When I recently reported on the possibility of Spider-Man making an appearance in an official Marvel movie, the news was greeted with no small amount of skepticism. Tonight, thanks to the massive hack of Sony's internal networks, the Wall Street Journal has published a piece that details many of the conversations that have happened about the future of the iconic comic book character.
The problem is that while I'm certainly curious to read about Sony's plans, I am deeply uncomfortable with the way the media has responded to the Sony hack. These massive infodumps that are happening are obviously designed to hurt the company, and it feels like much of the coverage of the leak so far has been playing right into that goal.
Then again, much of what I do is based on the way I protect my own sources of information, and it depends on me being able to sometimes see and read and hear things that were not meant for my eyes or ears. I can't very well be upset if people want to read all of this leaked material simply for the curiosity of it.
I have no doubt there are some relationships that are being destroyed by these leaks. There was a batch of e-mails between Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal that were published today that pretty much guarantee you won't be seeing any Angelina Jolie/Scott Rudin team-ups any time soon. This one makes me uncomfortable because it's very different than when you're reporting on something that's in development or talking about the actual production of something. This is very personal and very ugly, and the only real reason to do a story about it is because of that ugliness. It's thrilling on some level to see famous people being blunt with one another, but I think in this case, it's as unpleasant as it is illuminating. And right in the middle of all of these e-mails about the Steve Jobs film that just moved from Sony to Universal, there's a quick e-mail from David Fincher agreeing with Pascal that Adam Driver would be a terrible villain in a “Star Wars” movie. It's a passing joke, I'm pretty sure, but it's going to get blown up and amplified until it turns into a major thing.
It must be a fresh nightmare every day for the Sony team right now. One of the things that is most clear when you look at the Spider-Man information that leaked is that Sony has no clear master plan. I'd heard that they were looking to lend the character out for one movie, and now it is confirmed that “Captain America: Civil War” was the movie they were considering. There was also a conversation about loaning the character back to Marvel for a full trilogy.
Now, though, they're examining other options including a Miller and Lord comedy version of Spider-Man. I'm sure there are people who might have a knee jerk negative reaction to that, but Spider-Man is already inherently one of the funniest of the major superhero characters. I love it when Spider-Man uses his sense of humor to enrage a bad guy during a fight, then takes advantage of that anger. It's a major character trait, and I still don't think anyone's gotten it completely right.
I was fascinated to read that they've also discussed bringing Sam Raimi back. It just feels at this point like Sony's willing to do anything and everything in order to get the franchise back on track, but without any real sense of what it is that makes Spider-Man work in the first place.
When the leak first happened, I had trouble believing that it was really tied to “The Interview” at all. The films that were leaked onto torrent sites were the same films that had been sent out by the studio as awards-season screeners, and it seemed more likely that someone's screener got uploaded. After all, if they were trying to punish “The Interview,” wouldn't they just leak a print of “The Interview”? As more and more information's been dumped online, though, it's starting to look like it really might be a cyber-attack to try to punish the studio for making a comedy about the political assassination of Kim Jong Un.
There is a group now taking credit for the attack, the Guardians of Peace. They're now issuing messages along with each new batch of material that lands on torrent sites, and I admire Sony for refusing to change anything about the release of the film in the wake of these events. I saw a screening of it last night, and I'm going to guess that it will absolutely anger North Korea. Like “This Is The End,” this is a film that doesn't remotely pull a punch. Whether you end up loving or hating it, you'll have to agree that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are willing to explore some pretty wild flights of fancy and go to some pretty extreme places with their sense of humor.
When something like this happens, and I have to assume this will not be the last time we see this kind of massive corporate hack, should the press report on the material that's being released? They're essentially the second stage in the plan that the Guardians of Peace have. They know that if they throw all of Amy Pascal's private e-mails to the press, they're going to get written about. They know that reporters positively salivate at the thought of getting some really juicy financial files to pore over. This is definitely a targeted attempt to hurt Sony as a company, and I am uneasy with playing any role in what's happening to them.
Is the “Spider-Man” stuff or the “Jobs” stuff news? Maybe. Sort of. It's nice to have what I was saying a few months ago confirmed, but I can't get behind this exhaustive publication of every new detail. I think publishing an e-mail thread that is a heated exchange between two people will end up hurting both of those people, but that doesn't make it news. You're getting a very narrow glimpse of that person, through one particular conversation, and yet it's going to be blown up into something bigger, and it's going to be something that both of the people end up having to deal with repeatedly.
I understand why The Hollywood Reporter feels like they need to assign a team to pore over everything. I understand why the Wall Street Journal is covering this. I can see the role that the press is playing in this situation and even agree with some of what I'm seeing and still hate that any of it is happening. I don't have any schadenfreude for these people. I would hate to have my own e-mail correspondence with people published because I have different ways I talk to different people, and I have moments where I am not at my best and I have days where I react poorly to things, and to be judged on such a massive level for something that was only ever intended to be seen by one other person… I'm not sure I could do that to someone. I'm not sure I think there's enough genuine journalistic responsibility lurking in these Sony archives for me to start hurting people who work in this industry I love.
This is a very difficult story to cover well, and I'm curious where you think the line is for this kind of reporting in this kind of story.