“The Interview” stirs controversy over winter break

Movie poster courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Movie poster courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Bruce Walton

“The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, has stirred up a controversy with the new film’s effect of satire toward North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

The trailers featured in September, showing the plot when James Franco, an anchor of a television talk show, and Seth Rogan, his producer, are invited to be interviewed by Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park. Along the way, Rogan and Franco are intercepted by members of the CIA, who convince them to assassinate the dictator.

In December, the North Korean government allegedly retaliated in late November when a group called “the Guardians of Peace” stole important data from Sony executives’ emails sent to one another, releasing sensitive information about upcoming films, actors and thousands of social security numbers.

Following the cyber attacks, hackers then threatened theaters planning to show the film, resulting in Sony’s decision to allow cinemas to independently make their own decision to release the movies. Only days later, Sony pulled the film’s national release on Dec 17, and then its international release the next day.

Traci Williams, an associate lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said she had a hunch there would be some form of retaliation from North Korea.

“As we see in everything in the media about him, it was like ‘this is not going to be good.’” Williams said, “Not the movie, per say, but the whole idea of making fun of someone who is so controversial.”

A strong divide was made under Sony’s decision to pull the movie’s release, including President Barack Obama commenting about his disappointment with Sony caving in, saying they made a mistake.

“I wish they had spoken to me first,” Obama said in an end-of-the-year press release. “I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

Then, only days before its formerly scheduled release, Sony decided to re-open the film to be shown in 331 independent theaters on its original Christmas day release.

Buddy Candela, a graduate liberal studies major, saw “The Interview” and said it was an “OK movie.”

“I think that’s the general consensus from the critics and the other people who have seen it that it was just a very ok movie,” Candela said. “Like, it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t good and it was just the same type of humor that we’ve seen with Seth Rogen’s other movies, just raunchy, controversial humor.”

Candela said the film didn’t exactly seem worth all the trouble it caused to him, but for the industry, it might have been. He also said it’s a cautionary tale of being aware of what you post out there.

Williams also added that people should think how as a country, would we be offended about a comedy about 9/11 or killing all of Congress. Williams said due to freedom of speech, we are able to make satire like the film, but we must be aware of the consequences of the reactions of their audience.

The film, as of Jan. 8, grossed more than $5 million domestically through video on demand as of Sunday and has grossed $31 million through video- on-demand as of Jan 4., making it the best-selling selling online film of all time, according to the LA Times.

The movie is available in select theaters but also available through VOD sites, including Google Play, Youtube, Xbox Video and iTunes, Playstation Store and Amazon and VOD services from Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable. The film can also be seen locally at the Tower City theaters in downtown Cleveland and Boardman Movies 8 in Youngstown.

Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected].