This past summer, I went to see “Edge of Tomorrow” in theaters. You know the one, Tom Cruise, keeps living the same day over and over again. Real talk, it’s actually pretty good.
But that was where I first lay my eyes on the poster for “The Interview.” To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. I knew it was going to be a slightly crass, off-color movie. I expected it to be pretty bad–more a bromantic comedy than a quality cinematic work, let alone a film that would impact the courses of nations.
Needless to say, I was wrong.
Things hit the fan quickly
It started with a hack. On November 24th, 2014, the offices of Sony Pictures were breached. Hackers stole private information and data about future films, actor pay and addresses, and all sorts of unsavory and private information. Given North Korea’s napoleon complex, and that the film kinda was about killing the Dear Leader, the blame naturally fell on Pyongyang.
So what happened next? Well, it happened pretty quickly.
- The FBI announced it was investigating the hacking. In the public outrage, people started to take notice of this movie, taking it from B-Movie in the making to a cultural phenomenon and political tool.
- Sony Pictures scrapped the screening after the hackers–claiming to be North Korean–threatened to take down theaters that showed the movie.
- The United States, in a bold statement that went something along the lines of
then sanctioned North Korea over the hacking by blacklisting 10 senior officials and a few governmental arms.
- Someone then began to shut down North Korea’s internet access. President Obama’s remarks about a “proportional response” led many to believe it was the US behind the outages.
- Not to be outdone, North Korea retaliated by blaming the US for the outages–and calling the President a monkey. That’s right. A monkey. A sovereign nation calling the leader of another sovereign nation a monkey.
While there’s new research that the Sony hackings might have been done internally by an ex-employee, the newsworthiness has long passed. Now, in 16 days (if you’re reading this on March 10th. Otherwise, do the math yourself.) there is a plan to launch 10,000 copies of “The Interview” into North Korea from South Korea, a move that has admittedly angered Pyongyang.
So what’s the actual movie like?
I mean…yeah…it’s a movie. It was entertaining. I’m not going to lie, I was laughing along with the jokes and the off-color humor. As a standalone movie, it was pretty good. I movies like that “good movies once, then they require a healthy dose of some potent potables and friends to watch a second time.”
The scene when the protagonist, Skylark, and Kim Jong Un are singing Katy Perry’s firework in an old Soviet tank was ironically funny. And the PUPPY was cute as all hell. The movie was quite what I expected, with dick jokes galore–including one daring encounter with a tiger, a missile, and Seth Rogen’s anus. I didn’t regret watching it, not for one second. If you have a Netflix subscription and need something to watch because you don’t have anything, “The Interview” is as good as any other movie.
The real power of the press – ***SPOILER ALERT***
What “The Interview” did properly is highlight the power of the press and of journalism in dictating the course of nations.
Sure, Skylark was incompetent, gullible, and stupid. But he, through his interview, liberated North Korea. The CIA brought them aboard to kill Kim Jong Un with a Ricin patch that would kill the leader 12 hours after the initial handshake.
But in a way, and with the help of an unexpected ally, they turned the North Korean media and propaganda machine against the same regime it was intended to protect. The climactic battle took place inside the control room–it was a fight between loyalists trying to stop the broadcast and the Skylark crew fighting to keep the interview going–and in turn destroying the cult of personality that surrounds the Dear Leader and setting off a revolution in the hermit nation.
Notice how the climactic battle happened. There wasn’t a physical conflict between the Dear Leader and Skylark–it was a battle of words: on camera, whilst being broadcast to the entire world. The real battle took place in the control room. There, there was a battle over the camera angles, over the button that would end the broadcast, and over the message. One side wanted to stop the truth from getting out, the other wanted to share it with the world.
Before millions of fans obsessed over whether they were on Team Peeta or Team Gale, The Hunger Games started as a story about a government that manipulated its citizens. In the later books, the true importance of the TV networks as a propaganda tool began to creep up. Sure, there were battles in the arenas–but what drove the storyline? The fictional one that President Snow wanted to establish to control the hearts and minds of the population of Panem. Laced along the entire story were video cameras, interviews–everywhere the world was at the mercy of infotainment.
Both Panem and District 13 fought for control of the TV networks–and ultimately the one with the most convincing story won both on the airwaves as well as on the ground.
Likewise in the Harry Potter series. In the 5th book, after the Daily Prophet began printing lies about Harry’s words, what did he do?
He talked to The Quibbler and got the truth out and published–to which Professor Umbridge banned the interview. But it backfired on here. As Hermione said:
If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!
~Hermione Granger through JK Rowling
Show and tell
We know that a picture is worth a thousand words–a moving picture worth billions. What “The Interview” did wasn’t make a movie about two dumb guys who went to North Korea and dicked about–not really. What they did was tell a story about two incompetent media personalities who discovered the power of their medium while guests of a brutal dictator–and used both their power and the power their medium gave them for good.
In the end, The Interview “was about a revolution.
This was about a revolution ignited with nothing more than a camera and some questions. Questions that led a man once revered as a god among mortals to cry and sh*t his pants.
~Dave Skylark, The Interview
So yes. This movie is stupid. It’s idiotic, irreverent, entirely offensive, crass, and completely tactless.
And yet, it’s come to mean so much for us–and come to demonstrate the true power of the media.