By Dustin Brewer
Dustin takes a look at Sony’s decision to formally pull the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy “The Interview” from it’s scheduled Christmas Day release.
Only a week away from its’ release, Sony Pictures has announced that they will be pulling their major Christmas Day release; “The Interview” following a hack of their system, the release of hundreds of personal/private emails and multiple threats on the studio as well as theaters should the film be released.
What makes this so controversial? The film follows a clueless reporter and his producer (played by James Franco and Seth Rogen) as they are invited to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, before they go however, they’re recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
Almost since the first trailer debuted, North Korea has threatened retaliation should the film be released, and though they’ve yet to claim credit for the Sony hack, it’s more than likely they’re in some way behind it.
From the trailer it’s clear that this isn’t a film meant to be taken seriously on any level. It’s a film starring two of the biggest goofballs in all of Hollywood and it has one of the most absurd plots you could imagine; “James Franco and Seth Rogen get recruited by the CIA to assassinate a dictator.” It seems left field but then you remember that this is the same group of people that brought you “let’s all play ourselves and we’ll live through the rapture and apocalypse” aka last year’s hit “This is the End.”
Earlier this week, Sony announced that they wouldn’t blame theater chains that decided against showing the film, given all the controversy surrounding it. That was followed by the group taking responsibility for the hack issuing a threat of a terrorist act to any theater showing the film. That led to the major theater chains, including; AMC, Regal and Cinemark to decide against showing the film, with Sony finally admitting defeat today and announcing that they’d pull the film from release altogether.
Opinions have been strong on the subject, with celebrities like Rob Lowe, Damon Wayans Jr and Judd Apatow voicing their support for Rogen and Franco and who see this move by Sony as essentially letting the terrorists win.
Even on my Facebook page, all I’ve seen today has been reactions to the news of the movie being pulled as giving into terrorists. While this sounds like a pretty drastic reaction to a movie being pulled, I can’t help but be worried as this has set a terrifying precedent going forward.
Sony was really backed into a corner by all this, especially as the threats mounted and theaters pulled out of showing the film for fear of possible attacks, it was a lose-lose situation no matter what.
But pulling the movie completely, (it reportedly won’t even see a VOD or blu-ray/DVD release) is sending a message that suggests creativity and freedom of speech can be stifled if we’re pressured hard enough. With this precedent set, what if when the next Avengers is set to be released, a group hacks Marvel and says “It’s appalling that you show so much waste and destruction in a movie while tons of nations are experiencing such devastation, pull the film or else.” It leaves the door open for people to push and threaten their way to shaking our own freedom of speech, a constitutional amendment since this country was founded.
I’d love to see ‘The Interview.’ I wanted to see it before all this controversy arose and now I want to see it more than ever, not just because it looks hilarious, but because now, it’s become something of a martyr in Hollywood, a rallying cry that’s bigger than anyone can imagine a comedy from some stoners being.
In 2004, Trey Parker and Matt Stone released “Team America: World Police” which featured Kim Jong-il as the main antagonist and showed him as a lonely madman, even having him sing a song called “I’m So Ronery.” Parker and Stone stood by their film and while it was met with a little controversy, nothing happened after it was released.
For a minute, it seemed like rebel theaters were going to take a stand, scheduling showings of “Team America” in place of the cancelled “Interview” but shortly after that story broke, Paramount announced that none of those showings would be happening either.
So now here we are, acquiescing to an anonymous group of computer hackers and standing at a weird crossroads for creativity and freedom of speech. If “The Interview” never sees the light of day in any form of release, then this will surely be remembered as a benchmark in censorship.
And as a lover of movies, originality is something we’re supposed to be celebrating, not burying.