THE WORDS "a cybercriminal gang known as Dark Seoul" should describe the villains of an '80s action flick. But according to the New York Times, that's the organization that worked with North Korea to hack Sony Pictures, using far-fetched threats of terrorism to coerce the studio into canceling the release of The Interview, a $42 million comedy, seven days before its Christmas release.
"This was a dumb comedy that was about to come out," the Unofficial Mayor of Hollywood, George Clooney, told Deadline last week regarding The Interview, in which TV host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) are sent to assassinate North Korea's crackpot despot, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Clooney—using his impressive list of Hollywood contacts—had tried, and failed, to gather support for Sony. "With the First Amendment, you're never protecting Jefferson," Clooney said. "It's usually protecting some guy who's burning a flag or doing something stupid. This is just a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot."
What it says isn't good. Once exhibitors realized they could be liable for any harm, they dropped The Interview. Without enough theaters, Sony had little choice but to cancel the release. "Everybody was doing their jobs," Clooney told Deadline, "but somehow, we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane."
Then, on December 23—following widespread criticism, a suspicious North Korean internet blackout, and unexpected input ("I love Seth," President Barack Obama said at a White House press conference after criticizing Sony, "and I love James")—Sony changed course again, scrambling to release the film in independent theaters and possibly on VOD. Meanwhile, the Mercury's canceled press screening remained canceled. I love Seth and James too—but after all this, can The Interview possibly live up to expectations? Could any movie?