A fascinating aspect of film-making is that once the editing on a film is complete and the picture is wrapped, the filmmakers essentially no longer have any real control over it. It is then in the hands of the studio and the marketing, and that can take things in a direction that the filmmakers might have preferred they avoid. For instance, when the trailer is cut for films, it is the marketing people who do that, not the filmmakers, and the marketing often wants to give away as much of the cool parts of a movie as possible.
This approach has carried over to the toy tie-ins to these films, as the toys naturally want to highlight some of the coolest parts of the movie, but the problem with that is that sometimes the coolest parts of the movie are also intended to be secrets. From hidden villains uncovered to major plot twists revealed, toys have been spoiling superhero movies for over two decades. Here, then, are 15 examples of toys spoiling superhero movies. Warning! Spoilers ahead!
15. THE MASK OF THE PHANTASM
One of the most famous movie spoilers that came via a toy was the action figure released as part of the 1993 animated Batman film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. In the film, Batman runs afoul of the vigilante known as the Phantasm, who is killing mob bosses. Batman believes the Phantasm is Carl Beaumont, the father of Bruce Wayne’s childhood sweetheart, Andrea Beamount. In the comic story that the film was based on, it was the father who was the mysterious vigilante.
However, in the film, it turned out that Carl Beaumont was dead and it was Andrea who was the Phantasm, avenging her father’s death. That is the twist that the whole film is based on (it’s called the Mask of the Phantasm, for crying out loud), but when Kenner released the action figure tie-ins for the film, the toy merchants decided to show Rachel as the Phantasm, plain as day.
14. A GIANT SPOILER
Everybody knew that Ant-Man was going to play a role in Captain America: Civil War. This was shown by the fact that Captain America and Falcon appear in the post-credits scene in Ant-Man’s film. In what was intended to be a super-cool twist in the film, though, Ant-Man was going to turn himself into Giant-Man to help save Team Cap in their fight against Team Iron Man.
However, pretty much every single toy line that tied into the film spoiled that surprise, with Giant-Man playing a major role in the marketing of all sorts of toys. In the Hasbro action figure tie-ins, he was even specifically part of the “Build-a-Figure” set, so he appeared on the packaging of every figure! Talk about a giant disappointment for the filmmakers who wanted to keep it a surprise (Giant-Man wasn’t in the trailers, for instance).
13. HIS LIPS ARE SEALED
Deadpool was handled so poorly in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that when the 2016 (much more faithful) version of Deadpool came out, Deadpool repeatedly referred to the earlier abomination in the film (Ryan Reynolds actually played both versions of the character). The biggest shock regarding the X-Men Origins: Wolverine character was that Deadpool, the famous “Merc with a Mouth,” had his mouth sealed up in the film!
However, the experiment that left Deadpool mute did not appear until later in the film. Early on, Wade Wilson was played by Ryan Reynolds as a talkative mercenary and that’s what appeared in the trailers. The action figure line, though, revealed that Wilson would eventually be experimented on and lose his gift for gab in the grossest way possible.
12. LEX LOSER
Naturally, people do not go to see superhero films and think that the bad guys in the film will win. It’s how the good guys win that is the key to the story. So when people learned that Lex Luthor was going to be the bad guy in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, everyone knew that Luthor would eventually lose.
However, that still doesn’t mean it was a good idea to not only release an action figure that showed Lex chained up and wearing a prison outfit (which he ends up wearing at the end of the film), but also show on the figure that Lex was going to lose his hair before the movie was over. Lex appears with all of his hair early on in the film and in all of the promotional trailers for the film he is shown with his hair.
11. A VISION OF THINGS TO COME
One of the major twists in Avengers: Age of Ultron was that the Avengers would combat the evil of Ultron with a synthetic being of their own. You see, when Ultron (originally created to be part of a global protection program by Tony Stark) became sentient, his initial goal was to build a better body for himself before he wiped out of all of humanity. The only way to save Earth, he theorized, was to get rid of the humans who were systematically destroying the planet.
The Avengers kept him from getting that body and Tony Stark’s private Artificial Intelligence, J.A.R.V.I.S., took over the body and became the hero known as the Vision. It’s a big twist in the film, but, of course, there was a Vision action figure announced before the film was released, spoiling his introduction.
10. A FIERY SPOILER
Marvel had played it pretty tight-lipped when it came to the plot of its November 2017 film, Thor: Ragnarok. It was so secretive that it was considered a major spoiler when it was revealed on a toy package that the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum’s character in the film) was considered to be a Celestial, despite no one having any idea what that meant in the context of the films.
However, a more substantial spoiler occurred when Funko Pop released its line of toys for the upcoming film, and one of them was the fire demon, Surtur, thus revealing for the first time that the fiery foe would appear in the film He subsequently appeared in one of the trailers for the movie, but the toy came first.
9. THE EYES HAVE IT!
When it comes to the spoilers regarding Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, the biggest was actually quite a bit more subtle than you would typically expect, even for a toy spoiler. However, if you collected all of the Iron Man 3 Lego play sets, the answer would soon become apparent to you. First off, let us note that Lego also released an “Iron Man vs. Mandarin” play set that did not play into the actual plot of the film at all, so it wasn’t like they were explicitly spoiling the film.
However, on one toy set, they showed a character to be infected with the Extremis virus and the character looked just like how Aldrich Killian appeared on the cover of a separate play set, thus spoiling that Aldrich Killian would be infected with Extremis in the final film.
8. MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
By the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America and Sam Wilson (the Falcon) had struck up a partnership. They agreed to help each other find the missing Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, at the end of the film. However, that’s all we knew of Cap and Falcon’s relationship going forward after the film.
In fact, at the start of Avengers: Age of Ultron, that’s Falcon’s only role in the film — trying to find the missing Bucky. However, when Falcon appeared with Hawkeye in an action figure two-pack tying into the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we discovered that Falcon was actually now an official member of the Avengers, something that did not occur until the end of Age of Ultron. That’s a pretty major development to be spoiled on the back of a toy.
7. A SPIDER-MAN SHOCKER
Spider-Man: Homecoming was another film where the particulars of the plot were well-guarded by Marvel until the release of the movie (like the twists regarding Peter Parker’s two love interests in the film, Liz and Michelle). We knew that the Vulture was going to be a bad guy in the film, but that was about it.
The toy line for the film, however, expanded our awareness of the villains by revealing that the Shocker would play some sort of role within the movie. It is true that the Shocker (both of them) did not take on a traditional supervillain appearance like in the toy, as shown here, but it is true that he was one of the villains in the movie, so it is still a spoiler.
6. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
This Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 spoiler, admittedly, is a case where you have to put some critical thinking into it if you want to come up with the spoiler aspect of the toy release, but it is there. Marvel was willing to reveal that Ego the Living Planet would appear in the film and that he would be Star-Lord’s father, but they would not reveal (initially) that Ego would be the main villain in the film.
If you look at the two-pack action figure release for the film, though, of Star-Lord and Ego, you’ll note the description says “Ego and Star-Lord share many of the same qualities as father and son. But when it comes to defending the galaxy as each sees fit, their approaches unquestionably differ.” Since Star-Lord’s approach is to be a hero, that means Ego must be different from that, hence he is a villain.
5. OKAY, BUT WHO’S KAECILIUS?
Very often, what the toy tie-ins will spoil is who the villain is in the film, as quite often that is the aspect of the film that the filmmakers do the best job of hiding. After all, the star of the film is mostly what people are there to see, so the trailers and promotional materials tend to spotlight them over the villains, even if the villains end up being very cool (like Loki in Thor).
That, though, leads to some funny instances where the toys spoil the villain of the movie and everyone’s response is, “Who?” That was the case with the toys for Doctor Strange, which revealed that the villain of the movie was an extremely minor comic book character named Kaecilius. Even after the reveal, people expected Baron Mordo (a major comic book villain) to be the real villain in the movie.
4. AN EARLY ADVANCE APPEARANCE
In the case of War Machine in Avengers: Age of Ultron, his figure avoided the spoiler aspect of Falcon’s action figure, as War Machine’s packaging did not reveal that he, too, joins the Avengers at the end of the film. However, in the case of War Machine, his very existence as a toy in the Avengers: Age of Ultron toy line was a spoiler!
This is because, up until that point, the only sign we had of Don Cheadle in the film was as a party guest in his non-superhero garb as James Rhodes. Similarly, in his previous appearance at this point, in Iron Man 3, he was decked out as the patriotic hero, Iron Patriot. So the fact that the classic War Machine armor got a toy revealed that not only would Rhodey suit up in the film, but it would be as War Machine and not Iron Patriot.
3. MASTERS OF WAR
The filmmakers of Wonder Woman kept the appearance of Ares as the villain of the movie tightly under wraps for most of the development of the film. He did not appear in any of the early promotional material for the movie. However, sure enough, he made his way into all of the toy lines that were released in the months ahead of the film’s ultimate release. Action figures, Lego sets, Funko Pop figures, he was everywhere.
At least the toys made sure not to spoil who Ares would be in the actual film, as that’s one spoiler which actually made its way to the release of the film, a welcome change of pace in the days of constant spoilers of films well before they come out.
2. THE PARALLAX VIEW
If you were a reader of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run, you would be pretty well set-up to know that Parallax, the yellow fear entity that inhabited the Green Lantern Power Battery (leading to Green Lantern rings having a weakness against yellow) and that later possessed Hal Jordan and turned him evil, would logically play a role in the Green Lantern film. That conflict was based on so much of Johns’ comic book work.
The character, though, did not appear in any of the trailers for the movie, so its presence was meant to be a secret. So, of course, Parallax was heavily featured in the toy line that tied in with the film! Not only that, but on this two-pack, it even says on the back that this is the “Final Showdown,” or as they say in Danish, “Slutkampen.”
1. A BREATHLESS BLANK
Dick Tracy predated the superhero boom created by Superman’s introduction in 1938 by nearly a decade (Tracy made his bow in 1931), but the only thing separating Tracy from, say, Batman, is that Batman wears a mask (and, okay, is a vigilante and not a cop). Tracy has one of the most colorful Rogues Gallery in comics, so we consider him as much of a superhero as anyone else.
In any event, in the 1990 Dick Tracy film, Madonna famously played the femme fatale singer, Breathless Mahoney, who got to sing an original Stephen Sondheim composition in the film! However, she was also the secret villain mastermind of the film, the Blank (who was a man in the original comic strips). The twist was plainly spoiled via the Playmates action figure that tied in with the film, as Blank’s mask was removable and Breathless’ face was underneath!
Have you ever been spoiled for a movie by a toy? Let us know in the comments section!
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