Spoilers have become an increasingly big problem for filmmakers, and most tend to overcompensate for them in one way or another. Movie shoots are often incredibly secretive places, with scripts numbered and collected at the end of the day and excessive at filming locations. This makes some sense, as any set photo or leaked plot details might affect the public’s desire to see a film. Of course, leaks are bound to happen and there are a variety of ways to respond to them. You can completely ignore them, which is the most common tactic. You can take the J.J. Abrams route and deny them even though Benedict Cumberbatch is obviously playing Khan. You can simply shut down your movie before it ever gets started, like Quentin Tarantino did after the entire script for his film The Hateful Eight leaked earlier this year. Or, you can do what Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World, the upcoming fourth entry in the Jurassic Park series, did when the general plot of his film leaked. He confirmed the rumors about his film, while taking time to lament the era of the spoiler.
To be clear, this is a different situation that what Tarantino faced, as only certain details of Jurassic World’s story leaked, but Trevorrow’s approach is interesting and surprising. In an interview with SlashFilm (which I’ll post a link to later in this article, in the spoiler filled section), he was asked about what misconceptions he’s encountered based on the leaks and he gives this answer:
That’s the thing about leaks, sometimes they aren’t misinterpreted or false. They’re real story elements that the filmmakers were hoping to introduce to the audience in a darkened movie theater. But unfortunately, in 2014, you read about it on a computer. Last week was discouraging for everyone on our crew–not because we want to hide things from the fans, but because we’re working so hard to create something full of surprises. When I was a kid, you got to discover everything at once, it washed over you and blew your mind. Now it only takes one person to spoil it for everyone else. I hope whoever leaked it is actively trying to undermine what we’re doing. Because if they’re trying to help, they’re doing it wrong.
I can’t help but agree with him. I’ve never been a big fan of spoilers, although there are times when I can’t help myself. I understand the impulse to know everything about a film/TV show/book before it happens, if for no other reason than to better judge what to expect. No one wants to go into something completely blind, which is why we have trailers and previews for various forms of entertainment. And even worse than that, no one wants to be caught off guard, going into a film expecting one thing only to be served up another. On the other hand, who hasn’t seen a movie whose trailer gave away everything? It happens a lot with comedies, which use the film’s best jokes in order to sell the movie and leave nothing behind to make the film itself enjoyable. In an ideal world, we should know just enough about a film to give us a fair approximation of what to reasonably expect but which still leaves enough in the film to make it surprising and interesting.
The approach with TV and books is often very different. Personally, I’ve been known to spoil a book’s plot for myself before reading it, which rarely ruins my enjoyment as reading a book is a more extended experience than a spoiler could ruin. With TV on the other hand, much of the discussion following the airing of a particular episode is predicting what will happen in the next episode. In all, the TV industry seems to have a good hand on its spoilers, doling out just the right amount of teases without giving away the big, emotional moments. Of course, with its serialized nature, TV is a much better fit for spoilers than film.
None of the leaked information on Jurassic World is especially ground breaking, and it’s all the sort of stuff we might expect to see in the film’s first full trailer, but I can see how disappointing it could be for the filmmakers to see this information appear online. So many of my best movie experiences could easily have been ruined by knowing in advance how things would play out, and I’m sure it’s just crushing to the crew of Jurassic World to no longer have any control over how this information is delivered. Trevorrow tries to corral the leaks into something manageable, reigning in some of the wilder interpretations and giving some concrete information, along with an explanation of his vision for the film, and I think he does an admirable job. Regardless, I’m sure there will be people who were interested in the film who will see these spoilers and decide not to see it. When you’re working on a film that employs tens of thousands of people and requires hundreds of thousands of man and woman hours of work to bring together, I can’t imagine the pressure to get things right. A film’s box office take can directly affect many people’s lives, and it’s usually the people lower on the totem pole who feel the consequences more than the big name stars. Beyond that, they’ve all worked together to create a piece of art and it will undoubtedly play out differently for people who have been spoiled than those who haven’t. Preconceptions can play a big role in not only a film’s commercial success but also in how it is perceived as a work of art.
On a personal level, I try to avoid spoilers that will ruin surprises in a story, particularly with film and TV. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, and drawing the line between a teaser and a spoiler is often tricky business. I don’t think Trevorrow has much to worry about, as the details that were leaked may have spoiled some of the “surprises” that would have been revealed in the trailer, but are not specific enough to ruin the movie. I still feel bad for the guy and his crew, as I’m sure this was quite the blow. On the other hand, I give him a lot of credit for addressing these rumors head on and confirming them, taking the mystery and the second guessing out of them. In the process, he also uses these spoilers as a jumping off point for a discussion of the film’s themes, and he does it in a way that piques my interest far more than simply the prospect of another Jurassic Park film. Jurassic Park was a defining moment of my childhood, and while I enjoyed The Lost World, I felt like Jurassic Park III showed that there wasn’t anything left to say with the series, but Trevorrow has done a lot in one interview to convince me that I’m wrong. So without further ado, let’s look at the actual spoilers/teasers that he confirmed for the film and what it might mean for this unlikely sequel. Needless to say, Spoilers from this point forward.
Spoilers for Jurassic World below!!! You have been warned!!!
The main spoilers for Jurassic World that were leaked cover the general premise of the film, its setting and time period, as well as some character details and a plot twist that I would imagine making it into the marketing for the film leading up to its 2015 release. The film will take place 22 years after the events of the first film (which conveniently debuted 22 years before this film). It takes place on Isla Nublar, the island from the original movie, which has been turned into a successful park exactly as John Hammond dreamed. According to Trevorrow, it serves 20,000 visitors a day who arrive via ferry from Costa Rica. It’s a “luxury resort with hotels, restaurants, nightlife and a golf course” in addition to the miraculous dinosaurs.
Also revealed is that Chris Pratt will be playing a character who does behavioral research on Velociraptors (here he clarifies a false rumor which had stated that the dinosaurs in the film were “trained”), trying to determine “the limits of the relationship between these highly intelligent creatures and human beings.” And then they come to the most controversial aspect of the leaked details, the revelation that the park’s geneticists have created a new species of dinosaur by mixing its DNA with other species. He says that the motivation for doing this is a corporate mandate to the geneticists for “something bigger, louder, with more teeth.” He shoots down a rumor that the dinosaur is some kind of mutant freak, denying that it has “a snake’s head or octopus tentacles,” but he doesn’t address some of the other rumors about the dinosaur being able to camouflage itself in its surroundings. He does say that there is only one modified dinosaur in the film.
Now what does all of this mean? Obviously, if I had to guess, I would expect that this modified dinosaur is the cause of whatever trouble/chaos happens in the film, ruining the vacation of 20,000 people. Again, I feel like that is the sort of information that would make its way into a trailer for the film before its release. Beyond that, however, I feel like Trevorrow’s analysis of this plot development really helps sell the movie in a way he might not have even intended. He talks about his vision for the film, which combined two separate ideas. From his words: “One was that money has been the gasoline in the engine of our biggest mistakes. If there are billions to be made, no one can resist them, even if they know things could end horribly. The other was that our relationship with technology has become so woven into our daily lives, we’ve become numb to the scientific miracles around us. We take so much for granted.”
He then puts those two ideas together and creates an idea that seems very interesting to me, while also tying it in to the meta relationship between this film and its potential audience: “Those two ideas felt like they could work together. What if, despite previous disasters, they built a new biological preserve where you could see dinosaurs walk the earth…and what if people were already kind of over it? We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T-Rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. ‘We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?’ Next year, you’ll see our answer.”
Taken from that perspective, the idea of a company creating a “monster” in order to drive attention doesn’t seem that farfetched. It may be a stretch to envision a world where Dinosaurs have become a theme park attraction, but if you can accept that premise then it’s not a stretch to imagine a world where people are already “over it.” As a society we’ve become so jaded that nothing surprises us (maybe because we’re constantly hunting for spoilers), and a film that explores both the aspect of what we might be missing out on with that attitude but also what lengths others will go to to try and make an impact is surprisingly thoughtful for a 4th Jurassic Park film.
The first Jurassic Park was a success because it was more than just a monster movie with the greatest visual effects ever seen. It was also about something, about the relationship between man and nature and our need to not only control science but to use it for personal gain. It was a movie about idealism vs capitalism (a theme which was even more prevalent in The Lost World) and about how and if we can find harmony with the world around us. It was a movie with something to say, and it did it in the highest possible style and the most exciting fashion imaginable. Trevorrow hasn’t lost sight of this, saying that “This film is about our relationship with animals, how we react to the threat they pose to our dominance on earth as a species. We hunt them, we cage them in zoos, we admire them from afar and we try to assert control over them.”
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the film, so I don’t think Trevorrow has much to worry about. I think his biggest challenge, and the reason he did this interview, was the worry that people would see “mutant dinosaurs” among the leaked plot details and understandably dismiss the film without a second thought. Believe me, when I first heard that rumor the film dropped significantly as far as my expectations were concerned. (Which is saying something, as my expectations were pretty low to begin with. The last thing I wanted anyone to do was resurrect Jurassic Park just to capitalize on the name.) However, I think Trevorrow’s unconventional approach has done a lot to head off the negative speculation, particularly among the fans who will be most responsible for the positive word of mouth the film will rely on to be a true success. From that standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to address the rumors head on, even if it means confirming some details they might have preferred to keep secret for a while longer.
Trevorrow ends the interview by acknowledging the risks they’re taking in reviving and tinkering with the Jurassic Park franchise, as well as taking ownership of whether the film is a success. I’m impressed with how he handled this, and for the first time I’m actually looking forward to the film.
We’re trying to tell a bold new story that doesn’t rely on a proven formula, because the movies we watch over and over again are the ones that surprised us, that worked when they shouldn’t have.
I understand the risks of leaving the safe zone. We’ve all been disappointed by new installments of the stories we love. But with all this talk of filmmakers “ruining our childhood”, we forget that right now is someone else’s childhood. This is their time. And I have to build something that can take them to the same place those earlier films took us. It may not happen in the same way everyone expects it to, but it’s the way I believe it needs to happen.
Honestly, the biggest misconception on this movie is that there’s some massive conference room at the studio where all these cynical story decisions are made. There is no committee. Universal has given us the resources to tell the story we want to tell, on the scale we want to tell it. Will this one be different from the other movies? You bet it will. And I’m not going to pass the buck if it doesn’t work. This one’s on me.
What do you think? What’s your opinion on spoilers? Do they bother you? Do you seek them out? Does your response to them vary depending on if the subject is a film, TV show or book? How about Jurassic World? Are you excited for another film in the series? Do the spoilers, if you read them, change your opinion one way or another? What do you think of the way Trevorrow handled the leaks? Does his vision for the film make you more or less interested in the movie? Let me know in the comments!