It’s safe to say that The Interview was never going to do big box office in North Korea. The upcoming comedy – written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Dan Sterling – features a plot centred around an attempt to assassinate the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un. North Korea has been increasingly vocal in their opposition to the film, and have now filed an official letter of complaint with the United Nations.
In the film, Seth Rogen stars as a TV journalist, whose producer is played by James Franco. On discovering that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is an avid viewer of their show, they manage to arrange an interview with him, in an attempt to improve their shambolic status within the journalistic world. Their plan is soon hijacked by the CIA, however, when they recruit the two to assassinate Kim Jong-un. As with their previous film – This Is The End – Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-direct.
According to Reuters, North Korea’s UN Ambassador, Ja Song Nam, has written to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, accusing the US of “sponsoring terrorism” and committing an “act of war” by continuing with plans to finish and distribute The Interview.
“To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war. The United States authorities should take immediate and appropriate actions to ban the aforementioned film; otherwise, it will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism.”
The Interview is not scheduled for release until October 2nd, 2014 but, unsurprisingly, it already seems to be a divisive endeavour. Based solely on the trailer and previews, there are lots of opinions flying around about the finished film – which has yet to be seen. Clearly, it is a comedy – perhaps even a satire – and, while some are unhappy with the use of a living person as the focus of a murder plot, the finished film will hopefully lean more towards skewering the international reputation of the CIA (and, by extension, the US) and its foreign policy. It certainly wouldn’t be the first American film to do so, which highlights what is perhaps the most important point to note about this dispute.
That point is that there is a marked difference between the reaction of Kim Jong-un, and that of his father, Kim Jong-il. Jong-il was the incumbent head of state when Trey Parker and Matt Stone made and released Team America: World Police in 2004. In that film, Jong-il was seen being kicked off a balcony, gruesomely impaled, and then revealed to be an alien cockroach. In response, Jong-il said nothing in public, but quietly asked the Czech Republic to ban its release in that country. That request was swiftly denied. There was no posturing, and no complaint to the UN. Kim Jong-un, on the other hand, is immediately on the front foot.
Whether you feel that the story choices made by Rogen and Goldberg in The Interview are in any way irresponsible or not, the chances of the ‘The Land Of The Free’ making any concessions to North Korea are almost certainly non-existent. However, there is, as they say, no such thing as bad publicity. If as many people weighing in on the subject ahead of its release actually purchase tickets for The Interview, Rogen and Goldberg should have a very good day at the office indeed, in financial terms at least.