May 19, 2005 -- -- Even before the opening credits began rolling on "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," thousands of fans around the world already knew precisely who would win, who would lose, and how the sometimes whiny Anakin Skywalker would become the evil and considerably less whiny Darth Vader.
Through what are popularly known as "spoilers," many "Star Wars" fans have been sharing almost every shot and revelation found in the new flick, which George Lucas claims will be the final film in the "Star Wars" saga.
Though some filmgoers avoid learning the ins, outs, twists, turns and surprise endings of movies, other seek out every detail they can find, and few fans are as voracious as "Star Wars" fans.
What's a Spoiler?
When "The Empire Strikes Back" debuted in 1980, fans lined up, waiting with bated breath to learn the fates of Luke, Leia and the evil Empire.
Most audience members were shocked by the film's ironic and now notorious twist -- Darth Vader revealing he was Luke Skywalker's father.
That piece of information -- something that if you knew it before you saw the film, might ruin it -- is known as a spoiler, and the Internet has made it easy for everyone to find them.
Ask "Star Wars" fans if spoilers are good or bad, and you'll hear more opinions than there are creatures in the Mos Eisley Cantina -- where Luke, Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi began their adventure nearly 30 years ago.
"Some people care about the flavor of a movie, the characters, that sort of thing, and some people care about what happens next," said Michael Isbell, a writer known as Mr. Sheldrake on the popular entertainment news Web site Ain't It Cool News. "For the 'what happens next' crowd, the spoilers are killer if you find out about them."
Ain't It Cool News relies on a network of informants who go to film screenings, work on movie sets or for movie studios. They receive everything from casting rumors to unauthorized images and videos straight from the sets of movies still in production.
They are careful to warn readers of potential spoilers in their stories, so as not to upset those who would rather wait until opening day to find out what happens.
"We highlight a story with a red tag so that if anyone doesn't want to read spoilers, they know not to read that story," he said.
And Isbell acknowledges not every piece of information they post is fact.
"We very carefully label rumors as rumors," he said. "Hey, if it can happen to Newsweek it can certainly happen to Ain't it Cool News."
Good or Evil?
Joshua Barkowski, a self-proclaimed "Star Wars" nut since the first film's release in 1977, says that normally he avoids spoilers, preferring to be surprised by a clever twist rather than spend the months before opening day analyzing or criticizing it.
But for him, "Star Wars" is different. "The whole movie is a spoiler," Barkowski, 34, said. "If you saw the original trilogy, then you already know what happens -- who dies, who lives and who Anakin becomes."
He says he knows so much about the "Star Wars" universe -- its characters and worlds -- that there simply aren't any surprises left.
"When ["Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace] came out I avoided spoilers because no one had any idea what Lucas was going to do," he said. "But with this last one I read everything I could because I already knew what was going to happen."
Other fans take the exact opposite approach. Sandy Lelievre, who says the original "Star Wars" films were the defining adventure films of her youth, says she's done everything outside of blinding herself to avoid hearing spoilers about the new film.
"I don't want to pre-judge the film based on spoilers," said Lelievre. "I want to take the movie in fresh so I can make up my own mind about it."
Lelievre admits, though, that it's been tough to surf the Net without seeing or reading something about "Revenge of the Sith" that she doesn't want to know.
"I've had to avert my eyes on certain Web sites as to not be sucked in by the info out there," she said.
Spoiled by Spoilers?
Of course, "Star Wars" fans are not the only movie buffs trying to outwit filmmakers by learning their tricks before the movies hit the silver screen.
Films like 1992's "The Crying Game" and the recent Oscar-winner "Million Dollar Baby," have had their twists revealed and some would even argue were spoiled by spoilers.
But Isbell says films with long, sweeping story arcs -- like the "Star Wars" saga or "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy -- where characters make dramatic transformations and overcome grand obstacles, are the most tempting to fans looking for inside info.
"The reason spoilers are important for these [types of films], is that it involves revealing a key turn in a character's life that people feel deeply about," Isbell said. "People want to participate in it. They don't want to just watch it and when you know the spoiler you can't participate in it anymore."
Other movie buffs see spoilers as the ultimate way to get involved in their favorite movies.
Barkowski says it's that childlike sense of excitement that has driven him to seek out every spoiler, photograph and video clip he could get his hands on.
"It's like Christmas," he said. "You want to be surprised when you open your presents, but if you figure out where your parents are hiding them before Christmas -- come on, doesn't everybody sneak a peak?"