Critic's Corner: Sony Cyber Hack Incident Thoughts and Speculation on what this could mean moving forward
Hello ladies and gentlemen. My name is Steven Escareno aka Stevennix2001, and welcome to my monthly series called "Critic's Corner." Where once a month, I'll talk about various hot topics in the entertainment industry, while periodically reviewing a few of my favorite film critics in the process. This month's topic will be about the infamous Sony hackings, and my thoughts on the issues going forward. Unlike most articles you may have read about this topic, this is more of a relaxed column, where it's mostly just opinionated based on what I've heard about the situation thus far. Therefore, it shouldn't be taken too seriously.
For those of you that have been following me for a while, you probably noticed that I didn't have a "Critic's Corner" last month, and that was because I simply didn't have time. However, I do plan on publishing two in January to make up for it, so I guess you can consider this one a late December entry. Anyway, without further delay, let's get on with the show.
Arguably the most controversial movie in cinematic history...
A long time ago, Sony green lit one of Seth Rogen's ideas for a movie that revolves around the concept of two idiots being recruited by the CIA to take out the infamous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un. From day one, this movie caused controversy since it's initial concept was even known throughout Hollywood.
Months prior to it's initial release, Kim Jong-Un declared that he would consider the movie an act of war if it ever saw the light of day. Fast forward to a mere month before the film's initial Christmas Day release, and Sony gets hacked by some terrorist group calling themselves "The Guardians of Peace", or GOP for short.
Although there's no clear evidence on the identity of these hackers, the FBI strongly believes the hackers are working for North Korea; while cyber security experts disagree. And to make matters more interesting, the hackers even sent out "9/11 style" threats to theater chains for even screening the damn thing. Needless to say, many theater chains got scared, which caused Sony to pull the plug on the film's release entirely out of fear.
Needless to say, this angered a lot of people in Hollywood and even our own President Barrack O'Bama said it set a bad precedent moving forward. However, Sony inevitably decided to release the movie anyway; in spite of the threats.
Although major movie chains like Regal, AMC and etc didn't want the movie, small indie theaters agreed to carry it, as they saw it as an act of defiance against censorship. On an interesting note. It seems Sony has used "The Interview" as something of an experiment to release the film on various on demand channels simultaneously with it's limited theatrical release.
It's been speculated that watching movies digitally is the way of the future, but it's never been tested whether a movie could make a lot of money releasing it legally online and through theaters simultaneously before.
The movie that started it all...
Thoughts and Speculation Moving Forward.
To be honest, I have a lot of mixed feelings about "The Interview." On the one hand, it's actually a very funny film in ilk of some of my other favorite guilty pleasure movies like "Pineapple Express." But considering the hype surrounding the movie, it's way over hyped. In fact, you could make an argument that it's more over hyped than George Lucas' abomination ever was...that shall remain nameless....(cough).."Star Wars: Episode I- Phantom Menace"....(cough)
At the risk of sounding a bit hypocritical, the reality is that this movie never should have been made. "The Interview" is a movie that's presented as a d**k joke satire, with the sole purpose of mocking mainstream media and North Korean culture; namely Kim Jong-Un. Now before I say anything, I have to say that I am NOT a fan of Kim in any way.
And if he is behind the GOP, and the threats made to the theater chains, then that'll only make him arguably just as big of a monster as Adolf Hitler ever was back in his day. However, if you watch the movie in it's entirety, it's highly offensive to North Korean society in general. Sure, we can brag about free speech all we want about how it's our right to mock their society, but you have to remember something.
North Korea doesn't follow the "Bill of Rights" like we do. In fact, the "Bill of Rights" is nothing more than a piece of paper to Kim Jong-Un. I'm not saying that as a means to say he doesn't respect our culture, but I'm merely stating a fact. The fact is he doesn't acknowledge our laws because North Korea doesn't have the same laws that we do.
As I mentioned in a conversation with a friend of mine, this is the main problem with our society. We have this biased notion that EVERYONE in the world thinks like us, or if they don't, then we ought to force them to because we believe it's the right thing to do. Well, I hate to break it to you, but it doesn't matter how badly you want to change a person because if that person doesn't want to change, then you're just wasting your time forcing your beliefs onto them. Even if your intentions are good, a person isn't going to change if they don't want to; regardless of how morally justified you think you are.
While I don't like Kim Jong-Un, I can easily understand how he would be offended by "The Interview", as it seems the movie's soul purpose is to mock everything about him. Portraying him as some sort of overgrown man child, with daddy issues. Although it is our constitutional right to have free speech to mock whoever we want, we have to remember that free speech is a power and a privilege that we must use wisely. Not every country in the world grants free speech to their citizens. In some countries, you can literally be shot if you even look at someone the wrong way. Let alone for artistic integrity. As a friend reminded me once when talking to her about this same topic, "With great power comes great responsibility."
As some of my readers can tell, she's a huge Spider-Man fan like I am, so it was nice geeking out about the reference she made, but it still reigns true nonetheless. The reality is freedom of speech isn't a right, but a privilege and power that the United States bestows on all of us. Although we have the right to say and express ourselves freely, it doesn't mean that we're protected from reprisals for our own actions.
Being something of a film critic myself, I can understand how comedies tend to push the envelope of what they can get away with, and I love how filmmakers are willing to take that chance sometimes. However, where do you draw the line though?
Where do you draw the line between artistic integrity and common decency? To steal a phrase from "Jurassic Park", "Just because you're capable of doing something it doesn't mean that you should." We may have the power to make movies that mock other world leaders to the point of pissing them off, but is it really wise to risk starting a war with them over something as stupid as a movie? Is creating movie that's going to openly mock someone worth the lives of millions upon millions of people?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm pro censorship or anything, but I am a realist. And sometimes being a realist, you have to step back and look at the bigger picture. Because sometimes doing what's right and doing popular isn't quite the same thing.
As far as what this could mean moving forward, it could mean a lot of things. For starters, I can imagine Sony will try to take desperate measures to tighten up their cyber security , as that should go without saying. Plus, I think we can expect O'Bama and the government to pass tighter online security laws to curtail incidences like this, and it could mean even more invasion of privacy on the government's part; ala "The Patriot Act."
AMC Movie News: Sony Hackers Expose Several Behind The Scenes Studio Plans
How this could affect Sony's "Spider-Man" franchise and the movie industry in general
As some of you that may know, part of the Sony hacks involved the GOP leaking a lot of their private e-mails to the public, which leaked a lot of personal information that has made Sony something of a laughingstock these days.
Quite a few of these e-mails ranged to showing some of the behind the scenes drama, where one of the Sony executives called Angelina Jolie a talent less hack. Ouch. Of course, there were other e-mails confirming various ladies that were being eyed for the new "Ghostbusters" reboot, and there was even an e-mail that confirms that Sony was entertaining the idea of crossing over the "Jump Street" franchise with "Men in Black." Although to be honest, I'm not sure how that would've worked. However, the biggest news that was leaked pertained to their "Spider-Man" franchise.
As it was revealed in the private e-mails, Sony was indeed in talks with Marvel Studios, at one point, about possibly having their Spider-Man join the Marvel cinematic universe. However, the deal fell through because they couldn't agree to terms on creative control and distribution rights. It's no secret that many die hard fan boys want Spider-Man to go back to Marvel, and these leaked e-mails don't exactly look good for Sony.
In fact, the e-mails also seem to confirm many hardcore fans fears that Sony doesn't have a clear direction with "Spider-Man" at the moment.
Needless to say, this has caused many fan boys to panic. And if you thought Marvel fans were chanting too much to Sony to give the cinematic rights back to Marvel before, then that'll seem like nothing compared to how much chanting they'll do now.
Since "The Interview" has only been released domestically, with no clear plans from Sony to have it released world wide, it seems they're losing money because the movie is being illegally leaked online internationally.
Granted, they still made over twenty million dollars domestically on it's opening weekend, when you combine the online and theater ticket sales; which is roughly around the same amount they expected to get domestically on it's opening weekend anyway. However, one could speculate that if the movie still had a world wide release, then it might've made a helluva a lot more. Sure, the film still has yet to be released internationally on a legal scale, so things could still change. And, let's not forget that the movie still has yet to be released on various other on demand channels like Netflix and etc, so it could make up it's money in time. But from what we do know right now, it seems Sony has lost a lot of money on "The Interview", which makes their coveted "Spider-Man" franchise all the more attractive to them.
Of course, this also means that I doubt they'll be interested in selling the "Spider-Man" franchise back to Marvel right away considering how much money they lost with "The Interview" being illegally leaked online internationally. Plus, that's not even considering the amount of money they may have lost because the GOP may have hurt their sales on some of their other movies, like "Annie" for instance, earlier last year, by leaking them online, in an effort to cripple them financially.
Needless to say, I think audiences can expect one last ditch effort to revitalize the "Spider-Man" franchise. Granted, the last movie didn't do as well as they hoped for, but it still made over seven hundred million dollars. Sure, it's not a billion like they wanted, but seven hundred million is still seven hundred million dollars. The movie paid for itself last time, and it seems to be one of the biggest franchises that Sony owns at the moment. Of course, if the leaked e-mails are any indication, then it's questionable whether or not the next "Spider-Man" film is even going to be linked to the Andrew Garfield version or not, but I can tell you that Sony will give us one more "Spider-Man" related movie whether we like it or not.
After hearing about these leaked e-mails, it seems Sony doesn't have a clear cut plan for "Spider-Man" at this time, which might spell doom for the franchise. And at the rate they're going, it could only be a matter of time before Spidey ends up in the Marvel cinematic universe. Of course, as we've seen from the previous two "X-Men" movies, all it really takes is one or two movies to turn things around. However, with the general lack of direction that seems to be going on with Sony pertaining to the Spider-Man franchise (as it was revealed with the leaked e-mails), then it's doubtful that the next movie will turn things around.
As for "The Interview" being released on various on demand channels simultaneously with it's theatrical release, it wasn't a bad idea per say because that seems to be where movies are going anyway these days. However, the thing that's interesting about all this is that if "The Interview" manages to be become a blockbuster by doing this move, then it could be the beginning of phasing out movie theater chains altogether.
Think about it. If a movie studio could make just as much money releasing a film online rather than screening it in a theater, then chances are it could progress things further. This would not only eliminate the middleman theater chains taking their precious percentage cut of the profits, and it could mean more profits for the film studios themselves. Granted, it wouldn't happen overnight, but I can see how "The Interview" could potentially lead us down that direction.
Overall though, I don't blame Seth Rogen for his idea because he's an artist by definition of his craft. And like most artist, he was merely trying to push the envelope of what he was trying to do in terms of comedy, and I can respect that a lot. Granted, it doesn't mean I agree with it, but I do respect his actions.
And in a round about way, I'm glad Sony inevitably released the movie in spite of the terrorists' threats. As Barrack O'Bama put it, it would've set a bad precedent moving forward if Sony had caved. However, if you ask me, I wish the movie never would've been made at all. Sure, it's funny if you're into d**k joke comedies in ilk of "Pineapple Express", but is it really worth creating an international incident over it? Granted, if North Korea did go to war with us over a stupid film, then it would make them look like a**holes. I'm not going to lie about that, but there's an old saying my father once told me.
The best way to avoid a punch is to never be there in the first place. In other words, if you don't go out looking for trouble, then you won't find any. But if you seek trouble by constantly poking a dog with a stick, then eventually that dog is going to bite you. Sure, the GOP were obviously bluffing with their "9/11" style threats, but the next time we may not be so lucky.
Dr. Evil's advice to Kim Jong-Un and the Guardians of Peace
© 2015 Steven Escareno