The Interview is at the center of a developing international story with multiple players and several layers of morality. The hackers and terrorists are 100 percent in the wrong, but they’re the only ones whose ethical standing is clear. The film, about the assassination of a standing world leader, is obviously in poor taste, and Sony and the theater chains who dropped it because of terrorist threats are in the strange ethical territory that kind of threat induces. There’s a good movie to be made about the release of this movie.
For those that don’t know, Sony, the parent company of distributor Columbia Pictures, suffered a large-scale hack that released five movies, four of which weren’t in theaters yet, as well as several emails that contained potentially damaging secrets. In the leadup to The Interview’s release, theater chains received threats of a “9/11 style attack” against any house screening the film. Major theater chains backed off and Sony pulled the film, but reversed their decision due to public outcry just two days before the Dec. 25 release. The film was released in 300-someodd theaters belonging to a handful of chains that value freedom, that are willing to take a stand against terror, that are too small to turn down the monumental economic opportunity the film quickly became. Cynically speaking, this whole thing may just be an elaborate marketing tactic.
Boxofficemojo seems to have taken Christmas off because they’re just not as dangerous as me, so the actual numbers will have to wait, but this movie could easily be looking at records in per-theater averages.
The film follows celebrity talkshow host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). A Columbia Journalism School graduate, Rapoport’s classmates laugh at him and call him names because they think he’s sold out. This motivates him to set up an interview with the reclusive Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), supreme leader of North Korea, who is coincidentally a big fan of Skylark’s show. Soon after news breaks of their score, the CIA (Lizzy Caplan) enters to ask the duo to assassinate Kim.
I wouldn’t start a nuclear war over it, but The Interview is a funny movie.
It’s a meta movie on several levels. Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg consistently suffer poor reviews from critics that don’t consider their commercial-friendly style a valid form of filmmaking, the same way Rapoport suffers from peers who don’t consider Skylark capable of valid journalism. And just as Skylark remains vapid but branches into undeniably valid, harrowing territory, Rogen and Goldberg maintain the tone and upper-level plot of Superbad and Pineapple Express but venture into undeniably grim and topical subject matter. Instead of talking about drug dealing and teenage angst, they’re talking about the unchained insanity of North Korea.
This film will mean more to close followers of the duo. It’s the beautiful, horrifying point at which their long-term joke becomes too dark to be funny anymore.
It’s hard to qualify this movie as either offensive to North Koreans or not because the people who would be offended probably won’t see it. That’s the point. Internet access in North Korea is limited to a small handful of elite members of society, and they only get state-sponsored media and email sites. Media is so tightly controlled that supreme leaders are portrayed as living gods. That’s what makes this movie so volatile — its messages about North Korea, while fuzzily detailed, are pretty much accurate.
For what it’s worth, Kim is portrayed as a largely sympathetic character who fell on his unloving father’s mortifying leadership practices when local Godhood was thrust upon him at age 29, and he’s at least smarter than Skylark.
Like all of Rogen/Goldberg’s work, they were clearly stoned out of their minds during the creative process and weed will help with its consumption. The primary mode of release has been Youtube, so you won’t need a designated driver.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. We are so close to discovering life on Mars right now I can’t even tell you. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter when I can be bothered to make one, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.