Earlier this week five minutes of surreptitiously shot scenes from the upcoming mega blockbuster Avengers: Endgame was smuggled out of an advance screening and leaked out onto the internet.
If you don't have a keen interest in movies and/or superhero movies in particular then this probably doesn't sound like too a big deal. I mean, so what? A few nerds see a few movie scenes a few days earlier than they should. Big deal.
But it is, of course, a big deal. Avengers: Endgame is probably the biggest deal Marvel has ever dealt. The film is the final chapter, the climactic conclusion, the enthralling end, to their crazily ambitious, decade-long, intertwined and interweaving, multi-movie mind warp that is their "Cinematic Universe".
This thing began all the way back in 2008 with the release of Iron-Man, which I'm creaky enough to have seen in the cinema at the time, and is solely responsible for making cinematic universes a thing. There's been a few attempts to replicate it in the hopes of duplicating Marvel's box office dominance but no one has yet come near to succeeding.
The furtherest was Tom Cruise with his embarrassingly disastrous attempt at kicking off a Monster Movie universe with The Mummy in 2017, while the closest would have to be Marvel's comic book rival DC who for years shoved Superman and Batman into a horribly grim "dark and gritty" world that I found fairly unpleasant to spend anytime in. They've changed tack now, thank goodness, and are course correcting with their recent trifecta of Wonder Woman, Aqua-Man and now Shazam! which all allowed some fun to seep back in and were rightly afforded big success at the box office.
But those successes are about to be dwarfed by the big time box office success barrelling towards Avengers: Endgame. Biggest movie of the year? Of all time? Quite possibly. Yes, it's got some hefty competition at Christmas when Star Wars concludes its nine-part Skywalker saga, but Marvel's superstar superheroes may well have enough force to thwart it.
For one thing Endgame stars all the superheroes from all the superhero films Marvel has released up until this point. Big hitters like Iron-Man, Captain America and Thor, their mid-tier heroes like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Hawkeye and the new wave of spandex clad heroes like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Basically, every Marvel character who's been in any of the Marvel films from the last decade is in this film.
Which means that every big name star that's portrayed a Marvel superhero in the last decade is in this film. Has any other movie had such massive marquee appeal as this thing? Just to name a few: Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey jr. and dear old Gwyneth Paltrow all star. I don't even want to know how many hundreds of millions of dollars Marvel shelled out in wages alone for this lot.
With all that in mind of course super fans are hanging out to see this movie event. But watching some crummy, lo-fi, shaky iPhone footage of pivotal scenes is how they want to experience it? Really? What's the point? Especially when you consider the movie is literally only days away.
It hits cinemas on Wednesday and can be watched in an almost mindbogglingly array of configurations. I'm talking 3D, iMax, Vmax, Xtreme, Lux, Gold Class and the trusty old, bog standard cinema theatre. No matter which you choose you'll be treated to a razor sharp image, crystal-clear sound and the inherent joy that is part of the cinema experience.
None of which can be replicated by watching the leaked footage on a tiny phone screen with tinny sound. Maybe it's just a sign o' the times but I can't even pretend to understand why people would actively go out of their way to spoil their own entertainment.
I'll admit that I've dipped in and out of Marvel's long cinematic journey to this point. Their movie release schedule over the years was, shall we say, extremely enthusiastic and I got a little burnt out. But whenever I dipped back in, usually just the one a year was enough, I was always entertained and never felt short-changed.
They've truly done an admirable job of keeping things fresh and exciting and, most importantly, fun while sticking to the Marvel movie formula. Individually, the movies mixed things up - there's not much similarity between Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok for instance - but taken together they somehow, miraculously, all form a cohesive whole.
So you bet I want to see how this thing wraps up. I'm super excited to see it. Only when I do it will be in a retina frying, ear blowing cinema, not some lousy cam footage on my phone.