The ‘Infinity War’ question: Is alluding to a new movie’s controversial end over the spoiler line?

Can we please talk about film review spoilers without spoiling anything for anybody? Can we respect even the most spoiler-sensitive wishes on this one? We can do that.

Can’t we?

I’m bad. Already I’m having a hard time playing this one straight. It’s all I can do to ROSEBUD IS THE SLED refrain from revealing THE PLANET OF THE APES IS EARTH! key twists or socko resolutions in the BRUCE WILLIS IS A GHOST movies of our shared cultural history.

Now that I have that out of my system: No more spoilers. Opening Thursday evening, the latest planet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Avengers: Infinity War,” gathers together the leaders of several related franchises, from “Iron Man” to “Captain America” to “Spider-Man” to “Guardians of the Galaxy” to “Thor” to the latest and most promising, “Black Panther.” The franchise reps have a common enemy, the Titan warlord Thanos, of granite chin and Josh Brolin voice, who’s after all six of the fearsome infinity stones which will grant him all known powers of the universe.

Saw it Tuesday afternoon, filed a couple of hours later, monkeyed with the wording on various headlines and hit send. The original headline for the online Tribune review referred to the film’s “sucker punch” of a conclusion, without giving away any details. The review itself glances on the “nervy fatalism” of the film’s outlandish cliffhanger ending (it’s the first of a two-part “Avengers” finale; things wrap up a year from now, in May 2019), again without specifics.

There, I thought. That shouldn’t irritate too many fans, although another voice in my head (on deadline it’s like a monologue festival in there) murmured in low tones: Who are you kidding? Saying when the movie opens is considered a spoiler by the hardcore spoilerphobes. Mentioning the movie’s title is over the line.

Soon enough, some came running, and tweeting. Thanks for alerting us to the sure-to-be-controversial ending, pal. After a few rounds of outrage and a consult with a copy editor, I put up a different headline. On Wednesday morning, as he does sometimes, entertainment editor Scott L. Powers put up a third, more direct headline, refocusing the attention on the Marvel movie’s most flagrant talking point, i.e., a conclusion that … well, that’s a spoiler.

I’m surprised every time on this score, or nearly. Every time I think I’m being cautious enough for the average intelligent reader, I hear from an impressively wide variety of responders expressing disbelief that I could be such a loser on the spoiler-sensitivity issue. Maybe it’s the headline vs. review question; several objected to any headline phrasing indicating anything about anything.

Clearly a lot of Marvel fans want to experience “Infinity War” as cold as they can, and I can relate. Promotional trailers are another realm altogether; I’m still surprised at how much was given away, for example, in the “Shutter Island” marketing about the probable mental state of the Leonardo DiCaprio character. Wait, is that still a spoiler?

We all have our moments, and it’s good to have the sounding board, the pushback and the special relationship a sharp editor or two (I have more than two, actually; I’m fortunate) can provide. I blew it, hilariously, early in my career as a film critic. Reviewing “Terms of Endearment” for the Twin Cities weekly City Pages, I thought nothing of discussing the third-act cancer afflicting Debra Winger’s character. There was no internet then, but I swear, somehow, an army of crazed Minnesotan objectors invented the internet as a way of protesting that review.

My favorite, though, concerns Gene Siskel and “The Crying Game.” Back in early 1993, when “Siskel & Ebert” was a national television force, their annual pre-Oscars program dealt in part with director Neil Jordan’s critically and commercially successful drama.

That film contains a significant reveal, let’s call it, around the midpoint (literally) (sorry). Every critic in the land played along, spoiling nothing, letting the film’s savvy marketing campaign keep its big secret a big secret, for weeks.

Every critic except Gene. On air, he blew the secret, and the spoiler hit the airwaves, and “Roger was just flabbergasted, astonished, slightly crazed,” remembers director and line producer Don DuPree. “Immediately he said: ‘You can’t say that!’ And it went downhill from there. It was one of the worst fights they ever had. On air, and then off air. Gene thought it was one of the greatest moments of the show. And I don’t think Roger ever really got over it. I think at one point he threatened to leave the show over it.”

The compromise that fateful taping day, according to DuPree, called for the very least they could do: insert a brief spoiler warning a few seconds prior to the part where Gene revealed all regarding “The Crying Game” and its love interest. The Tribune critic, DuPree says, “just felt it couldn’t be reviewed without talking about it, and that it had been in theaters a while anyway.”

And the funny thing? Gene and Roger, DuPree says, went to screenings “not wanting to know anything about a movie before they saw it.”

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