Long story short, Cole feels that to address the claims of the movie (whether or not it is indeed "based on real events") is to spoil the director's vision of how the movie should be seen, and even though you're not spoiling anything that happens during the film's run time, you're ruining the experience. Obviously I disagree. I think there are people who actively want to know whether or not its documentary footage is actual footage or the flights of fancy of screenwriters and producers. It's a fine line to walk, that's for sure, but ultimately the question is whether or not such discussion undermines the suspension of disbelief the director clearly intended to be there. It's an issue Cole and I have been going back on forth on for a few days, but now there's a twist involved, proving even further that the situation surrounding The Fourth Kind is quite unique.
Universal just settled a lawsuit filed against the studio by the Alaska Press Club for the news stories The Fourth Kind PR department manufactured under the guise of being legitimate news articles from the Alaskan Press. So the question I present to you is, are fake news stories crossing the line?
It's one thing to create an alternate reality surrounding your fiction, as was the case with Cloverfield, and another to try to shape reality to fit your fiction. Creating fake websites for organizations and characters can create a nice little game for fans to play, should they be willing to dive head first down the rabbit hole, but in the case of Cloverfield, or even The Blair Witch Project, all the viral materials they used were self-contained.
The Fourth Kind, on the other hand, not only banks on telling people its truth, but its online campaign involved creating fake news stories from real news sources, as well as entering its fictional characters into real-world databases. It was a silly move, that was apparently not sanctioned by the lawyers at Universal ahead of time, and they were rightfully sued for it (the settlement was for $20,000). Which makes me wonder if this will be the last time a movie ever crosses this line.
Obviously found footage movies are not going to go away any time soon, and studio's will continue to drop breadcrumbs online for fans to play along with, but I'll be surprised if any major future film has the audacity to hide its claims under real world umbrellas. What do you think? Is The Fourth Kind (or any film) immune from scrutiny because it may ruin the pristine experience the filmmaker is hoping for? Or is there a definitive ethical line that can (and has) been crossed in trying to create an environment surrounding a film?