The Interview: Big trouble for a small-minded film

When Sony Pictures announced just a week before The Interview was scheduled to be released that it was pulling the movie, half of me let out a sigh of relief while the other half of me rebelled at this open violation of free speech.

Of course, I understood the reasoning; The Interview is about two tabloid journalists who manage to land “the interview of the century” with the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. However, they are approached by the CIA to turn their interview into an assassination. The movie chronicles their failures and successes.

Now, anyone’s who read a single article on BBC about Kim would know that the fellow is a serious guy; allegations of dictatorship and starving his people are just a few of the things you’d hear about him.

The film led to the hacking of Sony’s computers and a subsequent “9/11 type” threat to anyone who went to watch the movie in cinemas. America takes its terrorism threats pretty seriously and, with the threat unknown, it was no surprise when several major cinema chains decided against showing the movie.

20150110subcultureSoon afterwards, Sony revealed that the movie will be released as planned, with one big change: it would be available in just over 300 small cinemas as well as for rental or purchase online. So far, that plan seems to be going well with Sony cashing in more than US$30 million from its online sales as of this week.

But back to my initial relief/rebellion.

I was torn, and for me the reason was simple. On one hand, the movie was bound to be highly offensive to not only Kim Jong-un but also to many persons in North Korea. Nothing good ever comes out of conflict and anyone could predict that things between America and North Korea were going to be even worse than ever. Though I probably wouldn’t be directly affected by it all, I was already cringing at all the news articles that were most likely going to be published if the movie was released.

However, on the other hand, The Interview is not the first movie to hit out at regimes while simultaneously offending an entire culture – take almost all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s films for example – so I could not for the life of me support the denial of releasing the movie.

When US President Barack Obama said, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” I couldn’t agree more.

Nonetheless, I found myself reconsidering this support when, last week, I saw the movie myself. Twice. I will admit that I was probably judging it more harshly because of all the controversy surrounding it. However, I believe that even with fresh eyes the movie would have been just as underwhelming as I thought it was.

The movie stars James Franco as Dave Skylark, the happy-go-lucky charismatic celebrity talk show host who brushes off criticism with the phrase, “They hate us cuz they ain’ us.” His best friend and producer for his show Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) is more grounded and wants more for the show but is almost as ridiculous as Skylark.

The characters are not new ones; we’ve seen them before in This is the End and Pineapple Express, both movies Franco and Rogen worked on, and their personalities set the premise for absurdity and makes it somewhat realistic that idiots like these can really exist in the world.

James Franco (left) and Seth Rogen (right) during a scene in The Interview
James Franco (left) and Seth Rogen (right) during a scene in The Interview

The same premise is set in The Interview, and it is just as smutty and infantile with most of the jokes focused on the nether areas.

The other characters in the movie are just as overplayed as Skylark and Rapoport; from Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) and his loud sobbing and love for margaritas and Katy Perry to Sook-yin Park (Diana Bang) who doesn’t seem to have matured past the age of 12 and master English, there is an element of unreality to everyone.

Of course, there are laugh-worthy moments in the film. I loved Skylark’s interview with Eminem way more than I should have and cracked up at the banter between Rapoport and another senior producer from 60 Minutes.

The movie also paced well and had some decent enough graphics that didn’t make me cringe.

However, the good moments couldn’t overshadow one major fact: The Interview missed its opportunity to highlight the serious issues happening in North Korea daily.

The movie is dubbed a satire but it falls short of being that and though it is a comedy and shouldn’t be subjected to deep, philosophical thoughts, I believe that its plot demands greater level of social commentary.

Kim’s character is so overpitched that one cannot see a glimmer of reality in it and juxtapose it to real life. Further, the actual interview, which is supposed to be the ground-breaking moment of the film, is barely given any screen time and is cut frequently by images of Rapoport having his fingers bitten off.

During that very interview, Skylark asks Kim a question that gives me goosebumps; after Kim has explained that the people of North Korea suffer through many things thanks to America, Skylark questions whether they deserved to be rewarded for their resilience. When Kim answers that they do (of course!), Skylark quickly follows his response with, “So why don’t you feed them?”

The startling question is beautiful and is a shining moment in the movie, especially when you watch Kim fumble to answer it. Indeed, how can a man who touts the greatness of his nation and his people allow millions of them to starve while billions of dollars are being pumped into a nuclear development programme?

However, there are no more moments like this afterwards and I’m disappointed that the film missed the opportunity to go more into North Korea’s problems.

Nope! Instead we must witness all-around bromances between Skylark and Rapoport and Skylark and Kim and the world’s most predictable escape out of the country. Of course, there are no legal consequences for the two journalists who left destruction in their wake in the Asian country.

Also, how often can one movie really play Katy Perry’s Fireworks?

Look, free speech is a great thing and deliberately setting out to offend someone can yield some great results in the form of change or education if done right.

The Interview had the opportunity to offend North Korea in a way that could’ve led to people asking the important questions. Or, it could have at least highlighted some of the more serious issues in the country.

But nope; instead of offending for change, the movie offended simply for the purpose of offending and some cheap laughs.

So, what legacy has The Interview established for itself? Growing tensions for something that we’ll forget in a few months when the next Avengers movie comes out?

This will more than likely be the case and I fear that legacy is not one that we need today.

Final consensus: the movie is not worth all of the drama it caused

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