The Internet Evolution Of The Way We All See Movies

By  · Published on January 7th, 2011

There is currently a leaked The Dark Knight Rises script on the internet. It’s of questionable origin and authenticity, but if you really wanted to hunt it down, you could.

In other words, if you’d like to know what might possibly be happening in a film that won’t come out for another year and a half, you have that power. The caveat of the power in this specific case is that the script is most likely a fan creation or the moronic idea of some aspiring screenwriter who thinks getting buzz for a fake script can get him or her recognition.

What’s fascinating about the way we see movies (and the way the internet has forced us to see them) is that we are seeing far more than just the movie itself. We’re seeing trailers, posters, interviews, featurettes, behind-the-scenes pictures, t-shirts, mash-up videos, speculations, rumors, outright lies, whispered development deals, short lists, and reports of filmmakers having lunch with actors more than actual discussions about movies.

It’s overwhelming, and it’s scaring some people.

From time to time, I find myself on that list. However, the most recent to write about it was CHUD site runner Nick Nunziata who penned a lamentation about what the movie business has done to movie sites. We’re on the brink of a major change, and Nunziata is half-right about it.

The heart of his problem is here:

“So many sites are falling prey to that willingness to just embrace whatever seems to be tangentially considered content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; sites are supposed to let their audience define what the site (or blog) ultimately becomes. I just cringe when I see good and original sites falling prey to the Egotastic style of reporting. It marginalizes us and it certainly puts us even farther as a collective away from the safe, reliable, and cozy confines of the Deadlines of the world.”

While I disagree with Nunziata about many of his conclusions (especially with his assertion that the internet is making people dumber), he has an interesting viewpoint about a trend that he doesn’t quite call out by name.

The change going on here is that “film sites” are evolving into lifestyle sites.

Many of them are far more concerned now with the lifestyle surrounding movies than the movies themselves. To that end, they can point out deals on ironic t-shirts, post up a Funny or Die Twilight parody video without any added value, and call it a day.

Judge it how you will, but we seem to be on the cusp of that evolution right now. More and more, the bigger sites are putting up (and getting traffic from) bits of fluff trivia and short videos that almost sort of mention a thing that might be related to a movie. It doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped posting up content purely about films, but it does mean that a certain amount of their total efforts are going to ephemeral schlock.

In essence, the lines are blurring. Film sites are losing perspective on what should be tweeted out to friends and what should have an entire post dedicated to it for an audience to see.

This is a vitally roundabout way of arriving at the natural conclusion that the internet is poised to change the way we see movies. The Dark Knight Rises script leak is a beautiful coincidence because it’s where the film site has evolved to, but it’s also where the film site came from.

The earliest sites wrote passionately about things they loved, and created the kind of community that had to be sought out, but they also made some bread and butter by posting rumors and blurry shots of sets taken while on the run from security guards. Ultimately, it’s all led us here – to a point where we’re going through a film subconsciously (or consciously) waiting for the guy to chop his arm off and then heading home to discuss what parts of the trailer didn’t make it into the actual cut.

At the same time, b

ut for different reasons, we arrived a point where people were talking about the latest mash-up of the Inception trailer almost as much as they were talking about the film Inception.

The memes are slowly taking over. Patton Oswalt was right even if he was joking. It is far better to solve the puzzle on your own instead of running to the Walk Through, but that’s not what we’re doing anymore. We’re all taking the wikipedia way out. A decade ago, critics thought the internet was going to infiltrate movies by delivering geeks (the classic, Dungeons and Dragons-playing kind) to a place of power. It did, but the bigger effect the internet had was delivering more culture to us than we could handle.

Like any change, there are good and bad scenarios that crop up, but there are at least two negative components being born here. One, we’re getting far too much information. Gone are the days when most films can surprise or hit theaters unspoiled. Is it possible to avoid movie spoilers? Yes, but it’s getting harder and harder, especially since search engines love great, pointed headlines with plenty of buzz words.

More than just bold-faced spoilers, we’re seeing every image from every film hitting the web alongside teasers and trailers and fan trailers and lego-based tributes. Of course we take that information into the theater with us. One of my favorite books to re-read is “The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made,” by David Hughes because it explores the alternate reality of several films by examining their development history. It’s fascinating to see how a film could have turned out (especially if it never even got made). Now, we have the privilege of seeing that in reverse. We know the dirty production history before the cameras even roll, and there’s a decently strong possibility that we might be judging Robert Pattinson up against the fictional Colin Farrell performance in our head that Cronenberg’s latest might have to offer.

If it hasn’t yet directly changed the way we view movies, then it’s definitely changed the way we talk about them. Hell, they might as well have billed “Nicolas Cage’s Hair” for Season of the Witch. (Now, someone out there is photshopping that poster. (Now, someone out there is photoshopping that fan poster into a new Kick-Ass poster.))

Secondly, we’re starting to get too much of the wrong kind of information. In transforming from movie-centric sites to general pop culture interest, some are running more and more content that has absolutely zero to do with movies. The attempts to speciously connect those types of fluff to the movie world are appreciated, but pointless.

Plus, there’s a continuum. The line is blurring, but it’s still there. News about James Cameron directing Avatar 2 is more film-based than the ten possible actors who could play Spider-Man which is more film-based than 3 of the 6 Lost lotto numbers hitting in real life which is more film-based than Bill Murray crashing someone’s karaoke party which is more film-based than a heavy-set woman’s violent reaction to the American Idol winners.

It’s all interesting for at least a nanosecond, but whether it belongs on a site that focuses on film is unclear.

That particular component doesn’t matter to me personally. If a self-proclaimed “movie site” starts running more and more content like “news” about Kevin Smith not being able to get on an airplane, I’ll just stop reading that site. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer websites that I care to go to because they’ve fallen prey to posting tangential trifles instead of sharing a genuine love or knowledge of movies.

I don’t think that means a love of movies has disappeared; it’s just harder to make money off of.

Personal digression aside, the real point here is that the internet has changed and is changing the way that we view movies, and now, some of the most influential sites out there are actively taking away from the greater conversation about movies and adding to the greater conversation about cultural detritus that will be forgotten until VH1’s “I Love The Twenty-Teens Strikes Back” goes on air and then gets edited to look like the Inception trailer.

At any rate, thanks for reading past the words “Dark Knight Rises script.”

What do you think?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.