"The Interview" might have gotten a bit too much exposure recently, but even before it was at the center of an international controversy, it was the subject of a major advertising push by Sony.
Billboards, TV ads, decals on the sides of trains — Sony was setting up an immense amount of hype for the film's Christmas release.
Well, sometimes things don't quite work out as planned, and now "The Interview" may not ever see the light of day. Now, it's actually something of a privilege to have seen this movie, given its place in a debate about free speech, artistic censorship, and giving in to the demands of terrorists.
We wanted to pull back the curtain on "The Interview," so we talked to two people who have seen the film.
Justin Chang is the chief film critic at Variety.com, and Silas Lesnick is the associate editor at ComingSoon.net. Both have seen "The Interview," so we asked for their thoughts about the movie, the possibility of a chilling effect in Hollywood, and what it was like on the set during filming.
Justin, let's start with you. What did you think of the film?
I did not think much of it, frankly. I don't agree that this could never have been a good movie, but I really just think that they did not go far enough or were subversive enough with the concept, which is a little sad to me because so many employees have suffered for the sake of this movie that is now never going to see the light of day, or so it seems at this point in time.
And at Variety you have to forecast whether the film would be commercial enough. Do you think this film was going to do any box office?
I think it could have. A lot of people were saying that this whole hacking scandal around Sony has been some sort of publicity stunt, and while I think it's quite clear now — if it wasn't already, that that is not the case — all that attention, negative though it may have been, certainly would have focused attention on the film. And I think it made a lot of people really excited to see it. A lot of people are really excited to see it now because it's taken on this mystique of this ... it's like the lost cut of "The Magnificent Ambersons" or something.
Silas, what about you, what was your take on the film?
I actually quite liked the film. I thought it was not quite as good as "This is the End," but it has the same kind of subversiveness to it. I do agree they could have gone even further, but I was laughing the entire time.
And you were also able to visit the set, so I'm curious if Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, the film's directors, knew that they were getting close to anything resembling this controversy?
I don't think so at all. It was last December, about a year ago, actually, and the tone was very optimistic. They were filming in the town they grew up in in British Columbia. If anything, there was a really wholesome attitude on set.
Justin, do you think this might make people less willing to take on difficult or problematic subject matter, even if it's not quite on the level of assassinating a world leader?
I do, and I'm very concerned about that. Even though I'm not a big fan of "The Interview," I certainly do applaud those involved for trying to do something a little outside the box and a little daring and audacious. God knows that's incredibly lacking. One of the big stories out of Hollywood this year was DC Comics and Marvel lining up this cavalcade of superhero movies that we're going to be getting from here to eternity, but this is quite chilling because you don't know all the repercussions of this, you don't know everything that will be stifled as a result. Daring, independent voices are already marginalized, and it's quite sad.
We've already heard that, just in the wake of this, New Regency has shelved its Steve Carrell movie that was set in North Korea. Silas, I want to come back to you. ["The Interview"] screenwriter Dan Sterling, who came on our show earlier this week, said he was kind of reacting to the blandness of studio comedies, where you see the same things again and again: people are switching bodies, or men dress up like women. So even if this movie wasn't completely successful critically, was it trying to do something bold? As a film viewer and film reviewer, do you think it's going to encourage people to be a little less daring?
Yes and no. I think that the intention with this film was just to make a good, creative film; I don't think there was ever a thought of targeting a certain type of controversy. I think that this story is far from over, and while we're being told now that we're not going to see the film released, I can't believe in a creative world that just allows something like that to be completely silenced. I suspect we're going to hear something soon.
Justin, as somebody who has seen the movie, are you now going to be the center of attention at every holiday party, where people are going to come up to you asking about "The Interview"?
It's very funny, because I took a couple friends with me to the screening. We knew about the controversy around it, of course, but now we feel like we've been privy to this rare and privileged kind of event. I think people are going to be very curious, and I do have to say that while I wasn't rooting for this film before, I do hope that in some way, shape, or form people will get to see it at some point.
Silas, what about you?
I'll say this: even if the movie was terrible, even if it was an awful piece of film, it's still something that we should be standing up for and fighting for.