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The Fourth Wall: Not to beat a dead horse, but don’t let Artax near the Swamp of Sorrows

This could be a very brief read for some of you.

The topic this week is spoilers — the ability given today’s avalanche of accessible information to ferret out plot twists, surprise endings and major character deaths before you actually go to the movie, turn on the television or open the book.

Be advised THERE WILL BE SPOILERS in the following paragraphs.

I have an Internet acquaintance who finally got around to watching “The Wire” — the celebrated series about the seamy side of life in the streets of Baltimore — when the discussion turned to what a shock it was when the primary character of Omar Little was killed.

This caused quite the ruckus, or the type only Internet discussions can have, since the “Wire” newbie hadn’t come to that climactic moment — in a series that ended in 2008. Even should you believe in not giving out plot details, there should be an understood shelf-life by which they can be discussed whether you’re talking about when Kristin shot J.R., Dil’s gender-bending lifestyle in “The Crying Game,” or why the No. 1 Rule of “Fight Club” is not to talk about “Fight Club.”

Say, for instance, you have tickets to the current Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of “Romeo and Juliet” with hopes that those love-struck, star-crossed teens find a way to make it all work out STOP READING NOW.

Because first she “dies,” then he dies — then she dies again. This season marks the 14th time OSF has mounted a production of “R & J” (not counting the play within a play during “Shakespeare in Love”) and ... each time ... boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy “loses” girl, girl loses boy, then girl really loses it.

Speaking of on-again, off-again romances, The New York Times incurred the wrath of legions of fans of what used to be called comic books when it jumped the gun and revealed that — after 50 issues of complicated courtship and crimefighting — Batman-Bruce Wayne and Catwoman-Selina Kyle wouldn’t be getting married after all.

“There are far more important things in the world,” responded someone called Graeme on the Twitterverse, “but letting the NYT spoil your Batman comic three (HOLY EXPLETIVE DELETED, BATMAN) days before release is an impressively bad decision.”

Not all spoilers are so blatant ... they take skullduggery and common sense.

I speak of the long-awaited “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” — the sequel to the 2008 film based on the stage musical of “Mamma Mia!” ... which is based on the songs of ABBA.

I know you all were waiting 10 years since Kennard killed Omar for the chance to hear Pierce Brosnan warble once more — but what you might not have anticipated is a plot twist that couldn’t be more spoiled, given the film’s trailers that have flooded commercial television ahead of next week’s release.

Donna — the primary character at the center of the “Who’s the baby daddy?” mystery in the first film — is deader in “Here We Go Again” than Bruce Willis was in “The Sixth Sense.”

Ooops.

How do we know Donna is dead? Because the previews show us that her now-pregnant daughter brings together the same cast of colorful supporting actors for the sequel, while Donna-Meryl Streep is seen only in flashbacks. Yep, she’s dead. One character goes so far as to say that “your mother would be so proud of you.” Yep, really dead.

On top of that, the cast list for the movie ends with “ and Meryl Streep.” And you don’t do that for the star at the center of the first film unless you’re telegraphing that her character is really, really dead.

She’s not singing! She’s passed on! Like Monty Python’s parrot, his Dynamo is no more! She has ceased to be! She’s expired and gone to meet her maker! She’s a stiff! Bereft of life, she rests in peace! If they hadn’t used her in flashbacks she’d be pushing up the daisies! Hermetabolic processes are now history! She’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! Donna is an EX-WARBLER!!!

Sometimes, getting information ahead of time doesn’t take watching movie trailers, devining movie posters, or even going to Wikipedia. It can be much easier than that.

Let’s say you have a spouse that’s a fan of oh, I dunno, let’s use “Dancing With The Stars” as an example. The weekly results air live on the East Coast which means before they air out here, you can go to the TVLine of Entertainment Weekly websites, discover which celebrity dancer has the spotlight dimmed over his or her head, and make the decision whether or not to tell your significant other (depending on whether she cared for the contestant) before the episode even airs in Southern Oregon.

Some of us have been doing that for so long, it’s become expected. C’mon, it’s not like I skipped to the final pages of “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” to discover that the killer in Agatha’s Christie’s classic mystery novel is nah, I’ll let you find that one out for yourself.

James Gunn, director of the two “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, boiled down the relative value of spoiling information in a tweet this past week.

“If a movie can be ruined by spoilers,” Gunn wrote, “it’s not a good movie.”

And if a movie musical in which 72-year-old Cher portrays the mother of 69-year-old Meryl Streep is going to be spoiled by knowing the plot twist well then, perhaps it wasn’t going to be “Citizen Kane” in the first place.

Speaking of which about that sled

Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin, rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com, is going on vacation. SPOILER ALERT: His column will return when he does.

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