Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

'Avengers Endgame' leak: Are we looking at fake footage?

Four minutes of alleged Marvel footage, complete with Arabic subtitles, was leaked last night. Here's what we know. (Don't worry: this article contains no spoilers.)

Robert Downey Jr, who plays Tony Stark/Iron Man attends the press conference for Marvel Studios' 'Avengers: Endgame' South Korea premiere. Getty Images for Disney
Robert Downey Jr, who plays Tony Stark/Iron Man attends the press conference for Marvel Studios' 'Avengers: Endgame' South Korea premiere. Getty Images for Disney

The internet was ablaze last night when around four minutes of alleged footage from the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame was leaked on Reddit, and quickly found its way to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and plenty of other corners of the internet. By Wednesday morning, Disney/Marvel seemed to have taken control of the situation, and every link we could find to the footage had been removed.

Plenty of people managed to see the footage before it was pulled, however, and it seemed to contain some pretty huge spoilers, showing how events may pan out in the movie. We’re not going to divulge any of that information here, but if you want to avoid spoilers, you might want to avoid any sites mentioning Endgame until the film comes out next week.

In the meantime, we’re intrigued by where the leak came from and, above all, whether or not it’s real. This is of particular interest because the footage seems to have been filmed in a cinema judging by the visible seats and, intriguingly, features Arabic subtitles.

Watch the trailer here:

There have been no public screenings

Sources at Disney have confirmed to us that there have so far been no public screenings of the film. Disney’s internal staff have not even seen the film. The press will not see the film until next Tuesday, April 23, and even the cast won’t see the movie until a surprisingly small-scale premiere in Hollywood on April 22.

This fact about the cast was confirmed to us at the Middle East Film & Comic Con over the weekend by none other than Benedict Wong, who plays Dr Strange’s sidekick Wong, and who was looking forward to seeing the movie next week himself. He added that cast members were only given the script for their own scenes, so nobody among them had seen the entire story.

This creates something of a quandary. If we have it on solid authority that there have not yet been any public screenings, then where did this apparent cinema footage come from?

Someone with deep pockets

The internet being the internet, it didn’t take long for the theories to start surfacing, and this is probably the most popular: an unnamed Middle Eastern royal who’s a big Marvel fan paid millions (or more) to have an early copy of the film and watched it in his private home cinema.

This seems highly unlikely, however. Firstly, Marvel has been so meticulous about keeping details of the film secret, it would be a very strange move to hand a copy over to anyone more than a week prior to release just because they fancy watching it and have deep pockets. Even when the big studios allow familiar and trusted journalists access to advance footage of a hotly awaited movie, non-disclosure agreements are signed and phones are handed in at the door, they don't just get sent a copy.

CinemaCon Directors of the Year Award recipients for "Avengers: End Game" Anthony Russo (R) and Joe Russo (L) speak on stage for the 2019 Big Screen Achievement Awards at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 4, 2019. / AFP / VALERIE MACON
CinemaCon Directors of the Year Award recipients for 'Avengers: End Game' Anthony Russo, right, and Joe Russo speak on stage for the 2019 Big Screen Achievement Awards. AFP

Let’s be clear about another thing, too: Disney does not need the money. The Marvel films alone print the green notes for them, and that’s without even looking at their host of other movies, TV shows, comics, merchandising, and so on. Disney pulled in revenues of more than $59 billion (Dh216.6bn) in the 2018 financial year.

Finally, even if we accept that a mystery person had managed to buy an early copy, he’d have to be a huge fan to hand over the sums likely to be required. That would surely suggest he may want to get early access to future films, too. That being the case, plastering the footage all over the internet when you’re the only person with access to it, complete with Arabic subtitles in case any more clues are needed, would be strange behaviour. This theory doesn’t add up.

The footage is fake

The footage in the clip is fairly poor quality thanks to being cinema-shot, but from what we can make out the footage on the screen does look of Hollywood quality. That’s not conclusive though. There are some very talented people in fan world, and some readily available software that can do a passable impersonation of a big-budget Hollywood production at a fraction of the cost. And people do this all the time. Google “best quality fan films”, if you don’t believe us. Some of the efforts available for nothing online really do put some of the efforts of the big studios to shame. There are certainly Marvel fans out there with the time, skills and inclination to tease us all with a fake fan film.

Disney is behind it

Could this all be an elaborate marketing ploy? Disney has form for teasing fans with scenes in Marvel trailers that never actually appear in the film, and Kevin Feige has already said that this film will be marketed a little differently to previous Marvel outings.

With Infinity War and Endgame shooting back-to-back and clocking in at around six hours in total, there must be plenty of footage left over that could be spliced together to whip fans into a false frenzy. The producers could even have shot some red-herring footage intentionally to throw fans down the wrong path.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: Brie Larson attends the press conference for Marvel Studios' 'Avengers: Endgame' South Korea premiere on April 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for Disney)
Brie Larson plays Captain Marvel. Getty Images

It would cost a few dollars, admittedly, but this is a $300 million film, with a marketing budget that could be almost as much again, and it will likely take over $2 billion at the global box office. A couple of million dollars for some fake footage to ensure fans are talking about the film ahead of release could probably manage to get signed off with ease. And fans are certainly talking.

Furthermore, Disney’s response has been notably muted. The links have been taken down, but that just gets people talking even more. There has been no condemnation, no promise to hunt down the culprits, no threats of legal action. In fact, there’s been nothing other than a letter from directors the Russo Brothers asking fans not to spoil it for others after they see it in cinemas, which was released on social media in a suspiciously timely manner, just a few hours after the leaked footage had landed, but made no reference to the leak at all.

Also, and again, no spoilers here, but the manner in which the leaked clips suggest the Avengers will defeat Thanos in the new film looks just a bit, well, obvious. After 11 years, 21 films and some awesome plot twists, you really would expect the writers and directors to come up with something a little better than “then we did this, and everything was OK,” which is essentially what the trailer hints at.

And the Arabic subtitles? A cover for Disney’s elaborate ploy? There needs to be some explanation for where the footage emerged from, after all.

Of course, this is all conjecture. Perhaps there is a rich Marvel fan sitting somewhere, practising his best evil laugh, having spoiled the movie for millions of fans. Or perhaps there’s a marketing guru sitting at Disney with a wicked twinkle in his eye. Maybe none of the above.

But Disney knows what it’s doing when it comes to secrecy, and whatever the explanation for the footage is, I’m 99 per cent certain that it’s fake.

Updated: April 17, 2019 06:09 PM

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