Merchandising for movies can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, merchandising can be a way to help sell a film, and it can also give fans of a film something to have as a reminder or a piece of the movie. There was a time when merchandising only really existed after a film came out, or in some very special circumstances, it would happen simultaneous with a film’s release.
There came a point, though, where merchandising became a given and things started coming out before the movie, and that leads to some very particular problems. I will never forget about a month before “Return Of The Jedi” came out, when I found the novelization in stores. I couldn’t resist. I bought the book, and I decided to keep it without reading it until the moment I could see the film. My mom, though, didn’t have any problem reading the book, which I didn’t realize until we were in the car a few days later. I was talking about “Star Wars,” which was pretty much true all day every day, and I mentioned how curious I was to find out who “the other” was that Yoda had referred to, and my mom answered, “That’s Princess Leia. She’s Luke’s sister.”
To say I was upset would be an understatement. She didn’t seem to realize what she’d done, but I was inconsolable. Since then, spoiler culture has only gotten more and more complicated to navigate, and these days, there are land mines that audiences have to worry about, and this weekend, things got particularly ugly for fans of the Marvel movie universe when both a soundtrack listing and a photo of the toy line revealed one of the biggest spoilers for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
I’m not going to repeat the spoiler here. I’m genuinely frustrated that I learned it, and I’m especially irritated that I learned it the way I did. Fans of “Star Wars” dealt with something similar when the soundtrack listing for “The Phantom Menace” was released early and there was a track called “Qui-Gon’s Funeral.” The “Winter Soldier” thing isn’t a character death, but it’s something that I would imagine is a pretty major reveal, and now, if you want to avoid learning it early, you’re going to have to spend every moment between now and April 4th being extra careful for fear someone will put it in a headline (like MTV Films did) or just drop the info in a forum (which seems to be happening repeatedly).
Consider yourself warned, and if you do know the spoiler, please don’t repeat it in our comments section. I have to say… I suspected something like this was true, but I really wish I’d had a chance to have the full impact of the moment happen in the theater.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is in theaters April 4, 2014.