Warner Bros. is in a no-win situation on this one.
Almost as soon as executives awoke on Friday morning, Warner began asking theaters to remove all of the current trailers for “Gangster Squad” from theaters since one of the key images from those trailers is a shootout inside a movie theater. Warner Bros. felt that it would be insensitive to leave the ads in general circulation right now, and the decision seems like the right one to make the morning after something as horrible and senseless as the Aurora, CO shootings.
Now comes word that Warner Bros. plans to remove the sequence from the movie completely. Looking at the original trailers, the scene appeared to take place in the Chinese Theater, where armed men standing behind the screen open fire with machine guns, marching through the ragged holes in the screen while firing into the audience. It’s a stylish image, and looked like it was executed well.
The studio had just started early screenings of the movie, and they seemed happy with it. The movie is still planned for a September 7th release, which means they’ll have to scramble to get the reshoots finished, especially since it’s supposed to be a fairly major sequence that comes near the end of the movie.
Ultimately, Warner is making the wrong decision for the right reasons. They are expressing a sense of empathy for the victims and the families of the victims, and they are doing their best to behave in a responsible manner. The problem is that the film will still be the film ten years from now, and making a decision to do a major overhaul for this reason seems reactionary. They may feel like they don’t have a choice, but if they end up hurting the film, it’s not going to matter that they made a gesture.
There have been attempts this weekend to draw a line between the actions of the shooter and the movie that was being shown at the theater, and we always see this sort of rush to create a connection when we have this sort of tragedy happen. It is intellectually dishonest, though, and I suspect that even the people who push this particular agenda know that they’ve wrong. In this case, I saw someone suggest that the “toxic culture of the fanboy” had something to do with the actions of the shooter, and that is a bizarre, specious jump for anyone to make. Mental illness and ready access to weapons are the things we should be discussion, and rather than rush to condemn any subculture for the actions of one broken individual, and instead of quickly changing movies to protect the sensibilities of audiences, we should be focused on helping the community that was damaged by this incident, and on reaching out to support the families who lost loved ones.
We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks, and whether or not this has an impact on the film’s release.