There’s been a bit of a dust up between Crikey’s own film nerd Luke Buckmaster and The Age’s Jim Schembri over the latter’s unfathomable decision to give away the ending to Scream 4 in his review of it on The Age website. Luke covers the initial incident in detail at the Cinetology blog, but the precis of events is that Schembri’s review had the spoiler online on Thursday, but it was absent from the print version and was removed from the online version. Schembri took exception to the suggestion that he’d posted a spoiler and began ranting about a time machine being needed to update the copy in his print review.
Today Schembri offered up his explanation, he hadn’t made a mistake, he’d “decided to create a online event” because “I wanted to become the scourge of the Twitterverse as I led the hordes down a merry trail of cryptic messages and misdirection”. An interesting goal for someone with fewer twitter followers than a smart-alec blogger from Albury, who barely interacts with the service.
Even if we accept that Schembri decided to post a spoiler as some kind of experiment to “punk” twitter, there are a few questions left unanswered.
Firstly, if this was some elaborate twitter prank why did Schembri decide to use The Age website as the place to do it? There are plenty of people who use the internet but don’t use twitter, you could make an argument that Schembri is for the most part one of them, so why spoil the film for them? I’m pretty sure that the bulk of people who clicked on Schembri’s review were film fans, why break one of the cardinal rules of film reviewing and spoil it for them? How did ruining the ending for these people teach twitter a lesson?
Secondly, if the spoiler was an elaborate prank, why not actually misdirect people by posting a fake spoiler? The twitter outrage that he hoped to generate would still follow, but it wouldn’t ruin the film for all of the afore mentioned innocent bystanders who read the review.
Another question relates to Schembri’s “time machine” schtick. Schembri argues that he couldn’t have changed the print review after the fact because it “had been locked on the page about 36 hours earlier”, is he genuinely asking us to believe that they can’t change copy at The Age within 36 hours of it going to print? Obviously that can’t be the true, or Fairfax really would need a time machine to print anything even remotely up to date.
The final question though is still why? Why would an experienced film reviewer spoil the ending to a film for a large number of readers in the hope of enraging the users of a service he barely uses? Why would anyone think that a mainstream film reviewer spoiling a movie somehow makes a statement about “spoiler culture”?
I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give Schembri’s attempt to explain away his spoilerific review one star.