience what happens rather than being told what happens and then have it confirmed.” I don’t think I can put it any better than that. Someone could tell you all day how great getting your taint massaged is, but if you just get a taint massage out of nowhere, man. Let me tell you. No. Better yet – go and find out for yourself.
In some semi-seriousness, I really love going into movies without knowing much. I don’t want to know how a special effect was created before I see it, I don’t want to know what the final battle looks like, and I don’t want to know about all the cameos ahead of time. That one really bugs the hell out of me – getting surprise cameos spoiled. I’d much rather be The Man Who Knew Too Little than The Man Who Knew Too Much.
So good on you, Mr. Abrams, and please, stick to your guns. Keep things a secret. Let the fanboys try to decode teasers and posters all they want, but let’s keep some mystery in the cinema. Overexposure before a film’s release and the neutering of a movie’s impact are a couple of things that, spoiler alert, push me past my boiling point.