Few phrases became as hackneyed in the previous decade as “if X happens, the terrorists win,” but damn if it doesn’t come to mind when a studio is put into a position of having to rip apart its own film because of the horror created by the atrocity of a single person.
Right away it must be explicitly noted that none of this particular controversy, and none of the creative tragedy it might imply, amounts to anything in comparison to even a day’s sorrow of one Aurora, CO victim’s family member or friend. At this point the discussion can only be contained to the relative context of the film industry and the creative arena, but still, it’s a discussion worth having.
Moving on, Variety has learned that WB will in fact be conducting re-shoots and a moving forward with a revised edit of the film Gangster Squad to excise a sequence in which a police force opens fire on a crowd in a movie theater, an option which Tim discussed this morning.. This will have to be done exceptionally quickly to not interfere with the September 7th release date.
Right away it’s easy to call bullshit on the decision and remark that, with the respect to the victims, nothing but compromise will be accomplished here. I will draw short of that sentiment as I do believe that films are at least 50% time capsules of context, and that pointing only to the film’s life in the future ignores the power and historical importance of its initial impact. Sensitivity to the times is not a foolish idea, even if I still maintain that it’s the wrong way to guie the decision.
Cynically, we’re a short-attentioned people these days, demonstrated by the debacle in which Neighborhood Watch was briefly re-titled and promotions halted in light of the Trayvon Martin murder controversy. Normal marketing (with the original title) has since resumed for that film, but WB clearly believes the more violent, explicity nature of the sequence in Gangster Squad precludes such an option.
Had I my druthers, Warner Brothers would release the film untouched, remove the sensitive material from the marketing, and perhaps include a warning at the beginning along the lines of “this film contains strong scenes that some may find disturbing in light of recent tragedies.” I don’t wan’t to get into the obvious “don’t let the bastard win and actually affect our culture” rant, but I can imagine you’ve got such thoughts if you’re like me and are as passionate a fan of movies as those people in that theater clearly were. To modify this film won’t be anything as dramatic as a “corruption of their memory” or a “victory for all budding mass-murderers everywhere” as we’re sure to see tweeted- saying so is taking it too far. Nor is it the same as TWC retroactively removing the last act of Inglourious Basterds, as I’ve seen suggested already.
But it will be a goddamn shame.
I would speak up about this one. Warner Brothers is likely still wrestling with the decision, and enough carefully crafted responses giving them confidence that we’re a mature people that can separate and appreciate context could go a long way. Do so as sensitively as you can in the comments below, on the message boards, or take to twitter and FB to give your thoughts. Someone’s listening.