After the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Brothers has been facing down a bit of a PR crisis. You see, their upcoming release Gangster Squad, features a scene (it’s in the trailer, that coincidentally played before The Dark Knight Rises) where gangsters shoot through a movie screen into a full theater of people. Unfortunately for the film, the Aurora shooting hit far too close to home for some. As we creep closer to the original September 7th release date, Warner Brothers has made a major decision with the film, holding the release until January 11th, where it will face off against Tommy Wirkola‘s first American film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Sounds like a great weekend for genre fare, but why the change?
It seems Warner Brothers is sending director Ruben Fleischer back to do some reshoots that will remove the scene from the film, and possibly even reshoot some scenes to connect the new scene to the rest of the film. Many are lauding the studio for their sensitivity, but I’m wondering how much of a money-based decision this is. Not only will a January release push it away from John Hillcoat‘s Lawless, about bootlegging gangsters, but it will also put a few months between the actual shooting and the memory of that image from the trailer. The trailer has been pulled from rotation, and Warner Brothers is doing some serious regrouping.
Now, I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but this is just another case of typical Hollywood bullshit. It’s a play to the media, as I can guarantee that no one involved in selling the film actually cares about the Aurora shooting. They care that it could affect the gross of the film if they didn’t do anything to change it. The problem is, if the film had come out 6 months ago, no one would think twice about the scene remaining in the film for the video release, or being sensitive to the victims or families.
Instead, Warner Brothers gets to play the nice guy card. Now, I understand there are millions of advertising dollars that have been spent so far on the film’s release, but the thing is, they bought themselves early buzz and if the film is actually good, it’s something they can carry into the January release.
Still, fans will be disappointed watching an altered film, and due to the nature of the supposed reason for the change, it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever see the film in its current, pre-reshoot state. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? To me, it’s a tragedy in itself, letting the commercial prospects of a film dictate the artistry involved. I understand not trying to make light of a tragedy through entertainment, but what about films like United 93? The only way that film got away with telling the story (and not getting the director lynched) was to make it a hero-worship piece and turn the villains into cardboard propaganda-inspired characters.
Why is it that we as Americans can’t look at a tragedy and learn something from it? How come we can’t watch a scene in a movie similar to real-life events, and talk about the impact of doing so? There are numerous discussions to be had here, about violence in media, violence in real life, and how the two intersect. How is it that we can’t have these discussions? I suppose most of it has to do with the fact that most Americans are under-educated, sue-happy money fiends. This translates to the studio, who play to these people and look like the good guy when all is said and done, when really, they just played the public like a poorly tuned fiddle.
Taking the scene out of the film does not lessen the impact of the real life tragedy. Reshoots are often tricky, and many times, can ruin the pacing and structure of a film, especially in a case like this, where the film has been completed already. Instead, we have the studio catering to people that aren’t thoughtful enough to engage in a real conversation about violence, but just want them to show up and watch it. I find that fact more offensive than any scene in any movie.