Why Did Roger Ebert Spoil “Super”?

SPOILER ALERT: I reveal a spoiler originally spoiled elsewhere.

For film buffs, the decision to read a spoiler can be a difficult temptation to overcome. With high ticket prices for movies, and even higher anticipation for popular movies, spoilers can provide certain audience members with the insight they need to decide whether or not they’ll be catching a flick. But for most moviegoers, having a film’s ending revealed unsolicited can ruin their theatre experience. Knowing this, reviewers do their best to avoid making any startling revelations.

Image by rexb via Flickr

In his review of “Super”, Roger Ebert let slip the fate of the character played by Ellen Page. In the first two paragraphs. Filmmaker James Gunn immediately took to twitter, and started hashtag jokes at Ebert’s expense. While a spoiler notice has since been attached to the review, I wonder — why did Ebert write the spoiler in the first place?

Personally, I disagree with his take on the movie. At the end of the review, He writes “’Super is a film ending in narrative anarchy, exercising a destructive impulse to no greater purpose than to mess with us.” To me, this is a positive and is what makes the film great — it being emotionally intense and challenging (a nice way of saying that it “fucks” with you). Ebert is no stranger to emotionally challenging films, but maybe this one scene went too far in his mind.

Ellen Page, as an actress, is easy to fall in love with. I can’t say that I’ve disliked any of her performances, whether they’re in low budgets like “Hard Candy” or big budgets like “Inception”. And, judging from his reviews, I’d say that Ebert feels the same way. I think that when He witnessed what happened to Libby (Ellen Page) in “Super”, He felt offended — how could they do such a thing to such an actress? He practically expresses this with SPOILER “when Ellen Page of ‘Juno’ stars in a movie, we don’t much expect to see her brains dripping.” END SPOILER This reminds me of the dust up He had with “Kick Ass” (another “real world” super hero flick) — how could they put that little girl in such extreme action scenes?

I don’t want to suggest that He always disregards an entire movie because of one scene, but I have seen this happen before. I once showed “Storytelling” to two young women, and I’m convinced that if they hadn’t witnessed a large black man having forceful sex with a little white woman, they would’ve liked the film more. I wonder if Ebert’s thoughts on “Super” might change a little if that scene were excised or re-written. Seriously, that one scene could make all the difference (kind of a compliment to the film, that one scene could make such an impression).

Of course, Ebert’s revelation didn’t completely ruin the movie, nor did it ruin my opinion of him. Personally, I usually agree with him maybe 80% of the time (though I’m not sure how to accurately determine that). In this one case of disagreement, I find something to agree with — Ellen Page is wonderful, and seeing her in such a sequence is a shock.

Should critic’s be so chivalrous in their reviews? Spoiling a movie in an effort to warn others? I dunno. That’s a topic for a blogger more articulate and better disciplined that myself. Certainly, some audiences don’t mind knowing a little extra about what they’re gonna spend their money on. Just be sure to attach a notice BEFORE posting the review. Might save yourself from a nasty hashtag or two.

Originally published at billreviewsfilm.blogspot.com on August 23, 2011.

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