Rogen: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?
CIA Official: Yes.
A movie with the inseparable duo James Franco and Seth Rogen always promises to be a fun entertainer; even if mindless, as seen with This is the End and Pineapple Express. But once the plot for their latest movie The Interview was revealed worldwide, a certain tension was felt as we moved on to one of the biggest media scandals of recent years. And as of today, with the cancelation of its premiere by Sony, things seem to have gotten out of hand.
The Interview is a movie that starts off harmlessly, with a television talk show station where James Franco is the host and Seth Rogen is the producer. Seth Rogen is troubled by the fact that he might be a sell-out, switching real news for juicy celebrity affair. That is, until they receive a message that the North-Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, being a fan of the show, wants to give an interview. Excited, they prepare to meet with the North Korean dignitaries, when the CIA arrives at their doorstep, with the knowledge of the upcoming interview. They are then tasked by the United States to assassinate the leader during the interview. Thereon proceeds a series of the usual goof of Franco-Rogen, and apparently culminates in the scene of the death of Jong-Un, executed by a giant missile flying at his helicopter, his head catching on fire and exploding, in slow motion, to Katy Perry’s Firework. Not exactly what you would call subtle.
This controversy has been raging for some time now, as rumours have persisted that the recent Sony Entertainment & Television leaks were a direct response to them moving forward with the sensitive movie. It was a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace that hacked into the Sony mainframes and leaked massive amounts of private and secure data, including the salaries of Franco and Rogen, the private documents of countless employees of both Sony Entertainment and Television. Soon after this, the Guardians of Peace posted a public threatening message online, stating the following: “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War.”
It was suspected at the time that the group was based in North Korea and sanctioned by its government, the same government which after the plot was revealed, sent across a message to the United States declaring the film as an “act of war” and tantamount to attacking North Korea head-on. Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, unfazed at the hack, reassured that they would be promoting the movie. Then came the “Christmas Gift” from the Guardians of Peace publicly posting Lynton’s e-mails and correspondence with other officials. It was also accompanied by this chilling message:
“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places ‘The Interview’ be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY.”
This induced massive objection within the Sony offices itself to pull The Interview from its slate, to prevent more threats to both private information and the security of the nation at large. Sony finally decided to pull its name and logo from all promotional advertisements and posters, also negotiating with Seth Rogen about the murder scene. It also decided to leave the decision of screening or not to the respective theatres that it was to premiere at. Following a majority decision led by Landmark Theatres, which has 278 theatres across the States to not premiere The Interview on Thursday night, we now have confirmation that Sony has pulled The Interview from screening at all.
While it is true that Franco and Rogen may have outdone themselves this, gone a bit too far, security leaks and direct threats of a sinister variety are not the way to respond to this political satire. Real-life leaders and infamous dictators have been consistently represented in unflattering shades in cinema, the most well-known of which might be Team America: World Police, a satirical comedy which portrays Kim Jong-il, the former leader and father of the present Kim Jong-Un as a psychotic puppet. Western cinema has been using North Korea as a source of an evil government and the humour that ensues from the same for so long a time, that it has turned stereotype. Movies like the Bond franchise’s Die Another Day, Angelina Jolie’s Salt and Red Dawn have all had comically villainous portrayals of North Korea, and none of them have raised momentum and threats as much as this one. It is true that the scene of Jong-Un’s death in The Interview as recounted by the select few who have had the pleasure (and maybe potential misfortune) of watching the controversial movie is over-the-top and gruesome. But it is also not entirely unwarranted, for the crimes and villainous regime of the leader are not unknowns, although the method they went about it may not have been entirely appropriate. It is understandable, the importance of such extravagance for the scene in question, for the purpose of delivering the rash comedy that the duo are known for. And while possibly justified, there should have been a certain amount caution taken into account, considering the potential international ramifications.
The most wrong in this entire controversy is surely with the group that hacked into Sony and leaked millions of dollars worth of information regarding behind-the-curtain deals. While all of us may have been excited to hear of Marvel’s discussions with Sony regarding a possible deal for Spiderman to join Marvel’s Avengers in time for Captain America: Civil War, it is truly horrifying, the actions that have been taken by a group that has no confirmed association with the North Korean government. It is also equally appalling the actions of the theatres which, on a threat from an invisible agency, which might as well have been from one guy living in his parents’ basement, of immediately pulling back in fear and allowing creative expression to be curbed. The day that they bowed down to cyber-terrorism rather than fight it, like the immensely rich and universally influential institution that they are, will always remain a blotch in Hollywood history, rivalling those left by Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. Today was a disgusting precedent which I hope for everyone’s sake will not be followed in the future.
For now, all we have is the trailer to this landmark of a film:
[If the North Korea thing wasn’t enough to make this controversial, note the disturbingly bald Rob Lowe]