Let me start off by saying that what is about to follow is in no way meant to belittle the tragedy that happened in Colorado over the weekend past. I want to send my deepest condolences to the families and all others affected by the actions of one deranged man who decided that he thought it was ‘okay’ for him to do what he did that night.
It’s been reported in many online publications that WB is considering, or by some sites in the process of, re-editing Gangster Squad. More specifically reworking, or even completely omitting, a key sequence which involves a shootout that takes place within a movie theatre.
I understand the reasons why anyone would be coy about putting that in front of an audience now. A studio is always too weary of an audience that’ll be easily offended. The cinema is plagued with movies that are consistently created just to try and hit the common denominator more and more, including films which are reworked and refashioned every which way to assure investors that it’ll get that sometimes elusive PG-13 rating while still being edgy enough to remain “cool” so that it’ll get the praise, and box office, is desired from the studios.
There is one aspect of the studio system that I refuse to abide by ever, and that is when things get in the way of art. Now, before I become a bit large on the topic, I do not claim that all films are worthy of this consolation, or good art to begin with, but I feel at the same time that regardless the creator should be allowed to make whatever madness he’s managed to dream up as his vision. I do also take note that sometimes criticism, notes and such things are at times very constructive, part of the process, and even in the best interest of the artist himself – just like an editor to a journalist/critic/blogger (which I’m pretty sure I need at some point, or why else would my writing be this horrendous) – but at the end of the day, in my mind, the final decision lays with the artist.
When something like this occurs all it is a form of volunteered censorship. It’s someone trying to keep their mouth shut for the sake of not offending anyone, even if their intention wasn’t to offend in the first place. While offense is not always the best way to walk out of the gate – just ask Daniel Tosh about it – it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a bad thing. This movie, and all associated with its production, could never have anticipated an event like this, so why does the film have to suffer? I don’t even think changing it will make that much of a difference in the opening gross, the marketing has been out there and most people who were sold on the movie are all sold for pretty much that scene. I’d even go so far as to say that they probably are the ones smart enough to not take that scene as a statement about the event in question.
In previous years I’ve seen films being delayed for the very same reasons: V for Vendetta at the time of the London train bombings, and Big Trouble at the time of 9/11. The difference between these incidents and this one facing us today is that not only was the film untarnished – to my knowledge at least – but rather just removed from the context that the distributors and creators didn’t want it to be associated with. Would it be wise to release Gangster Squad as is today? Probably not. Is it wise to release it (with a trailer that’s still promoting the scene) even if you cut out that scene, which as I’ve been told is quite integral to the film itself? Definitely no.
So why not just delay the film till next Spring? Within the next month we’re going to be seeing, Total Recall, Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2, all films which use violence as their selling point to get people in their seats. I’ve yet to hear them rethinking their product for the sake of public image, or even ethical dilemmas. Violence in cinema will always be there, and all we can hope is that filmmakers aren’t putting it in there for the effect of making people desire it and viewers don’t misinterpret it as an excuse to go and commit violent acts themselves. The gross probably wouldn’t be as great as hoped, but it would allow for the companies involved to remarket the film and no longer have their film associated with a mad man and a tragedy.