Film The Guardian's posted a review of The Dark Knight Rises by Xan Brookes. I've not read it. Not because I don't want to -- I'm dying to know if Nolan's done it again. But as ever before wading in I skipped to the comments, in this case the six pages of comments complaining about the number of spoilers in the review, and decided to give it a miss. There are people in their also giving a sterling defence of the reviewers art wondering what actually does or not constitute a spoilers including fellow reviewer Catherine Shoad who suggests that nothing in the review does give away the plot and welcoming someone to email them afterwards to tell them if they did feel spoilt in the end.
I do think the point here is the difference between saying what the film's about, the basic plot and actually offering a synopsis and The Guardian time and again does fall into the latter category in the lengthier pieces. When I write I'm careful to have a look at the synopsis supplied by the film/television/audio company and stick with that. If there's nothing then clearly the film/tv show/cd's best enjoyed without knowing any of those and although the job's harder it's more worthwhile in the long run because you don't then end up with six pages of comments complaining about spoilers.
The problem with the approach taken here is that it then leaves the viewer waiting for plot points/character beats/incidents to happen, to an extent that's trailer syndrome, but it's also true of these reviews. One of the best reviews I've ever seen was the elliptical three pager for Inception which appeared in Empire Magazine which said practically nothing about the plot, explained nothing and yet left the reader with enough information about whether this was the instant classic it was. All three of The Guardian's reviews (which I've just checked) within paragraphs explain everything which happens in the first hour and I'd argue pretty damaging to people's enjoyment because they give away the reveal of Cottiad's involvement.
The Observer's Philip French is pretty notorious now. He is a great reviewer, Mark Kermode says so. He's literate, clever, always finds a new angle (his The Iron Lady review opens with a quote from Longfellow) and when he's really firing you always come away having learned something. But after you've seen the film. As one commenter says underneath his go at Inception "did he give the plot away again?" The final paragraph of his Ghost Protocol is a classic of the form as he tells us the location of the coda which if you remember ruins one of the major plotlines. Plotwise The Artist is purposefully simplistic and if you read French's review beforehand you'd be ready for everything which happens.
Updated 18/07/2012 I offer Time Out and Lovefilm for examples of how to review the new Batman without giving away any honking great plot-spoilers.
Updated 23/07/2012 Seen it and Xan Brooks's review is indeed a spoilery synopsis that describes most of the plot. It lack details but I'd certainly disagree with Catherine Shoad that it doesn't give away necessary plot points. I'd say it ruins at least three surprises and though there are plenty more, I don't see it as the reviewers' job to simply didactically tell us what's in a film, rather to tell us if its any good.
Here's Kermode's review in comparison, which gives away nearly nothing whilst simultaneously says loads of useful things, not least to underscore its magnificence.
Even he says something which somewhat spoils the ending. Not in a detrimental way, and just in passing, but if you've got my kind of brain it may play on your mind.
As for my review. Like I said. It's magnificent. That will do.