This Week’s Word Is “Spoilers.”
We love movies here at GeekDad and we love infographics too. We also love the deconstruction of popular culture. So, a book that uses infographics to examine the structure, themes, and tropes of genre movies – what’s not to love? Throw in a large slice of humor and you have, Spoiler Alert!: The Badass Book of Movie Plots. A book that you hadn’t realized, until now, was missing from your life.
What is Spoiler Alert!?
It’s a loving dissection of 38 movie genres including Fantasy Epic, Spaceship Thriller, and Superhero Origin. Taking a deeper dive for geeky readers there is also Time Travel Sci-Fi, Alien Invasion, Creature Sci-Fi, and Zombie Film.
Each trope is given 6 pages of treatment, all with the same, slightly naive, cartoon-style infographic. It opens with a film poster that pretty much manages to nail every poster ever seen for the genre in question. Underneath that there is “How to Name your Movie,” a section sure to please anybody who loves those “What’s Your Porn Star Name?” type games on Twitter.
After that, we have some essential lines of dialogue. Quick Quiz. Name the movie types from the following genre quotes (answers below!):
- “It was never the amulet. The power was with you all along.”
- “If you want to catch the beast, you have to think like the beast”
- It’s the Eiffel Tower, sir. It’s…It’s gone!
Beneath those is a tabulated form of several key components of the film, such as cast members, special gear associated with the genre (e.g. spy pens) or the type of emergency that forms the plot. It may also have something specific to the genre such as, “Choose a Creepy Nursery Rhyme.”
There then follows 4 pages that describe a typical 3 act film from the given genre. There’s one act to a page, with the 4th page taking a key trope of the film and deconstructing it in detail. Examples of this include “Somebody shows Joey the ropes,” from gangster films, the opening scene of just about every Christmas movie ever, and “The Fight on Set” for the showbiz movie trope.
The book’s final couple of pages are devoted to classic corny lines and a filmography of classics from the genres given; 5 for each genre. You’ll be pleased to know The Princess Bride is included. Which is a good job, as without it, the book would have lost all credibility. As a point of interest, the earliest film included on the list is It’s a Wonderful Life from 1940 and the most recent, Costume drama, Downton Abbey.
Why Read Spoiler Alert!?
You probably already know if this is the book for you from the description above. If you like films, you’ll love it! I immediately fell in love with it further upon reading the introduction. There’s a brief blurb the describes what the book is about and how it came to be, before “personalized introductions” tells you why the book is for you, depending on the sort of reader you are.
These include (and I paraphrase):
- Casual Film Fans and Newbies – the book aims to teach them about the concepts of genre storytelling.
- Screenwriters – Read this book to discover cliches and tropes, so you can avoid them.
- Bad Screenwriters – Discover a genre’s cliches and tropes and write scripts exactly like them.
- Film Buffs and Cinephiles – Read along and laugh at all the moments you recognize from the thousands of films you’ve watched. When you do this, know that your ability to do so is what secretly makes you better than everybody else who is enjoying the book.
- Friends of Film Buffs and Cinephiles – Read and memorize all the references and film jokes in this book, so when your friends talk about subgenres you can interject them into the discussion. This will keep your friends from looking down on you quite as much as usual.
- William Fichtner – The authors love him.
The introduction epitomizes the gentle humor of the book. Spoiler Alert! loves its subject but is happy to poke fun at movies too. It’s also happy to poke fun at itself along the way.
All in all, this is a fab book. Visually, it’s great and its contents work on many different levels. I’m a filthy casual, and I found the book both informative, funny, and very easy to agree with. It’s also easy to see it sparking many a conversation about subgenres and movie tropes amongst a group of hipster film students.
Spoiler Alert! probably isn’t “essential reading” but if you like movies, storytelling, and investigating the art of commercial success, then this book is definitely for you.
If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other Word Wednesday reviews, here.
Movie Genre Answers: Fantasy, Creature Sci-Fi, Disaster.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.