A lot of people try their darndest to avoid spoilers. They don’t want the mystery of the “big thing” to be ruined for them. I can totally understand that. I know why they think revealing the surprise of a certain plot point in a movie or book is a bad thing. But I don’t have that compulsion to run away from spoilers. In fact, I’m the total opposite: I actively seek them out at times! You know why? I figured out long ago that it’s not necessary to come into a story without knowing anything about it.
Some people have compared spoilers to a magician’s act: once you figured out how the magician does the trick, it doesn’t seem magical anymore. This is a faulty analogy. You’re never supposed to figure out how a magic trick is done. With important plot points or major twists, they’ll eventually reveal them to you. They do have something similar though. Even if you know what the big thing is in advance, you’re still going to be amazed how they actually do it.
Take a look at the duo of Penn & Teller. While they have been known to do lots of stuff, they’re mostly known as illusionists/magicians. What sets them apart from others who perform the craft is they sometimes show the audience how the trick is done. So, they should be out of business now, right? I mean, based on the spoiler logic, there’s no thrill in watching a magician perform a trick if you know how it’s done! Yet Penn & Teller have been doing their “magic” act for almost 40 years now!
People who avoid spoilers don’t realize that it’s not the “big reveal” in a story that makes it a great story. Rather, it’s the entire story that makes the story great. The reveal may be part of what makes the story great but, in my opinion, it’s the story that leads up to that major reveal that’ll make or break the movie.
As an example, let’s look at the master of movie twists, M. Night Shyamalan. He first made it big when he had Haley Joel Osment see dead people way back in 1999. Since then, a lot of people have accused him of relying too much on “twists” in his movies. This is precisely why he rose to fame quickly. People were interested in trying to find out what trick he was going to pull in his movies. But let’s not talk about that: let’s focus on the movies themselves and if they’re any good. Specifically, let’s look at The Sixth Sense.
If you haven’t watched the movie, I’m going to be spoiling it for you right now: Bruce Willis’ character was dead all along. He didn’t know he was already dead and he thought he was just helping out a boy, Haley Joel Osment’s character, to get over the fact he can see and interact with the dead. At the same time, the boy helps Bruce’s character to realize he’s dead and move on.
Even if you know this, The Sixth Sense is still a pretty good movie. In fact, knowing that the character is dead improves on the experience. You appreciate the little details, such as Bruce Willis not talking to anyone or opening any doors (he is a ghost after all). He only communicates with the boy throughout and you never realize it until you see the big reveal.
A lot of movies are like this. Darth Vader is actually Luke’s father. Tyler Durden is the split personality of the “hero” of Fight Club. “Verbal” Kint was Keyser Soze all along. Norman Bates would dress up as his elderly mother and kill people. And the Planet of the Apes was actually Earth all along. But does knowing the secret of these films ruin them for future viewings? Of course not! They’re still great films worthy of more than one viewing! Why? Because they’re great films!
Same thing with video games. James actually killed his wife in Silent Hill 2. Snake wasn’t the main character in Metal Gear Solid 2. Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer in Heavy Rain. Tidus is just a ghost in Final Fantasy X. Television shows love to throw in massive surprises as well. Claire is the daughter of Nathan Petrelli in Heroes. Walter White orchestrated the entire “poisoning” of a boy in Breaking Bad. And, of course, there’s this little thing called The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones. There are a lot more but I think I made my point.
All of the things I’ve mentioned have these huge twists that you’d never see coming but, even if you do know what’s going to happen, they’re still worth going through the entire thing again. A good story will do that. They don’t need to hide behind trickery to keep you interested. No, they just need to draw you in with interesting characters and an interesting plot. If the story just relies on plot twists to keep you interested, then the story is not good and no matter how big the twist is, you’re going to be let down.
Knowing the plot twist is like taking a long trip. Sometimes, it’s not the destination that matters; it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile.
What’s your opinion on keeping plot twists secret? Whatever your thoughts on the matter may be, please leave them in the comments section below.