We talk a lot at Plugged In about how influential movies can be in our lives. But rarely do we see one cause an international incident.
The Interview was supposed to be a silly, throwaway R-rated comedy—counter programming to the slew of high-prestige Oscar hopefuls trundling out this month. I mean, the flick stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, the same guys who brought such depth and introspection to This Is the End. I doubt that either had intended to spark above-the-fold news.
But given that The Interview centers on assassination attempts on North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, you knew at least one person was going to get a little miffed. And since he’s also known for feeding his own relatives to hungry dogs, perhaps Rogen, Franco and movie studio Sony probably figured that there might be some banging of fists across the Pacific.
But no one anticipated this. For weeks now, a group calling itself The Guardians of Peace has been leaking private correspondence and even releasing unreleased movies after perpetrating a major computer hack against Sony. And just yesterday, these so-called Guardians raised the stakes, threatening violence against theaters showing The Interview.
“The world will be full of fear,” reads the threat. “Remember the 11th of September 2001.”
Nothing triggers anxiety in Americans like an invocation of 9/11. The New York City premiere of The Interview was subsequently cancelled, and the Carmike Theaters chain announced that none of its 278 movie houses would show it.
Suddenly, a December afterthought of a movie has become, arguably, the most influential film of 2014.
Assuming advance screenings go on as scheduled, I’ll soon be reviewing The Interview for Plugged In. And I doubt we’ll like what we see. It’s an R-rated, Seth Rogen-written/produced/directed comedy—a combination that has not exactly received rave reviews from Plugged In in the past.
But I feel curiously defensive over The Interview now, too. There’s a big difference between saying “You really shouldn’t see this movie” and, “You really shouldn’t see this movie OR ELSE.” The United States is a country predicated on free speech, after all. Rogen has the right to make whatever movie he likes—just as we have the right to tell you what repugnancies are in it. That’s the way things work around here. I kinda think that’s the way they should work everywhere.
It’ll be interesting to see just what happens with The Interview. Will the flick flop because people are scared to see it? Will it be wildly successful because of all the curiosity? Will more theater chains decide not to show it at all? Will Sony finally pull it from the marketplace, or maybe follow the advice of a co-worker of mine and release the thing online, just out of spite?
But no matter The Interview’s economic fate, this chapter in the book of mass entertainment stresses one unshakable truth. Just as Adam Holz suggested yesterday in this blog, the stories we tell one another matter. Sometimes they matter a lot. And every once in a while, they matter even more than they should.