As everyone already knows, The Interview, the $44 million comedy about the assassination of Kim Jon-un that stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, has been dropped by Sony and will not be coming to theatres this Christmas or anywhere else in the near future.
Multiple theatre chains made the decision not to show The Interview after the “Guardians of Peace,” the organization claiming to have hacked Sony, threatened to invoke “9/11 style violence” against theatres that showed The Interview. Now, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the threat was not credible, and an incident of massive violence occurring as suggested by the Guardians of Peace did not seem possible. Whether a threat of that magnitude held any legitimacy is moot since Sony has seemed to have given the hackers (and North Korea) everything that they’ve asked for.
The problem at this point is not only the fact that Sony has decided to shelve The Interview indefinitely with no release plans of any kind, but that the studio has given these hackers legitimacy by caving to their demands. By caving, Sony is setting a precedent within cinema that could possibly hinder free speech and expression.
For those who believe there’s no chance of a studio taking similar actions of canceling a film that actively criticizes a political figure or dictator need not look any further. After Sony’s cancellation of The Interview, theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse were planning screenings of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police in place of the comedy. However, much like Sony, Paramount has effectively forbid all showings of Team America: World Police at many theatres, including the Alamo Drafthouse.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the comedy, Team America: World Police follows a crack team of the most patriotic marionettes on the planet as they battle numerous evil forces that include North Korea and their diminutive leader, Kim Jong-il. The film’s presentation of Jong-il is hardly flattering and it actively mocked and even killed the former North Korean dictator with absolute glee. The movie was made in 2004, and while it was controversial for all the right reasons (remember the puppet sex?) the filmmakers and Paramount expressed no regret or fear over the film’s content.
Now, it seems that Paramount is sending a message of cowardice as it actively stopped any potential public showings of a movie made a decade ago. While Paramount might claim the cancellation of showings for a 10-year-old film was for the personal safety of theatres and audiences, it’s just as likely that Paramount does not want to be hacked like their counterpart and competitor, Sony.
It seems that these hackers and their supposed North Korean employer have created a pervasive fear within numerous movie studios. The actions that Sony and Paramount have taken have given legitimacy to an organization that many people know nothing about, and their choices to cancel film premieres and showings might be repeated in the future by studios unwilling to show a movie that actively criticizes a public figure.
In the end, Sony needs to make a decision about The Interview soon. Whether that’s releasing it online or VOD, it needs to be done quickly or they and others might have created a new and potentially very harmful precedent in the film industry.
What about you reader? What’s your opinion on Sony’s choice to cancel The Interview? What about Paramount’s actions on Team America: World Police? Let us know in the comments below!