I was reading this post on Kottke about artist Mario García Torres’ exhibit of paintings that are spoilers for popular films—e.g., a big silkscreened print that just says “BRAD PITT IS THE SAME PERSON AS ED NORTON.”
While I am not at all interested in the “Is this really art?” discussion (SPOILER ALERT: It is art), I find myself a bit fascinated by what these pieces have to say about the movies and the stories the movies are telling.
Way back in pioneer times, when Titanic came out, I went to see it with a friend. As we were walking out of the theater afterward, I said to her, “That was pretty good, but if you take out the boat, there’s not much of a movie there.” I was half-joking when I said it, but it’s true; there is almost nothing to that movie without the massive spectacle of the ship going down.
I think I feel sort of the same way about big plot twists and surprise endings. If knowing how a movie ends ruins the movie for you, it’s probably not that great a movie.
There is, of course something to the in-the-moment experience of a big plot/story revelation, and it’s a bummer when I miss out on that because I know what’s going to happen. Still, it should not be the end of the world, and if it is, that’s a pretty good sign that there is not much to the underlying story.
On a side note, I think the same can be said for movies, novels, and TV shows that build narrative tension by hopping around in time, but that is probably a topic for a separate post.