You do not have to look much further than the Batman toy line to see how dramatically the world of action figures has changed over the years. Kenner gained the license to do Batman action figures and released movie tie-in figures for the blockbuster Batman film... in 1990. Yes, one of the biggest superhero movies of all-time and there wasn't a toy tie-in line until a year after the film was released. As new Batman films were released, Kenner did tie-ins, but rarely did they actively tie in to the film, choosing instead to stick with generic Batman figures.
Later, when they did tie in to Batman Begins, they were so against spoiling the film that they actually released a Henri Ducard action figure and a "Ra's Al Ghul" action figure and not the real Ra's Al Ghul. In the film, Ra's pretends to be Henri Ducard, with a stand-in pretending to be Ra's Al Ghul. In recent years, though, especially with Lego's super popular toy sets (which often re-enact scenes from the movies before they are released), things have changed. Here are 20 films based on DC Comics characters that were (at least in part) spoiled by toy tie-ins.
20 BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN BATTLE
At a certain level, there are some spoilers that are just obvious from the description of the movie. For instance, if your movie is titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there is a very good chance that Batman and Superman are actually going to fight against each other. So when a Lego block set was released for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that showed Batman and Superman fighting, that wasn't that surprising. However, what was a bit interesting is just how they showed Batman and Superman fighting.
First off, the set showed that Batman was going to fight Superman in armor, but we already knew that (especially since it was what he did in The Dark Knight Returns, which heavily influenced the film). However, besides the armor, Batman's great equalizer is the fact that he can get access to kryptonite to affect Superman (we learned in Man of Steel of the existence of the dangerous mineral, when the Kryptonians tried to destroy Earth). So when it comes time to fight against the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight is well-equipped with weapons that shoot, in effect, kryptonite bullets and that is what we learned would happen in the film from this Lego set.
19 UNMASKING THE PHANTASM
In September of 1992, Warner Bros. changed the animated landscape forever when it unleashed Batman: The Animated Series, possibly the greatest superhero animated series ever produced. Of its realistic challengers, most would be shows that literally followed in the footsteps of Batman: The Animated Series, in the sense that all of the creative talent from BTAS carried over to shows like Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond. The success of the series led to Warner Bros. agreeing to do an animated film version of the show. Initially, the idea was that the film would be released straight to VHS (the equivalent of going straight to Blu-Ray nowadays). However, it was so popular that the film, Mask of the Phantasm, was instead given an actual release into theaters.
The film was roughly based on Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane's epic storyline, "Batman Year Two," which pitted Batman against a mysterious vigilante known as The Reaper. In this film, the Reaper is instead called the Phantasm. Just like in the comic book, Batman assumes that the father of an old love interest is the villain. In the comic, he was, but in the film, it is actually Batman's love interest, Andrea Beaumont, that is the Phantasm. This twist would have been ruined had you seen the action figure for the Phantasm before you saw the film, as she's unmasked right in the toy packaging.
18 WILL THE REAL VILLAIN PLEASE STAND UP?
In recent years, superhero films have gotten a whole lot better when it comes to squelching spoilers. In a lot of ways, it seems like it might actually come down to a studio imperative. If the studio really does not want spoilers getting out, there are ways of achieving that effect. Thus, when they don't do anything about it, it often suggests that they do not mind a little bit of spoilers leaking to help promote the film. That might not be the case, necessarily, but it certainly appears that way often. In any event, the producers of Wonder Woman kept such a tight lid on spoilers that we did not even know who the villain of the movie was going to be until ToyFair occurred.
At ToyFair, the action figure line for the film was unveiled and sure enough, there, in his mighty armored glory, was the villainous God of War himself, Ares. Of course, while just the fact that he was in the film was a major spoiler, it is important to note that the film still managed to keep it a secret exactly what kind of role Ares played in the movie (including who his secret identity was).
17 NOT A SURPRISE, BUT STILL
When it comes to spoilers in superhero movies, there are things like "Superman snaps General Zod's neck to stop him in Man of Steel" and there are things like "Clark Kent decides to wear a costume with a big S on it in Man of Steel." The former is a real shock and was thus heavily protected from fans knowing before the film was released, while the latter is obvious and was heavily promoted in the trailers for the film (especially the TV commercials). Then you have things like "Superman will come back to life in Justice League."
After he died in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was patently obvious that Superman would, in fact, return to life in the follow-up film (that was even before we saw his coffin vibrate at the end of the film). However, the marketing for the film, for whatever reason, decided to hide that fact in the trailers. They showed only the other heroes joining together to form the Justice League and not Superman's involvement. The toy marketing for the movie, though, had no such compunctions about spoiling that (rather obvious) aspect of the movie, and Superman toys were a major presence in the toy line for Justice League.
16 WHO IS THE LEAGUE UNITED AGAINST?
In a lot of ways, the DC Extended Universe's attempt to create a movie universe was not just based on the blockbuster success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was as if the Marvel Cinematic Universe was placed on amphetamines. While it took the Marvel Cinematic Universe roughly four years before the Avengers actually got together, after they were each individually given their own films, the DC Extended Universe tried to get it done in just one year. Producers decided to introduce them all in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and then have them form a team a year later in Justice League. However, while they were going much faster than Marvel in that regard, they then oddly chose to go contextually even slower in introducing their big bad guy.
Clearly, their major villain (like how the Marvel Cinematic Universe all built to the heroes fighting Thanos ten years into the franchise) was intended to be Darkseid, but Justice League decided to first have the heroes fight one of Darkseid's emissaries, revealed in this Lego set to be Darkseid's uncle, Steppenwolf, one of the first major superhero movie villains to make the fans (even those that read Justice League comic books) say, "Who?"
15 LEX IN CHAINS
There are certain things that you have to take for granted when you sit down to watch a superhero movie. One of those things is the fact that the movie will probably end with the superhero defeating the supervillain and saving the day. That does not mean that every movie will end this way (especially if the movie is part of a series of films), but most of them are going to go that direction. The trick, though, is what does "defeat the villain" entail? Thor has seemingly defeated Loki in very Thor movie that has come out, and yet Loki ends up free at the end of most of them. So, defeating the villain might just mean that you stop their evil plot.
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Lex Luthor manipulates Batman and Superman from behind the scenes to make them fight each other. He then later comes out from the shadows to actively force them to try to kill each other. A defeat for Luthor could be like during the John Byrne Superman run when Superman stops Luthor's plot, but Luthor avoids actual arrest. However, when the toy line for the film shows Luthor in a prison outfit, that seems unlikely to happen. Sure enough, though, Luthor ends up in this outfit at the end of the story.
14 SUPERMAN IN SPACE
What do you do about a film spoiler that spoils a film... but only the film as it was originally made? So, for instance, let's say that you had a film spoiler that told you that Andie and Duckie end up together at the close of Pretty in Pink. Would that still count as a film spoiler even though test audiences disliked Andie and Duckie getting together so much that they shot a new ending where Andie instead ended up with Blaine?
Those are the questions that you have to ask when you see the line of action figures for Superman Returns that included among it an action figure for Superman's space suit that he wears when he travels to the destroyed world of Krypton to see where he was born (the movie shows his return to Earth after that trip, hence the "returns" part of Superman Returns). The long sequence where Superman visits the wreckage of the planet and almost dies in the process was essentially cut from the film completely, making the "spacesuit Superman wears on his trip to Krypton" spoiler not so much of a spoiler in the end. However, he does wear the costume in the film (ever so briefly when he crashes back on Earth in the beginning of the movie).
13 KRYPTONITE KOLLECTOR
In general, when people discuss Batman's lack of superpowers, it is often explained that Batman actually does have a superpower -- he is obscenely wealthy. The whole way that he is able to be a crime fighting superhero in the first place is because he has enough money to pay for all of his wonderful toys, like the Batmobile, the Batwing, the Batarangs, the utility belt, the whole nine yards. However, even someone with Bruce Wayne's wealth is not necessarily going to be able to get everything that he wants, because there are certain rare items that others want, as well, and are not willing to part with, not even for the vast sums of money that Bruce Wayne can dish out.
One of these items, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was kryptonite. It was very rare and Batman needed to have it to build the weapons that he would need to take down Superman if it came down to defeating the super-powered alien. As Batman notes, if there is any chance that Superman might go bad, Batman has to treat that chance as an inevitability. Therefore, Batman has to steal the kryptonite from Lex Luthor's people in the film, an event spoiled by this Lego set. By the way, as it turned out, Luthor wanted Batman to steal it, as Lex was hoping that Batman would use it to kill Superman.
12 POOR VULKO, WE DIDN'T KNOW HIM WELL
This is another instance where a toy spoiled a movie, but the movie then changed after the spoiler was made, so that you could argue that the toy did not technically spoil the movie. Still, for the purposes of this list, we are still counting these examples where the toy spoiler was of something that was legitimately going to be in the movie (unlike, say, the Darkhawk action figure for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2) and was just cut from the film.
The next DC Extended Universe superhero film following Justice League was set to be Aquaman, and as a result, Justice League was designed to set up that future film as much as possible. Therefore, Aquaman's chief adviser in the ways of Atlantis, Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe), was going to be in the movie to set up his larger role in the Aquaman film (much like how Billy Crudup appeared as the Flash's father, Henry Allen, ahead of the still-upcoming Flash solo film). In the end, Vulko's scenes were cut from the movie as part of some of the many cuts made by new director Joss Whedon (although Vulko might have been cut even if Zack Snyder had stayed on the project), but we still got a FunkoPop tie-in toy figure of the character.
11 FEAR REVEALED
Years before Man of Steel kickstarted the DC Extended Universe, the original plan was for 2011's Green Lantern to be the film that started things off, with Angela Bassett's Amanda Waller being the connective tissue of the DC Extended Universe, much like how Samuel L. Jackson played that role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, when the film underwhelmed at the box office, those plans were scuttled. At the time, though, the plans for the Green Lantern franchise were seemingly unlimited. For instance, the film was designed to follow the comic book stories that dealt with the Emotional Power Spectrum in the DC Universe, with the idea that the film series would eventually touch on all of the other colored Lantern Corps.
Since the film series was canceled after just one film, though, we did not even see Sinestro become a villain, just hints that he might become one in the future. As a result, the main villain turned out to be Parallax, the yellow fear entity that existed in the Green Lantern Corps power battery for many years, which gave their rings the yellow impurity. Warner Bros. kept Parallax's involvement on the down low, but this toy set spoiled not only that he would be the main villain but that he would fight Green Lantern in the final part of the film.
10 BACK IN BLACK?
Yet another example of how a toy spoiled part of a movie that did not actually occur happened with the unusual circumstances of the making of the film, Justice League. Zack Snyder started on the film, but had to leave before it was completed due to a tragic loss within his family. Joss Whedon, who had famously been the creative force behind the first two Avengers films, was brought in by Warner Bros. to not only finish the film for Snyder, but also to revamp the film however Whedon wanted.
This led to Whedon drastically editing the parts of the movie that Snyder had already filmed while doing re-shoots and adding new plots and stories to the film of his own (this involved dramatically altering the tone of the film to make it more lighthearted). One of the aspects of Snyder's film that was dropped by Whedon was that when Superman returned to life, he would do so wearing a black suit, just like what Superman wore when he returned to life following "The Death of Superman" in the epic "Reign of the Supermen" story. So, this action figure set showing a Superman black costume promo was accurate for the film prior to Snyder's departure.
9 BATMAN LOVES HIS PUNS
In the world of superhero comic books, the whole concept of having pun-driven vehicles and weapons was originated by Batman, who debuted the practice fairly early on (before he even received his own solo series), as Batman soon had his own Bat-themed boomerang (the Batarang), Bat-themed car (the Batmobile) and Bat-themed helicopter (the Bat-Gyro). When Batman received his own TV series in the 1960s, the naming pattern went overboard, with the most absurd example being the Bat Shark Repellent in the 1966 Batman movie. While the "Bat" aspect of the names has waned, the basic naming idea has carried over into the films, as well, which was highlighted by this spoiler-filled Lego set for the Justice League film.
In the first major battle by the Justice League as a team, the heroes go to the Gotham City sewers where they encounter a group of Parademons. Batman brings with him the subterranean-equipped vehicle known as the Knightrcrawler (like the worm, the nightcrawler). The vehicle ends up more than holding its own against the Parademons, but things take a turn for the worse and Batman needs his superpowered teammates (especially the Flash) to help him when things go sideways underground.
8 THE (ATLANTIS) EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
In 1973, Hanna-Barbera created a cartoon series based on the Justice League called The Super Friends. The Super Friends were hamstrung by the heavy duty censoring of the era, so that characters were not allowed to really use violence to settle problems. Of course, that is what superheroes really do most of the time, so it caused a major problem for a number of the characters on the team. One of the hardest hit was Aquaman, who was quite strong, but could never be shown using his powers to hit people. Thus, he just became a bit of a joke as simply the guy who could talk to fish. The show was canceled after just one season, but it then ran and re-ran over and over for the next few years beforebeing revived in 1977. By that time, Aquaman's spot as a joke character was locked in.
Therefore, for the Justice League movies to work, people had to no longer think of Aquaman as a joke, and part of that was giving him something really cool to wear. His main costume for the films debuted in this spoiled-filled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice action figure.
7 THE END OF THE LINE
It is interesting when you look at the Lego block set for the Wonder Woman film and ask whether it adequately serves as a spoiler or not. On the one hand, it depicts Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor fighting against a giant Ares, and in the film, while Ares is rather large and imposing, he is not really exceptionally tall, and certainly not giant-sized. Not only that, but Steve Trevor does not actually team-up with Wonder Woman in her battle against Ares. He is too busy with his own mission (a mission that ends up getting him killed) to help her with hers.
However, as we noted, Ares is much larger than Wonder Woman, so we could chalk that up to just exuberance in the design of the figure, choosing to go larger-than-life for the villain design concept. Similarly, the set otherwise perfectly shows that the fight between Wonder Woman and Ares at the end of the movie does, in fact, take place on an air field. Trevor, for his part, is also actually flying a plane in the film itself, as well, so the fact that the set shows him flying a plane fits with the plot of the film well.
6 KRONA'S ORIGINS
One of the most important villains in the DC Universe is Krona, an Oan who became obsessed with observing the universe. His obsession grew so strong that he was able to break the actual fabric of time itself and accidentally created the DC Multiverse. In that same instance, he caused the creation of the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor, since the creation of the Multiverse formed an Anti-Matter universe, as well. These events ultimately led to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the entire DC Multiverse was almost destroyed. Krona (also the main villain of JLA/Avengers) was a major player as a behind-the-scenes villain in the Green Lantern film.
The design of the figure spoiled that the film made a rather large departure for the character of Krona. Now, instead of simply being an Oan like the beings who later became the Guardians of the Universe, in this film, Krona is actually a Guardian of the Universe himself. It is when he goes rogue from the rest of the Guardians that he ended up unleashing Parallax, who also ultimately kill himself. That seems about par for the course for Krona, whose plans rarely worked out in the end, despite how powerful he was.
5 THE FIRST SCUTTLER IS THE DEEPEST
The strangest aspect of the various Lego Movies has been the way that they have been able to turn what is, at its heart, a giant ad for Lego toys into some of the most creative and clever cartoon filmmaking of the last decade. The Lego Batman Movie is no exception. After he was the breakout character of The Lego Movie, Lego Batman starred in his own spinoff movie that is built around the concept of how dangerous it is for anyone, even Batman, to believe that he does not have to play within the rules of society. He thinks that he does not need anyone but in the end, it turns out that he badly needs friends.
In any event, one of the crasser commercial aspects of the film was the introduction of a new Batman vehicle, the Scuttler, which was designed specifically to make Lego-based weapons. The existence of the vehicle was spoiled when it was sold well before the release of the film. Amusingly, six months after the film was released, Lego hid its plans for a play set for Joker Manor (based on what Joker did to Wane Manor when he took it cover), despite the set appearing in the movie months earlier! They even called it a spoiler alert set!
4 BACK OF THE PACK REVEALS
In general terms, when a toy spoils a superhero movie, it is due to showing something that happened in the movie, like how the Lego play sets show scenes from the movie ahead of time or if a character is debuted early as an action figure. Sometimes, like with the Phantasm, the figures can even spoil the big twist in the film simply by existing. However, a trickier way of spoiling things is when it comes to the packaging that the toy comes in and all the writing that goes on on the back of those things.
Something that toy companies have long tried to come to terms with is how much should they write about the action figures on the back of the packaging. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero came up with the idea of doing dossiers on the back of the package, giving the basic history of the character. In the case of Man of Steel, the backs of the various action figures goes into a surprising amount of detail of the plot of the movie. Of particular note is how the packages reveal some secrets about Superman's costume that were not present in any trailers for the film otherwise.
3 UNDER THE SEA
As noted earlier in Vulko's spotlight, the next film in the DC Extended Universe is set to be James Wan's take on Aquaman, which will star Jason Momoa as Aquama and Amber Heard as Mera (along with the aforementioned Willem Dafoe was Vulko). Since it had to serve as a great introduction for the next film, Justice League made sure to spend a good deal of time setting up the events of Atlantis and the various interactions that Aquaman has with the other people of Atlantis (although obviously not as much time as originally planned, since Vulko got cut).
Therefore, the Lego set for the Justice League movie makes it clear that there is a major battle in Atlantis in the film, and if you think about it, it certainly does elude to the otherwise-unreleased notion that Atlantis was home to a Mother Box, which Steppenwolf must steal as part of his evil plan in the movie. The set lets us know the major role that Mera will play in the film, something that was unclear when Heard was cast in the role (we knew she would be in the movie, but not whether she would get an action sequence).
2 BORN TO BE WILD
Decades from now, when people try to sum up the hodgepodge results of Justice League through using two very different directors to finish a single film, the most likely phrase will be "CGI mustache." This, of course, is in reference to the fact that Henry Cavill worked on the many re-shot scenes with a full mustache on his face (as part of his role in the new Mission Impossible movie, which began filming after Justice League initially finished filming), with really bad computer graphics trying to hide the fact that Superman now has a mustache.
Besides the whole "bizarre face" CGI issues with Superman, the other major problem was that the CGI was being strained in many different parts of the film's production. This is one of those things that a filmmaker is never going to be truly happy about, due to ceding control of the special effects part of the film (and the budget of the film often dictating how good things will look like with CGI). However, Justice League looked particularly dodgy, especially on Steppenwolf. That is why it is a good thing that we could at least see what Steppenwolf was meant to look like in this action figure based on the villain.
1 EVERYTHING IS LESS THAN BLACK ZERO
In superhero movies, when creators are filling out the background players and the sort of "cannon fodder" characters, they often look to the comics to at least match a character in the film with a DC Comics character for a name, even if there was no real intent to do anything but share a name. That was the case that led to some interesting conspiracy theories about the inclusion of Tor-An in a Lego set for the "Battle for Smallville" in Man of Steel (the battle itself has made its way into the trailer already).
In the comics, Tor-An was a loyalist to General Zod, who infiltrated Earth along with a group of Kryptonians and took on a human identity before Zod was defeated by Superman, with Tor-An and the others working as sort of deep cover undercover. This led to a number of fans theorizing that Tor-An's role in the comic book would influence how he was used in the movie. In the film itself, Tor-An serves mostly as just an otherwise nondescript loyal soldier to Zod. Therefore, his inclusion in the film was a very minor spoiler, just that he was one of Zod's soldiers, and not a bigger spoiler (regarding a Kryptonian sleeper team).