Warner Bros.’ Gangster Squad will have a key segment removed and new scenes introduced as a result of the atrocity in Aurora, Colorado in which innocent people were shot and killed during a performance of The Dark Knight Rises. Its cinema shooting scene is considered insensitive in light of the incident, although the studio’s interference at the eleventh hour in the sheer interest of corporate presentation leaves a sour taste. Here’s food for thought: had Inglourious Basterds been released in September 2012 rather than August 2009, could we have lost the film’s iconic and powerful climax?
The idea that action can simply be taken and transplanted somewhere else without consequence is a simplified point of view that fails to take into account not only the significance of the setting in the sequence, but also its choice from a cinematographic or artistic standpoint. Film is a visual medium, and the beauty of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the 90-year old cinema in which Gangster Squad’s now controversial segment was shot, was likely a large contributor to its choice. To move the scene elsewhere is to challenge whether set design contributes anything to cinema – and that alone is folly.
While Warner Bros. and the filmmakers would likely have felt backlash for going ahead with their September release plans with such a dangerously controversial scene, the obvious solution is not to excise it, but to delay the film’s release altogether and then release it intact. It was entirely appropriate for Warner Bros. to withdraw the trailer from cinemas following the Aurora attack, but this complete revisionism in the finished product stinks of money-motivated overreaction and almost apologetic behaviour from a firm with no tangible connection to the aforementioned incident. One wonders what the director and screenwriter think about the forced change.