A responsible and principled film critic will follow a few simple rules:

1. ABOVE ALL, he will not include plot spoilers in his review that will detract from the moviegoer’s ability to enjoy surprises during the movie.

2. He will not rush to be the first with a review of the film… he will respect the movie studio’s wishes that the review be held until opening day. Why? Because the studios do not have to give critics a screening of their movie, and, in fact, they’re doing so less and less. It is a privilege to be allowed to see a film early, and thus critics should play by industry rules. Most Christian film review sites respect this. But others betray a lack of professionalism by publishing full reviews weeks in advance.

With Superman Returns, several prominent Christian film critics have already published reviews… and worse, they’ve given away one of the film’s biggest surprises.

Do you want somebody to spoil the surprises?
If so, hurry to read the review by Craig Detweiler at Hollywood Jesus. He drops a hint so big you’d have to be blind to miss it.

Hollywood Jesus’s editors should know better than to publish reviews… especially spoiler-filled reviews… early. They published a “preview” by Leo Partible last week that was, let’s face it, a review of the film.

Relevant Magazine has also posted their review early.

Also guilty:
David DiCerto and Catholic News Service. Their review went up a while ago, and it too reveals the film’s big surprise.

(Would you have been as startled by The Empire Strikes Back if you had read an early review that said something like, “Hmmm. What if Vader is really Luke’s father?”)

Now, if the film is out for a time and the surprises are common knowledge — The Sixth Sense has been out for many years, so if you don’t know by now, don’t blame others for talking about it — then it’s open season. But film critics exist in order to help moviegoers enjoy movies more richly, not to compete for an “I’m first! I’m first!” spot, or an “I’ve seen it and you haven’t!” privilege. And if they go and spoil the plot twists, they’re demonstrating a blatant disregard for the moviegoer’s ability to encounter surprise in the theater.

Sure, there are mainstream publications ignoring the rules as well. I’d expect publications that are competing for audiences to show off in this way. But I would hope that Christian journalists would aim for a higher standard of professionalism.

So if you want to enjoy a suprise or two along the way during Superman Returns, be careful out there. Some critics are taking away those oh-so-rare moments of “Aha!” and “No way!”

Oh, and to pre-empt the inevitable comment about my previous post: A) that wasn’t a review… not even close… and B) it contained no spoilers whatsoever. If anything, it contained my speculation about Kate Bosworth as an actress, but I could have easily written the same Top Ten before seeing the film.

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