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Anatomy of an internet hoax: How so many people were fooled by a fake James Bond trailer
The brief flurry over the fake Come and Dive teaser is an instructive case on the dangers of online journalism
 
We're guessing Bond would have seen through this ruse.
We're guessing Bond would have seen through this ruse. (Facebook.com/Skyfall)

On Thursday, the internet briefly lit up with a totally unexpected announcement: The as-yet untitled 24th movie in the James Bond franchise had suddenly been revealed. A 30-second teaser trailer revealed that the film would be titled Come and Dive, which would see Bond "swept away by a dangerous love story. As MI6 rises from its ashes, 007 must protect a mysterious stranger and unveil long forgotten secrets."

The only problem? All of that — literally all of that — was totally fake.

The alleged trailer for Come and Dive has since been taken down due to a copyright claim by Sony Pictures Entertainment, but you're not missing much. As an off-brand Adele sings lyrics like "Ocean lingers in a teardrop," the video cuts to a mysterious woman standing alone in a cemetery. James Bond stands behind her, flicking his eyes back and forth. There's a brief shot of an empty dock before "October 2015" appears on the screen, and then the familiar 007 logo and the hashtag "#COMEANDDIVE."

In short, it's the kind of slapped-together knockoff that you can find for pretty much any highly anticipated movie with a simple YouTube search. (Here's one for Batman vs. Superman, and here's one for Star Wars: Episode VII.) The key difference here is that Come and Dive managed to fool several normally reliable websites, including The Wrap, FirstShowing.net, and FilmDrunk. (All three have since posted sheepish corrections.)

How did this happen? The brief, strange Come and Dive fiasco is an instructive example of how quickly and thoughtlessly bad information can be disseminated.

Any blog that specializes in film also specializes, by extension, in promoting film trailers. Just 15 years ago, the weepy melodrama Meet Joe Black got an unexpected box-office boost because it was the first movie to host a trailer for Star Wars: Episode 1; fans of the intergalactic franchise would literally buy a ticket, watch the trailer, and leave.

We don't live in that kind of culture anymore. Trailers debut online, and high-profile blockbusters routinely parcel out many distinct trailers in the months before the movie itself is released. Each trailer inevitably spreads like wildfire through blogs and social media, and spawns countless blog posts offering analysis and speculation. Today, a studio would be absolutely insane not to make its trailers available on YouTube, where they can quickly earn mountains of free publicity for the movie and millions of views.

Every website has its own bar for what constitutes a newsworthy trailer, and studios continue to push the line in an attempt to drum up a little more hype. (You've probably seen the brief "teasers" that premiere on Vine or Instagram, or those that exist solely to preview another, longer trailer that will debut shortly afterward.) But wherever you draw the line, film bloggers play an essential role in getting high-profile teasers to their readers as quickly as possible — and it's hard to imagine a higher-profile teaser than a totally unexpected glimpse at a new James Bond movie, complete with new title and song.

Unfortunately, the nonstop flow of trailers has also encouraged many film writers to drop their guards. The Come and Dive hoax reportedly kicked off with a press release sent to numerous film blogs. I didn't receive it, so I can't speak to its quality — but it was apparently good enough to fool a number of writers, who are on the receiving end of such emails all the time.

That said, anyone who had taken even a moment to analyze Come and Dive would have sensed that something was awry. The 24th Bond doesn't even begin shooting until later this year, which would mean that Sony made this bizarre teaser months before a single frame of actual footage had been shot. The video invited fans to visit the official 007 website, which says absolutely nothing about Come and Dive. The YouTube account that posted the video had the Sony Pictures icon as its logo, but had never posted a video before. And the theme song for a Bond movie is an even more closely guarded secret than the title; it would be totally unlike Sony to reveal it, without comment, in the background of the trailer.

To be fair, many of those who were initially drawn in by the hoax were quick to debunk it. Less than an hour after the video was posted, a deputy editor at Total Film discovered that the alleged footage was culled from Daniel Craig's in-character appearance at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics. But why wasn't that work being done before the trailer was disingenuously promoted on Twitter as "the mystery of Bond 24's title/teaser trailer"?

Because from a sheer traffic perspective, the value of being first generally trumps the value of being thorough — and with trailers, which are simultaneously available to everyone, the value of being first is exponentially greater. This is an industrywide problem, but it’s rare to see an example as pure as Come and Dive, in which bad information was so quickly disseminated and so completely debunked within the course of an hour.

"I don’t know where this came from. I didn’t even know they began production already," wrote a blogger at Brand New Cool, whose ostensible job is to figure all those things out before writing a post about it. This fiasco is a reminder that those are questions film bloggers should always pause to answer — or we'll have plenty more Come and Dive situations in the future.

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

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