In light of the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colo., last Friday during the midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Brothers is apparently kicking around the idea of re-editing their upcoming Ryan Gosling/Sean Penn film Gangster Squad.
The film is basically The Untouchables only in Los Angeles during the time of famous mobster Mickey Cohen (Penn), with Ryan Gosling being part of a team dedicated to taking the famous mobster down. In the trailer for the film, Cohen's thugs emerge through a movie screen, opening fire on the crowd in an effort to kill one of the heroes.
The trailer for director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less)'s Gangster Squad was playing in theatres months before The Dark Knight Rises hit screens, however; the controversy arose after James Holmes began firing on the unsuspecting audience during their midnight showing of Batman's epic finale. The problem therein lies as to whether or not a studio should somehow neuter its art for the sake of appeasing the public. As it exists, Fleischer's film seems to be a hard-hitting, gritty and action-packed piece of gangland drama. To remove a scene based solely on the knee-jerk reaction of a country feels awkward and foolish.
Not long after 9/11, trailers for the original Spider-Man film (directed by Sam Raimi) were removed, as the trailer ends with a helicopter caught in the hero's webbing strung between the Twin Towers. While that was clearly a national tragedy, the trailer itself was brilliant in execution and depicted a famous New York landmark being used by a famous New York superhero. In the film itself, Spider-Man can be seen overlooking the New York skyline, the World Trade Center intact.
There have been examples of actors passing away before a film is finished, as well as immediately after. Heath Ledger is perhaps the best-known example of this, in that his passing wasn't long before The Dark Knight was released. It was shocking to see such a brilliant performance by such a powerful young actor taken so long before his time. Brandon Lee, while starring in The Crow was accidentally shot during one of the film's scenes involving firearms. It took a mix of then-groundbreaking CG trickery and stand-in actors to finish the film's sequences. The results were similar to Ledger's passing - people marveled at the performance.
There was discussion before The Dark Knight was released that a scene where a mob boss opens a body bag revealing Ledger's Joker was to be cut. Thankfully, Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan decided against re-cutting or removing the scene entirely, as it was not only essential to the plot, but also essential to the character of the The Joker himself. The same could be said of Gangster Squad and Mickey Cohen, as having his goons engage in a shootout in a movie theatre indicates how desperate he is to take down the crusaders trying to take him down.
There's no denying that the events in Aurora, Colorado were horrific, but should an individual's artistic vision be subject to editorializing? Should a filmmaker looking to spread out from his comedic roots have his first foray into dramatic filmmaking edited to lose what (from the trailers) looks to be a fantastic sequence? In the end, by removing said sequence from a film, or a reference to a place, or removing an aspect of an actor's performance, the film suffers. Art of any form should never be edited, regardless of current events or political climate.