In the week following terrorist attacks, film stars have shown up everywhere to raise money or offer sympathy and support to the families of victims. But the one place they haven’t been showing up in is the theater.
Hollywood bent itself over backward, editing shots of the twin towers out of films such as Zoolander and Serendipity. In a testament to New York City’s importance in film, all but one movie release – Mariah Carey’s Glitter – scheduled to open last weekend, has been rescheduled. From action movies such as Training Day to romantic comedies featuring suddenly unfortunate locales, as is the case with Sidewalks of New York, studios have made every effort to change plans.
New action film Collateral Damage, which casts Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hero seeking vengeance after his family is killed in a skyscraper bombing, has been postponed indefinitely. A planned martial arts film starring Jackie Chan will be completely rewritten now that a plot involving a Trade Center window washer (Chan) discovering a terrorist plot is no longer feasible or remotely acceptable. The movie was scheduled to begin shooting at 7 a.m., Sept. 11 at the top of the World Trade Center, but was delayed only by a late script.
The Last Castle’s promotional posters featuring upside-down American flags have been pulled in a quick show of patriotism. A trailer for Spider Man, in which the hero catches a helicopter in a giant web strung between the World Trade Center towers has also been cut. Movies such as Al Pacino’s People I Know and the remake of The Time Machine will not be released for up to a year because of necessary editing of New York City scenes.
Comedies will carefully skirt scenarios involving bombs on planes or anything involving terrorism. Big Trouble, which contained such a scene, has also been postponed. From now on, Ben Stiller fighting with a stewardess about checking his bag in Meet the Parents will just not seem very funny.
Now more than ever, escapist fantasies such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter will be the most desirable option for theater-goers eager to step outside of the constant television news updates and pronouncements of war that have suddenly become the norm.
There is no telling when action movies will seem within the bounds of good taste again. To some extent, it may never happen. Plots that appeared wholly unbelievable are now too close to the truth to be comfortable. Right now, the worst thing art can do is try to imitate reality.