A Note to My Readers (As Well As Viewers of CBS Sunday Morning):
“Spoiling” a film by revealing key plot twists is a charge I take seriously. The matter is not always clear-cut. The more you can say about the trajectory of a work’s narrative or the ways in which the artist grapples with his or her themes, the more deeply you can reckon with its meaning and ultimate value. That is why the ideal reader of criticism is one who has seen the film (or TV show, or read the book, or listened to the recording) in question. To me, few things are more satisfying than comparing notes and judgments after the fact. It is how I learned to love criticism and, to a fair degree, how I learned to love cinema.
(Star Trek Into Darkness spoiler follows.) I worked quite hard to keep from saying too much about Star Trek Into Darkness in my review — to the point of omitting mention of arguably the movie’s most misguided and destructive character altogether. There is an unusual absence in the review of plot synopsis. I do allude to an ongoing dialogue within the movie with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan because that, to me, is one of Star Trek Into Darkness’s most unusual elements.
I did not know, however, that the mere identity of the heroes’ nemesis was a spoiler, as several commenters on my review proclaimed when it was first published at NYMag.com Sunday night. There was no customary warning in the press notes and no stern directive to me from the studio. I consulted IMDb, the web’s most popular film reference, and there it was — not in the reader comments but right there in the cast list: “Chris Pine … James Kirk” “Benedict Cumberbatch … [name here].” That, I thought, settles that: Everybody knows.
As it turns out, Paramount had contacted IMDb to change the credit, but the site’s administrators had said they could not do that — on the grounds that the movie had opened in London and that was how it read in the final cast “crawl.” It was, they said, out there.
I have learned the hard way that in addition to being vigilant for spoilers, you have to be wary of the fan base for films under the Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, and DC umbrellas. No critic needs to be vilified and abused — though that inevitably comes with the territory no matter what you write. In this case, I have unwittingly provoked what might be called the Wrath of Comic-Con, for which I am sorry.