I hate to start my first official blog post on a sour note, but I feel I must. Of course, I am talking about the actions of one James Holmes who late last Thursday evening shot up a Colorado movie theater, leaving 12 dead and 58 injured during the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” In turn, it has become one of the worst shootings in the history of the United States. While I was not there and I do not know any of the victims, my heart goes out to them as no one should have to fall victim to gunfire, let alone a place of escapism, i.e. a movie theater. Before you think this is another retelling of said tragedy from last week, it is not. Personally, I think much like every other tragedy in this country, the media seems to be rehashing the same information over and over. I do not want to do that, nor do I feel it is my place to talk in-depth about this tragedy.
What I do want to talk about is overreaction. More specifically, the overreaction of Hollywood. Obviously this James Holmes was seriously messed up in the head. Anyone who thinks he did this because of the Joker’s character in the previous “The Dark Knight” or any other Batman film or cartoon for that matter, needs their head examined. If it wasn’t The Joker he modeled his attack after, it would have been someone else, whether fictitious or a past serial killer. Bottom line, this man was going to do this regardless.
What pissed me off the other day when I read about it is that Hollywood has already begun censoring itself. The censoring in question is that of the trailer for the upcoming film “Gangster Squad” — shown prior to “The Dark Knight Rises” was pulled after the tragedy. In the trailer, there is a scene of violence where several men fire weapons from behind a movie screen at the audience. I haven’t seen the trailer, just as I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet; however, even I’ll admit that is an insane coincidence. Having said that, I can understand maybe omitting the trailer for a couple of weeks or so (especially during screenings of “The Dark Knight Rises”), but it gets worse.
This morning Warner Brothers announced that not only is the trailer for “Gangster Squad” being scrapped, but Warner Brothers has decided to yank the September release date, have scheduled a reshoot of the aforementioned scene and in turn, the film is now scheduled for a January 2013 release. I’ve got a number of pet peeves, but there aren’t many things that bother me more than censorship. I’m not heartless. This was a terrible tragedy. However, there is no need to overreact. First off, the film has nothing…nothing…to do with the Colorado tragedy. Secondly, “Gangster Squad” is a period piece based on the battle between mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and the LA police. This means it is based upon a true story, done for historical effect and as such, the scene in question was decided on for historical and artistic impact. Now, God knows what they’re going to do in the reshoot. Most likely though, it won’t have the impact that the original scene had. Bottom line here is that no one was going to see that scene and think, huh, that reminds me of the Colorado massacre. It also was never going to make people shoot up theaters across North America. It just wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood thinks American audiences are too dumb and they don’t realize that such a scene is part of a movie, not reality.
What sucks from an artistic standpoint is this decision is going to seriously hurt the film. Not only was there a ton of money put into the film that now will be increased dramatically by the reshoot, but it also was a film to be in Oscar contention. January typically is a month of no man’s land for films. It is where all the films the studios have on their hands they know suck but have to release at some point, will release. This is done because December is such a heavy movie month that moviegoers tend to tone down their treks to movie theaters the next few months. So, not only is “Gangster Squad” going to lose money, it’s also going to have an uphill battle in terms of getting itself in Oscar contention the following year.
Now, I’m not saying the above paragraph is more important than the people losing their lives. It isn’t, but like I’ve beaten over the head, the average person wouldn’t have cared about this film coming out so close after this tragedy. People are smart. They know the film had nothing to do with the tragedy. They know it was done in a historical context based on the ‘40s and ‘50s, not 2012. Bottom line here is this move was completely unnecessary, and it’s a shame that in this day and age, we are this sensitive about artistic expression that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
What worries me the most from this is that this may just be the beginning of the overreaction. The same thing happened almost 11 years ago after 9/11. Once that tragedy struck, the film industry was hit hard and as a result, they overreacted. They pulled films with excessive violence from release. They pulled violent trailers for upcoming films. Some films that were set to start production, halted, some of which never to be completed. The most ridiculous thing they did though was re-edit films that displayed the World Trade Center. Some films mind you, that didn’t have a moment of violence in them, i.e. “Serendipity.”
I just hope we don’t have to go through a Hollywood censorship period again. We are a smart people and we deserve to be treated as such. Most importantly though, the artists who have created films within the last year or so scheduled for release, shouldn’t be punished because of this heinous act period.