What THE INTERVIEW Cancellation is Really About
Yesterday, five major theatre chains across North America – Regal Cinemas, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, and Cineplex Entertainment – decided not to run the forthcoming film The Interview from Sony Pictures. Following the decision by the theatres, Sony opted to cancel the December 25 release altogether.
The comedy written and directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (the creative duo behind This Is The End, Pineapple Express, and Superbad) stars Rogen and James Franco celebrity tabloid ‘journalists’ who somehow get an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un (played by Randall Park). Stoner antics and action comedy ensue, as tends to happen with Rogen’s films, and things don’t necessarily go well for the North Korean leaders, as piggybacking on this trip is the U.S. military looking to assassinate him.
The movie has been shelved following the threat of major terrorist attacks on any theatres that show the film.
It seems that the immediate conversation following these decisions has been misdirected. For reasons unknown, those on social media and anyone with an outlet are claiming that the hackers (‘they’) have won ( North Korea is believed to be responsible for the attack, according to anonymous senior U.S. government officials), that the U.S. has bowed to terrorists threats, and most ludicrous, that this is all somehow an infringement of freedom of speech and artistic expression.
To say that this is somehow a failure of civil rights is absurd and assumes that Sony made this film with the intention of some noble artistic expression. This isn’t some indie art film, this isn’t an eviscerating documentary, and this isn’t some protest effort; and by the way, there are some compelling docs about what is happening in North Korea. This is in fact a major studio comedy starring Seth Roger and James Franco that probably has something to do with these two guys bringing in $101M for Sony with This is the End, budgeted at around $32M.
This is about making money and that and that alone is the only reason why Cineplex and others pulled The Interview. The fear is that there will be those people who don’t want to go to the theatres during the holidays, however legitimate or unfounded these threats are.
This isn’t small one-theatre independent operators pulling it, and that’s because it’s a major Hollywood production and only the big theatre conglomerates were showing it. But because they show a lot of other films too, they don’t want people not to show up. And I’m fairly certain that Warner Bros., Paramount, and other major studios wouldn’t want Sony affecting their films either.
Christmas is one of the biggest times of the year for theatres, with plentiful releases running the gambit, from Disney’s musical Into the Woods to Paul Thomas Anderson’s stoner noir Inherent Vice to visual spectaculars Exodus and the Hobbit. There are also Chris Rock’s comedy Top Five and award front runners including Imitation Game that have already been released.
I think all films should be made, and everyone should have the chance to see as many as possible. There is a lot of good to take in at the theatres right now, but to decry the decision is to object against any of those people, any of those families all across America and Canada who may be at best shy and at worst completely averse to going to the theatre at all.
Those running Sony and these theatres aren’t U.S. Ambassadors, they aren’t policy makers or politicians; they are private entities acting in their own self interest and really, what is more American than that? America runs as a business, a capitalist society that drives people to make as much money as possible. And that was the motive here, money. And that there is American.
What’s in fact surprising is that this movie even got made in the first place. Over the spring, ABC Family green lit Alice in Arabia, a show about an American teenage girl forced by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family to return home and live with them. The show was picked up based on a preliminary script, but due to widespread protest, ABC Family decided to scrap it only four days later. That was before the show aired, let alone was filmed or a script was even finalized. If anything, that’s far more egregious, that’s bowing to speculation and not allowing the art to be created.
That The Interview got made and went through featuring the assassination of a real life world leader is rather impressive, as well as incredibly risky and maybe totally stupid (Steve Carrell’s thriller based on a novel and set in North Korea, set to film in March, has been scrapped, it was announced today). But even this movie isn’t made out of artistic expression or some championing of rights. It’s mostly all about business.
That’s why ‘they’ haven’t won. The film has been made, just as Transformers 4, Blended, and Are You Here were made, and really, who likes those crimes against good taste (and they all are incredibly sexist, by the way). Because America is a business, it will remain open, and inevitably, eventually, somehow, The Interview will be available. Even The Human Centipede ended up on Netflix – both of them! They made two!
On a more serious note, what is actually unfortunate and more troubling is that the decision by Sony has made them some sort of criminal, deflecting attention from hackers who have leaked data, ostensibly stealing property, and making terror threats. Sony was the victim of hacks, just as scores of female actresses saw their private data made public this summer, and while it’s harder to feel sympathy for a massive company, especially when some of the less savvy employees think its okay to send salacious emails via their work address, the hacking is a still major problem.
It’s unfortunate that this had to happen. However, let us not conflate consequences nor lose sight of the real issue. And as a film lover, I would be saddened if people didn’t feel safe enough to go to the theatre this holiday season. Even if there wasn’t anyone hesitant (which is hard to believe), it’s a move by theatres protecting their own interest. If theatres need something to fill in the slot, just show Boyhood again. Now there is artistic freedom and expression.