No good options for Sony Pictures with ‘The Interview’

This photo provided by Columbia Pictures - Sony shows, from left, Diana Bang, as Sook, Seth Rogen, as Aaron, and James Franco, as Dave, in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Ed Araquel)

Associated Press image

Seth Rogen and James Franco are shown in a still from “The Interview,” a movie that Sony Pictures Entertainment has put on indefinite hold because of threats made by apparently-North-Korean hackers to retaliate should Sony release the movie not only in movie theaters, but in any other form.

I don’t recall that at any time in my life was a movie not released because of terrorist threats.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has taken criticism from many for deciding not to release “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as a team who ultimately assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Sony’s decision not to release the movie as planned on Christmas Day wasn’t enough; hackers who have been identified as probably North Korean apparently demanded in an e-mail to Sony that “anything related to the movie, including trailers” be removed from the Internet and that Sony “never let the movie [be] released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” as though it were possible for Sony to police the entire Internet and prevent all leaks or acts of piracy.

The Associated Press reports that “Sony Pictures has been removing all signs of ‘The Interview’ from its websites and taken its trailers off YouTube. On Wednesday, the studio canceled its Dec. 25 release after the hackers made threats of violence against theaters showing the film. Sony has said it now has no plans to release ‘The Interview.’”

While I doubt that any actual terrorist attack at a movie theater would have been committed had “The Interview” been released as planned — North Korea has no operatives within the United States, to my knowledge, and as North Korea doesn’t want its inhabitants to leave the Asian nation at all, I don’t really see the United States ever crawling with North Korean operatives  — I imagine that Sony would like to avoid any lawsuits or negative publicity (or both) should any such terrorist attack actually happen, even though such an event is fairly highly unlikely.

While I would like to see Sony at least release “The Interview” on DVD and streaming, as it would any other theatrical release, I imagine that Sony doesn’t want to have to worry about further problems with North Korean criminals in the future. Sony Pictures Entertainment is, after all, first and foremost a business. Its No. 1 reason for existing is not to enlighten us or even to entertain us, but to profit from us, and if Sony perceives that releasing a film would or could cost it more than if it withheld the film, Sony’s probably going to withhold the film.

“Team America: World Police” (which was distributed by Paramount Pictures) went off without a hitch in 2004 (I saw it at a movie theater and I’ve seen it on DVD), but maybe that’s because the late Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was portrayed by a puppet (and was not assassinated technically; at the end of “Team America” his human body is destroyed, but from his body a cockroach emerges – Kim Jong Il actually is [or was…] an alien in the form of a cockroach, you see – and flies off in a miniature spaceship, promising to return). And maybe it’s that Kim Jong Un is a lot more sensitive than was his daddy.

Just as “Team America,” had it never been released, probably wouldn’t have been a great loss to American culture, the pulling of “The Interview” (as much as I’ve liked some of the work of Franco and Rogen in the past) also probably isn’t a huge loss to American culture. We can take some comfort in that, I think.

We can assert that Sony Pictures Entertainment shouldn’t cave in to terrorist threats, but at the same time, should any terrorist attack actually occur at any movie theater showing “The Interview,” we then would lambast Sony’s greed that put dirty profits above precious human lives (and, as I noted, I would expect at least one lawsuit to ensue).

As much as I’m not into sticking up for corporations, I don’t see that Sony really could win in this case (except that if I were in charge at Sony, “The Interview” probably would, minimally, get an online and/or DVD release…).

Still, one day I’d like to see “The Interview” at last, in one format or another, and we have the apparently-North-Korean hackers, with their terrorist threats, to thank for that. It’s a movie that I probably would have skipped otherwise, at least in its theatrical release.

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