That's My Opinion: Hackers v. Hollywood
It hasn't been Sony's month at all has it? First they are hacked by the "Guardians of Peace", a rogue hacker group of an unknown origin. In this company-wide hack not only were unreleased films such as Annie leaked, but massive amounts of celebrity and upper level executive information was leaked as well. We got to see how certain executives feel about the celebrities that they interact with on a daily basis, the most notable being Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart, and Adam Sandler. While the motives of the "Guardians of Peace" weren't stated initially, it was rumored that it had do with the upcoming film The Interview.
In The Interview, Seth Rogen and James Franco play two TV personalities who are tasked with killing Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea. They are invited to the country under the pretense of an interview with the leader and subsequently murder him at the end of the film. It doesn't sound like the most original idea ever, nor did the trailer for the film make it seem the least bit funny however it seemed harmless. Not to the "Guardians of Peace" apparently.
Yesterday, the "Guardians" made their intentions known by threatening violence at any theater that screened the film. In a posting from pastebin, they call out to Sony to "remember the 11th of September 2001," and "the world will be full of fear." Granted the post was on pastebin not something more legitimate it still raised concern for Sony, so much that they considered postponing the release of the film.
Today however the craziness around The Interview came to a head with the five major movie theater chains dropping the film and then Sony opting to not release the film all together, even through VOD. It's an unprecedented move that seems to be pandering fear mongers more than actually making a calculated decision. In the past twenty years there hasn't been a film dropped from theaters due to internet hacktivists even when there were films that could have warranted it, such as A Serbian Film. It's surprising in a way that it took this long for it to finally happen honestly.
It's just surprising that a comedic film about North Korea has drawn such ire from a group that has possible ties to the country. Possible because it hasn't been confirmed yet but at this point with their vitriol directed at The Interview it would seem to show their hand a bit. These "Guardians of Peace" hide behind their computers to make empty threats at a movie studio that they've hacked; it's pathetic in a very nerdy way. As opposed to going out into the streets to protest as is seemingly the trend this year (Ferguson, UK Fisting), they hide behind the anonymity that their computer grants them.
If they really wanted to show how big and tough they are, they should have organized in person outside of Sony's headquarters in Culver City, CA. Instead they hacked email accounts and leaked employee information to flex their technological muscles. The movie theaters should not have pulled the film, regardless of the quality or subject matter, just to try and appease a faceless organization. It's an understandable PR move to show that the movie theater chains "care about the guests" but giving in to Internet trolls is no better.
However, one can imagine that the "Guardians of Peace" have now set a dangerous precedent for the future of cinema as an industry. Movie studios may begin to shy away from sensitive, possibly controversial subject matter as to not draw the attention of another similar hacktivist group. It's a terrifying thought that anyone with a keyboard and mouse with bad intentions can alter the course of cinema just to prove a misguided and childish point.