OK here is a great counterfactual exercise: if we had had the Internet (along with Twitter, Facebook, etc) would Star Wars have been ruined? Specifically, would the Empire Strikes Back been ruined?
Now I am not giving anything away when I say that the revelation in Empire that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father was one of the great cinematic experiences. Being someone who saw Empire at the movies back in 1980 (a week late thanks to a union strike by projectionists in Brisbane), I am now one of a diminishing share of the population who got to experience that twist as George Lucas intended. However, if the Internet had been available, that would not have happened.
We know this because the actor who played but did not voice Darth Vader, David Prowse, blabbed the revelation to an audience two years prior to Empire’s release. That revelation was actually reported in a Bay Area newspaper. Had it been today, within minutes, the entire world would have known. No one would have to go have the cinematic experience.
It is interesting to speculate how this might have changed Star Wars and its popularity. But we do know that, from the over half of the world’s population, who never got the opportunity for the cinematic revelation — because it was already part of popular culture — that there is still massive enthusiasm for Star Wars; so there is something more that resonates.
Nonetheless, I wonder if it is even possible for movie makers to try for big revelations (especially in sequels) any more. I wonder if the Internet is already changing what movies are on offer. Or I wonder if you want to have a movie with twists you have to go the Inception route so that no one can possibly reveal anything in a tweet.