Stadium Seating

· Aug 1, 2001 Tweet

“Stadium Seating” is a weekly film column that will be run over the remainder of the summer

Remember back when the most devilish, mean-spirited thing you could do to your little brother was to ruin a movie by telling him how it was going to end. The funny thing was, no matter how tightly he plugged his ears, no matter how loud he yelled in defiance, no matter how much he hated you when you finished, he always let up and allowed you to tell him. Why? He wanted to know.

It is the same mechanism that drives grown adults to flip to the last page of a book before they have finished. The mechanism that pushes fanatics who missed the last episode of “The Sopranos” to dig up the details instead of watching later. The same mechanism that drives you to find out the score of the football game you missed, despite the fact that you taped it. Partly out of curiosity, but more so out of laziness, we are almost always willing to forgo the actual act of watching something in exchange for the juicy details of how it turns out.

This week, barely moments before Tim Burton’s “reimagination” of “Planet of the Apes” was released, renowned Web gossiper Matt Drudge spilled the beans on the film’s surprise ending. Granted, Drudge should be scolded for the manner in which he did such — without warning and in the midst of what was disguised as a simple film review. However, journalists and critics across the country have already taken the initiative to do such, focusing on the omission of a spoiler warning. For me to criticize Knowles now would be petty and after the fact. However, I do have some critical lashes to whip, albeit in the other direction.

Focusing more on the fact that a spoiler was even written, “Planet of the Apes” director Tim Burton had this to say: “This is why the earth is doomed. Ultimately, that’s the scary thing about this whole Internet? The Internet is really negative – so many negative thinkers are running it.” Burton went on to question the point of filmmaking and was even quoted as saying that the printed word destroys lives. “I try quietly in my soul to keep going and not let it disturb me,” he said. Well, try a little harder.

Burton’s threadbare argument has a sizeable portion of the industry all worked up in his defense, but for what reason? Because an Internet sleaze ball ruined the surprise ending of a huge summer flick?

For starters, let us squash the notion that Burton’s film has something even remotely resembling a surprise ending. Without giving away any details, it is safe to say that no one who saw “Planet of the Apes” this time around reacted with anything close to surprise. Even calling it a twist ending is giving credit where none is due. Still, if someone was hoping to see “Planet of the Apes” without knowing the ending and they happened to stumble across Knowles’ article, they at least should have been warned of the spoiler.

But the idea that leaking a movie ending onto the Internet or any other source is damaging is a preposterous one. Are we seriously to believe that anything — be it a movie, book or any other preconceived idea can be publicly aired without someone knowing and providing the outcome beforehand? This world where secrets can be kept simply because they are best enjoyed that way simply does not exist.

Tim Burton clearly was not the kind to have snuck into his parents? room before Christmas to see what he was getting, and maybe he enjoyed his Christmases more for doing so. Good for him. I would have liked to see him try to get the rest of the kids on the block to follow suit. No wonder he was so harassed as a child.

Burton and the rest of Hollywood need to grow up and lose the immature idealism that has lead them to believe that everyone — or even anyone — aspires for a world where secrets can be kept and shortcuts cannot be taken; where surprises are never spoiled and no one has the urge to turn to the last page of the book. Burton is not messing with a single villain, but human instinct.


This article was published Aug 1, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Aug 1, 2001 at 12:00 am


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