Is a revelation in a TV trailer for Ridley Scott's new science-fiction flick just a calculated attempt to increase hype?
Ever since the first flick blogger put fingertips to typewriter (and probably long before then), eagle-eyed cineastes have been trying to work out the plot of this or that new flick before it has even arrived on the big screen.
For flick marketing teams, it's a surefire way of gaining free exposure for your product: sow enough seeds, and "seed" enough exclusive unlockable content, and you'll soon be able to sit back and watch the flick promote itself via social networks and flick forums.
A key part of such a dynamic is, of course, the trailer, along with its cousin the TV spot and its newer, internet-era offspring, the trailer-for-trailer and the flick clip.
We should also mention the "viral videos" featuring footage not seen in the flick itself, which fill out the backstory and generate further interest among fans.
Prometheus, the uber-hyped new science-fiction flick from Ridley Scott, "set in the universe of Alien", has had all the above in spades.
I wrote in a post earlier this week that the flick and its marketing campaign were in serious danger of eating themselves, so many spoilers and potential spoilers were being revealed in promo footage.
Well, it now seems that the ever-increasing demand for more information from fans – and the ever-expanding determination of marketing teams to give it to them – may just have given birth to a Prometheus spoiler of epic proportions.
YOU THINK YOU WANT TO READ ON, BUT YOU REALLY DO NOT.
I HAD TO DISCOVER THIS POTENTIAL SPOILER FOR PROFESSIONAL REASONS, AND I WOULD NOW DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING TO "UN-DISCOVER" IT.
TURN AWAY NOW!
Earlier this morning I received an email from a Prometheus fan alerting me to the outrage forming on the forum of the film's official website.
Someone with rather better eyesight than myself has taken it upon themselves to scour one of the latest TV spots for the movie, and has apparently discovered a shot in which android David, played by a bequiffed blond Michael Fassbender, appears to have been decapitated.
Yes, you read it right.
The android in Prometheus gets it in truly nasty fashion.
Perhaps not the most shocking development for an Alien movie, but something that one would nonetheless probably have preferred not to know (you're really regretting reading on now, aren't you?)
There are wider issues here, of course.
First of all, is this a mistake by Scott and his team, an error which would never have been exposed in the pre-internet era and which fans have a right to be pretty angry about? Or even worse, was it a deliberate "seed" designed to catapult the film's already rampant hype into something truly stratospheric? Thirdly, there exists the possibility that some particularly nefarious troll has photoshopped David's head into a genuine screenshot from the TV spot and posted it on the film's official forum just to annoy people.
Oh, and for good measure, it's possible the head doesn't even belong to David: Scott has said there may be more than one android on board the Prometheus, and there are certainly at least two prominent blond(e) crewmembers.
I know, I know: it's a veritable Russian dolls set of possibilities and ramifications, and one which I'm not entirely sure is helping improve my goodwill towards the Prometheus creative team.
There's something very irritating about the (alleged) possibility that marketing people are deliberating seeding spoilers here in order to boost interest.
The Android's Noggin Scandal, as it will almost certainly not come to be called in future years, comes on the same day as fanboy blogs revealed that the American release of Avengers Assemble (titled The Avengers anywhere sensible) has not one but two post-credit-scenes, designed to pique fans' interest and presumably irritate cleaners waiting to clear up popcorn and sticky sweets.
I remember the days when you turned up to the cinema, having perhaps seen one or two trailers for the film, and duly sat down to enjoy the thing.
In 2012 some of us probably know more about what we're about to see before the opening scene begins than many people used to by the end credits.
But who is to blame: the rabidly avaricious internet-era filmgoer, or the cynical marketing type who gives away too much?
Oh and while we're at it, now might be a good time to harness the power of the web to clear up the mystery surrounding poor David's head.
Can anyone out there manage a clearer screenshot than this one? My best efforts haven't even been able to deliver much more than a jumble of pixels.
What we need is the shareware equivalent of one of those police computer programmes that sharpens facial features, and somebody who knows how to use it.
Can you help?
Science fiction and fantasyRidley ScottBen Childguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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