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Trailers That Contained Big-Time Spoilers

Nothing ignites the internet quite like a brand new trailer. It can build hype for a beloved franchise — Star Wars, Marvel, and all the other geek titans basically rule Twitter for a week or so once fresh content drops — or it can spark something new. Though they're typically confined to a few minutes, they are among the most powerful tools in a marketing team's arsenal. They can make people pay attention to something they never have before, introduce the world to characters and worlds they've never dreamed of, and even become fascinating works of art unto themselves. They are, essentially, the movie's calling card.

But that's just it — they're meant to tease, not to deliver. Yet time and time again, the public ends up with trailers that give up huge twists or entire plot threads in misguided efforts to intrigue. The audience ends up frustrated, having wanted to be interested without being satisfied, and can even give up wanting to see the movie at all. Here are the worst offenders, gathered together to make one cinematic truth very clear: when it comes to trailers, less is more.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie the Eagle is a classic sports story, full of unlikely triumph and victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Despite childhood illness, a discouraging father, social ostracization, and the reluctance of the British Olympic officials, Eddie Edwards makes his way to the Olympics as a world-class ski jumper. He breaks records. He makes his nation proud. His mother watches, teary-eyed, as her long-held faith in her son finally pays off.

Unfortunately, you can glean all that from just watching the trailer. Every single major beat of the movie is present within it, from the broad strokes to the particular details. We see, for example, Eddie's mother offer him an old box to "keep his medals in" as a hopeful child, and then, one minute later, we see her bring it out once more as he heads off to represent the United Kingdom on the world stage. That's the sort of emotional texture meant to stay within the movie, and the absolute peak of the trailer's absurdity. When it ends, you don't feel enticed into checking the film out due to its advertising — you feel like you've already seen it.

Captain America: Civil War

Part of the charm and excitement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting to see which characters show up in surprise crossovers. This can range from the obscure — Beta Ray Bill appearing as an architectural detail in Thor: Ragnarok — to the majorly featured. Valkyrie, for example, has long been a beloved staple of Thor's corner of the comics, and seeing her swagger her way on screen was a treat for longtime fans. Though many of these appearances are not kept secret (we all knew Bucky Barnes was coming back from the very nature of Captain America: The Winter Soldier's title) some very much are. The thrill of recognition mid-movie is something the filmmakers plan for. Imagine seeing Infinity War for the first time and not gasping as Red Skull stepped out from the shadows, reborn as the Soul Stone's penitent keeper?

Spider-Man's entrance into the MCU could have been an all-time great reveal... if the Captain America: Civil War trailers hadn't spoiled him first. It's understandable to use him as marketing, especially when he was a character denied entry into the MCU for so long. People love Spider-Man, Spider-Man is in Civil War, ergo, people will see Civil War to see Spider-Man. But that bit of enticement cost the movie a tremendous moment of joy. Unfortunately, when "QUEENS" flashed across the screen and the audience saw the back of a mysterious young man heading to his walk-up apartment... well, they already knew who he was.

Charlie St. Cloud

"Every evening," a drunk and melancholy Zac Efron murmurs in the Charlie St. Cloud trailer, "I play catch with my dead brother." Shots of sunlit fields ensue, the St. Cloud boys within them, idyllic in their Red Sox gear. Efron is an all-American hunk, and little Sam is a pug-nosed ragamuffin who hasn't quite grown into his oversized catcher's mitt. But alas, as the trailer has informed you, Sam is dead.

Charlie must live on — but, as we learn, he simply, tragically, cannot. We then meet Tess, a bold young sailor who lures Charlie back to life in the present. We see them fall in love. We see precious, ghostly Sam encourage his brother. We see fear grip Charlie's heart as it is revealed that Tess is in trouble — the kind of trouble Charlie can save her from only if he lives in the moment. "The Coast Guard called off the search!" townspeople warn. "No one can survive these waters!" But Charlie doesn't care. He rips off his shirt and dives into the choppy sea, choosing, once and for all, the present over the past. It is only after the trailer ends that you realize you have seen nearly the entire movie. The Charlie St. Cloud trailer is, more than an anything, a short film unto itself, complete with a stirring final shot of the brothers staring into the sunset. "We'll always be brothers," Efron intones. You nearly expect "THE END" to fade in.

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese's deep dive into mental illness depended on a sense of suspense and paranoia. Leonardo DiCaprio's federal marshal has been sent to investigate the titular island's mental asylum, where a patient has gone missing, but he has little idea of the madness and degradation that awaits him, and even less sense of how to unravel it into any kind of investigation. It's a tight premise, full of passionate characters literally forced to confront each other by their isolated setting. No one will escape until an answer has been found, but the answers prove elusive. The trailer is full of fog, shadowy corridors, and driving rain — the stuff noir dreams are made of.

But it is also full of shots of DiCaprio hallucinating a woman turning to ash, getting put behind bars himself, and being menaced by orderlies who treat him like a patient. Perhaps one or two of these hints might have been fine, but taken all together, they make the ending twist more than a little obvious: DiCaprio's character isn't actually a federal marshal, but an inmate himself locked within a delusion of being the good guy. This is the kind of zig-zag that can be teased a bit for the sake of enticing the audience, but the trailers and TV spots, especially taken all together, leave so many breadcrumbs that the ardent movie fan can't help but figure out what's going on.

Thor: Ragnarok

Taika Watiti's psychedelic take on the Asgardian hero brought a lot of new things to the MCU. Characters like Valkyrie and Hela, longtime staples of Marvel comics, finally stepped onto the silver screen. Architecture and costumes ripped straight from the work of Jack Kirby paid homage to his masterful work. Comic diehards delighted as Skurge was, well, his most Skurge-y self. It was a whirlwind celebration of all that makes superheroes so entertaining, chock-full of new characters, locations, and Technicolor spaceships.

One character stood above them all — literally. The Hulk wasn't just part of Ragnarok, but a linchpin of the plot as a whole. Thor's joy at seeing him in the arena — his instantly memorable scream of "YES!" when he sees the big green galoot emerge from the shadows — is basically how the audience felt. The Hulk! In space! Fighting against Thor, and then alongside Thor, and ultimately a whole horde of Asgardian zombies and a giant wolf! Now imagine how much more glorious all of that would have been if we hadn't known from trailers and TV spots that the Hulk was going to be there. Hype was already building when marketing revealed his presence — did we really need to know he'd be there to get our butts in seats? Unfortunately, we'll never have an answer, but at least we'll always have him fighting Hela's army on the Bifrost to the righteous thunder of Led Zeppelin.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The appeal of Batman v Superman was all right there in the title. Who looms larger over the superhero universe than the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel? What fight could be more theatrically satisfying than the one between two men who became godlike through totally different means? Superman's overwhelming strength, speed, and flight powers against Batman's encyclopedic knowledge and ancient training regimens! Batman's deductive skill against Superman's raw power! And casting a looming shadow, the question that entices audiences more than any other: why are they fighting at all?

It's absolute, unadulterated theatrical dynamite. Unfortunately, the marketing gave a lot of it away — including, most crucially, the fact that the ultimate clash of the film wasn't even between the two titular titans. Trailers revealed supervillain Doomsday and multiple shots of Batman and Superman fighting together to stop him, and it wasn't much of a leap for online commentators to guess that they were going to put their differences aside for the sake of this climax. Moreover, another trailer revealed the fact that they'd be fighting alongside a certain armored Amazon, and, well, as with Spider-Man in Civil War, you can't exactly blame DC Entertainment for being excited to have Wonder Woman. On the other hand, you can't deny that being surprised by her appearance would have been magnificent. At the end of the day, cape fans went into Batman v Superman knowing not only how the fight would end, but also who would join them.

Cast Away

A lot of Cast Away is implied in its title. Even without seeing a single trailer, poster, or TV spot, one can guess that it's about someone lost on a deserted island, struggling to survive both the elements and the crushing isolation. That is, in fact, most of what the 2000 Tom Hanks story is about — plus, of course, a memorably charismatic volleyball. It's the kind of movie that depends upon a powerhouse performance to sell its simple premise and limited cast list — the islander must be able to entertain and enliven without anyone to play off or much variation in setting.

There is, in fact, only one factor that looms as large as the protagonist's performance in a story like Cast Away: the question of whether or not the eponymous castaway is rescued. This is the one question mark the audience maintains until the end. Will starvation get our hero? Perhaps the madness of solitude? If they make their way back to civilization, will it be under their own power? Will they die in the attempt? 

Cast Away managed to, shockingly enough, squander this ambiguity by including shots of a bearded Hanks building a boat and then, most frustratingly, someone telling him how after four years of absence, he had been declared dead. The movie is still worth watching, even with this loss of suspense — but it beggars belief that the marketing team thought they couldn't make a trailer without spoiling the ending.

Ender's Game

Ender's Game takes place in a world where children are molded from a young age for military combat. Ender, a young boy with a good heart and a brilliant strategic mind, catches the eye of the powers-that-be, and we watch him make his way through Battle School, all the way to a crucial simulated fight in which he takes on the Formics, insectoid aliens that, he has been told, threaten Earth's future. Only once he has incinerated the Formics in a planet-wide storm of destruction is he told that it wasn't a simulation at all. It was real, it was him, and now, it's over. He murdered millions, and he didn't even know he was doing it.

This is the story's grand reveal, the moment in which Ender understands just how thoroughly he has been used and the audience grasps how far he will have to go to make this injustice right. Too bad it was in the trailer. That's right — audiences saw the Formic world go up in smoke before they ever stepped into the theater. Those who had read the book were outraged, but even the uninitiated could put two and two together, especially once they were in the theater, being introduced to the major players in the plot. The crux of the film had been laid bare, and, well, there's been no theatrical adaptation of the book's many sequels for a reason.

The Giver

Jonas lives in a perfectly serene community, where he is set to come of age and join its peaceful ranks in an assigned role. There is no conflict, no cruelty, and no injustice — but there was, once, and Jonas is assigned to learn about it from a man known as the Giver. The slow crumbling of Jonas' tranquil life is the process at the heart of the story. First he realizes that the daily injections he receives blunt his emotions, then he learns that there are colors beyond black, white, and grey, and finally, that those who pose a threat to the order of his world are murdered. 

The gradual nature of Jonas' awakening is what has made The Giver a staple of school libraries for decades now — and it is totally destroyed by the trailer. Every single major moment is spoiled within two minutes, from the lack of color to the fact that Jonas' father is the one who administers the community's lethal injections. The only thing, in fact, left to the audience's imagination is Jonas' fate once he learns the truth, which is the least important part of the book. Diverging from source material isn't a necessarily bad thing, but the filmmakers were clearly aiming to turn The Giver into an action-packed dystopia, and, well, those kinds of stories depend upon a certain amount if suspense that the trailer doesn't allow for.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings is a jam-packed epic. There are thousands of characters, locations, relationships, weapons, legends, and creatures to keep track of, centuries of fictional history to grasp, and, you know, entire fictional languages so meticulously crafted that you yourself can learn them. There's a reason Tolkien is held in such high esteem. The fact that one man with one lifetime could create such a rich and varied world is nothing short of astonishing.

With all that lore to wade through, you might think it'd be hard to give away any one part of it. Who needs to resort to something spoilery when there's so much else to be included in a trailer, TV spot, or poster? But when The Two Towers premiered, the PR team managed to let one crucial fact slip: the white wizard following our intrepid heroes was Gandalf. This isn't news nowadays, but back then, the mystery of the man's identity — and particularly, the idea that he might be the fearsome Saruman — was meant to intrigue. All that was for naught, however, when marketing revealed Gandalf's new identity.

Into the Woods

Fairy tales, Into the Woods argues, get a lot messier once you get past Happily Ever After. The first chunk of the musical-turned-movie is as lovely and whimsical as you might expect, sure — full of girls heading to grandma and wives who long for children. Magic ensues, and all, for a time, is well. Cinderella gets to go to the ball, magic beans are sprouted, and the baker and his wife fulfill their promise to a witch, who in turn promises them a pregnancy. All good, right?

Well, no — and that is, of course, the point of the story, and what made the original stage musical such a sensation. Things unravel quickly, and though it is ultimately still a story about love and adventure, it finds time to examine just how difficult those things are to keep hold of. The trailer revealed every inch of this struggle, cheapening the story's descent into chaos. We see glimpses of a post-slipper Cinderella doubting her success, the Prince cheating on her with the baker's wife, and multiple shots of Meryl Streep's witch pleading with Rapunzel, whom, we are meant to learn to our surprise, she truly loves. The trailer denies us the pleasure of watching this happen with only the knowledge of the classic, sunny stories to guide us, and thus denies us the point of the story. Happily ever after eludes even the audience when it comes to this film.