Some Christian Film Critics are Spoiling "Superman Returns."

A responsible and principled film critic will follow a few simple rules:

1. ABOVE ALL, he will not include plot spoilers in his review that will detract from the moviegoer’s ability to enjoy surprises during the movie.

2. He will not rush to be the first with a review of the film… he will respect the movie studio’s wishes that the review be held until opening day. Why? Because the studios do not have to give critics a screening of their movie, and, in fact, they’re doing so less and less. It is a privilege to be allowed to see a film early, and thus critics should play by industry rules. Most Christian film review sites respect this. But others betray a lack of professionalism by publishing full reviews weeks in advance.

With Superman Returns, several prominent Christian film critics have already published reviews… and worse, they’ve given away one of the film’s biggest surprises.

Do you want somebody to spoil the surprises?
If so, hurry to read the review by Craig Detweiler at Hollywood Jesus. He drops a hint so big you’d have to be blind to miss it.

Hollywood Jesus’ editors should know better than to publish reviews… especially spoiler-filled reviews… early. They published a “preview” by Leo Partible last week that was, let’s face it, a review of the film.

Relevant Magazine has also posted their review early.

Also guilty:
David DiCerto and Catholic News Service. Their review went up a while ago, and it too reveals the film’s big surprise.

(Would you have been as startled by The Empire Strikes Back if you had read an early review that said something like, “Hmmm. What if Vader is really Luke’s father?”)

Now, if the film is out for a time and the surprises are common knowledge — The Sixth Sense has been out for many years, so if you don’t know by now, don’t blame others for talking about it — then it’s open season. But film critics exist in order to help moviegoers enjoy movies more richly, not to compete for an “I’m first! I’m first!” spot, or an “I’ve seen it and you haven’t!” privilege. And if they go and spoil the plot twists, they’re demonstrating a blatant disregard for the moviegoer’s ability to encounter surprise in the theater.

Sure, there are mainstream publications ignoring the rules as well. I’d expect publications that are competing for audiences to show off in this way. But I would hope that Christian journalists would aim for a higher standard of professionalism.

So if you want to enjoy a suprise or two along the way during Superman Returns, be careful out there. Some critics are taking away those oh-so-rare moments of “Aha!” and “No way!”

Oh, and to pre-empt the inevitable comment about my previous post: A) that wasn’t a review… not even close… and B) it contained no spoilers whatsoever. If anything, it contained my speculation about Kate Bosworth as an actress, but I could have easily written the same Top Ten before seeing the film.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • jonathan

    Hmmm…Rambo IV. Rambo and his mercenary companions wouldn’t happen to amount to a total of 7, would it? Sounds kinda like another remake of The Seven Samurai. Speaking of that, when I was poking around imdb.com I saw a 2008 version of The Seven Samurai in an “Optioned Property” status by The Weinstein Company. Interesting…. If you have a pro imdb account, you can see it here.

  • anonymous 3

    Thanks for spoiling the Sixth Sense…guess it’s okay to give spoilers of older movies (with no warning).

    Mr. Anonymous #2.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I looked over the post several times for a Sixth Sense spoiler and I couldn’t find it. So clearly you must know more about the movie than you are leading on and Jeffrey really didn’t spoil anything. But like I said, I might be missing something. And if I am, I’m sorry.

  • Shane

    Amen! I just read a review at dallasnews.com that essentially provided a synopsis of the whole story, again touching on the judeo-christian aspects of the movie. i can understand if this was even a week after the movie was released…but it was 2 days .before. the release…

  • daringadventurer1

    TIME’s article on it gave away what seemed like a rather large spoiler about the…geneology of a minor supporting character, and drew the obvious (in terms of the article’s overall focus) DVC parallels. So it’s not just the Christians, I think.

  • Seventh Leper

    And now he’s gone and spoiled Empire Strikes Back. Thanks a lot, Jeffrey!

    ;)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for spoiling the Sixth Sense…guess it’s okay to give spoilers of older movies (with no warning).

  • Anonymous

    Good post. I really appreciate your integrity and professionalism. Couldn’t agree more.

    However, I think you may be splitting hairs a bit as to why your commments were acceptable but others were not. Granted, “plot spoilers” in early reviews are inexcusable and reprehensible. No argument. But I think “un-reviews” such as yours might also be accused of being “experience spoilers.” I’m not trying to be critical (since I’m not the film critic), but helpful.

    First, you need to know that I highly value your insight and integrity as a reviewer, and regularly rely on your opinions. So, when I read your comments about your preview of “Superman Returns,” my first reaction was, “It sounds like Jeffrey thinks this is a disappointing movie. He definitely was not impressed.” To be fair, you may not have intended to communicate that, and maybe I’m the only one who reacted that way, but that’s what I heard in your post. And even though you did not spoil the plot, your apparent attitude about how you experienced the film became, in effect, an “experience spoiler” for me.

    Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. Certainly it’s not as bad as a plot spoiler. However, it will “spoil” the experience of seeing it for the first time for me. Simply because I value your opinion so much, your comments have greatly lowered my expectations about this film, and now I’m going to be looking for the things you alluded to in your post. Of course, maybe I’ll completely disagree with your comments, and this will all be moot. Nonetheless, good or bad, my experience of the movie has been irretrievably changed by your comments.

    Just some thoughts from outside the critic’s circle. You’re still my favorite critic. I love you, man.

  • RC

    what a good post of film reveiw etiquette…

    i hope this level of film ethics remains…

    i love when ppl. write spoilers that they HAVE to post in the color that is the same as the screen and allow you to highlite the words.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • Gene Branaman

    I read Steven Greydanus’ review in the National Catholic Register that arrived on Saturday. The street date on the paper is today (Monday) & I’m sure it’s hard to get mailed periodicals to every subscriber on the right day. Sometimes it arrives a bit early & sometimes a bit late. But Mr Greydanus never posts his reviews on DecentFilms.com until the day the film is released.

    There are no spoilers in SGD’s review, BTW. None. He focuses on Big Blue saving the 777 but only as an event, no details or descriptions are given at all. He really liked the film & gives specific reasons why but never spoils anything but gives sufficient hints about what exactly why he liked the movie (I have no idea what the big surprise you’re referring to is, Jeffrey, even after reading his review). He’s one of my very favorite film writers so I’m even more excited to see it now.

    Usually, when I read a spoiler-filled review from a particular reviewer, I don’t go back to their reveiws again. Same thing for “reveiwers” who think a plot synopsis is sufficient for a review. Sorry, no. I don’t read them, either.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    The moment when Lois Lane passes her hand right through Superman and says, “OMG, you’re computer-generated!” really bowled me over.

    The scene where Superman turned back time and saved Christopher Reeve was very moving.

    And I knew they were using Marlon Brando’s voice… that was part of the preview… but who knew that most of Brando’s lines would be drawn not from the original Superman, but from Last Tango in Paris?!

  • wngl

    I read in a review that Krypto the Super Dog appears at the end of the film and now the whole thing is spoiled for me! Who knew that it would take Supes 5 years to find a lost dog?


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