The "Sum Of All Fears"
March 28, 2002 12:34 PM   Subscribe

The "Sum Of All Fears" trailer recently went online, and is already causing some heated discussion over major changes from the book. In the wake of 9/11, it seems that terrorists in the film have been changed from Muslim to Neo-Nazi (who then go on to detonate a bomb within the United States). Hollywood knee-jerk reaction or a good call given the timing of things? Discuss...
posted by almostcool (28 comments total)
Sum of All Fears is a lousy book, and judging from the trailer, the plot of the movie is almost totally different (except for the part about terrorists detonating a Bomb in the US). Changing from Muslims to Nazis is the least of it. So maybe the movie at least has a chance of being good.
posted by straight at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2002

and who the hell wants to see a ben affleck movie?
posted by deftone at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2002

Ben Affleck as Jack? Please.
posted by stormy at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2002

Actually the change was a result of active lobbying by American-Muslim groups months before Septmeber 11th. An example of how pressuring studios works if the effort is concerted. However there is sure to be a backlash against this type of lobbying, as its consequences are not necessarily positive.
posted by cell divide at 1:08 PM on March 28, 2002

Affleck says in the trailer, "What's a South African doing in the Ukraine?" I hate to be critical over such a minor point, but the country's called "Ukraine" not "the Ukraine". Here's some more info: Ukraine or "the Ukraine"? I wonder how long till the lobbying from Ukrainian groups start coming.
posted by bobo123 at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2002

active lobbying by American-Muslim groups

How could this be a powerful influence in Hollywood? Even if such groups could convince 100% of american muslims to boycott the movie is that really enough to make the movie tank? I doubt it. I can't believe the producers gave a shit until 9/11 made the 'muslim-as-terrorist' a cross cultural hot- button.
posted by plaino at 1:44 PM on March 28, 2002

What is this...the 3rd actor who played Jack Ryan? Obviously the movie studios don't know a thing.
posted by plemeljr at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2002

I'm glad they made the change, because the last thing we need is some redneck to watch that movie and remember how much he or she is pissed off at "towelheads" for what they done did and gettin' violent.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2002

plaino, given that production wrapped on August 23 last year I find it hard to believe that 9/11 was much of an influence.

bobo, I'm shocked, shocked that people who grew up knowing a place as "the Ukraine" might occasionally commit the grievous insult of cultural ignorance involved to attribute an article to a noun form which in its original language doesn't have any articles at all, only inflections. Why do Americans again and again show they don't care about anybody else in the world? </sarcasm> I mean, good grief. Give it time. (This is like the people who excoriate you for using the spelling "Moslem" or "Koran", when there's no formal rule for transliterating Arabic.)

I think it's dumb that the plot was changed. (Note: I haven't read the book.) The American Muslim lobby (e.g. CAIR) has made it a cardinal sin to link the worlds "Islamic" and "terrorist", yet as 9/11 shows this is not merely prejudice. To fail to acknowledge the reality seems a whitewash. Fortunately the film The Siege was made over such objections, which seemed especially short-sighted given that film's classic Hollywood liberal (Ed Zwick) focus on exactly that point of over-reaction -- suggesting that in the face of expanded terrorism on American soil, the government would institute martial law and round up everybody who looked vaguely Middle-Eastern. The film barely addressed the background to the terrorism, focusing almost entirely on the response of our government. Today that must look dated, and certainly even at the time there were many who found such an artistic approach insulting. (Yes, Americans feeling insulted. Who'd a thunk?)

But given the climate right now, it's probably actually better that it be offset from reality somewhat, because otherwise it would be that much more difficult to address the issues involved. Just like Star Trek dealt best with so-called topical issues when they were less overt and couched inside the fictional distance of the far future, we need to confront the issue of nuclear terrorism, and getting it all mixed up in the righteous anger of the post-WTC era would just obscure whatever value beyond mere entertainment it might have.

Now, the only question is whether we'll ever get a movie, one divorced from the inflammatory nuclear terrorism issue, that will address the deeper problems of the cultural confrontation between Islam, especially Islamist political movements, and the West. There's a rich harvest of story there if anyone dares it.

mcsweetie, though, perhaps you have certain ethnic stereotypes you might find it salutary to re-examine.
posted by dhartung at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2002

I agree with dhartung -- the neo-nazi substitution (not that they don't also want to destroy the US, but let's face it, they lack the wherewithal) is a healthy and necessary dose of unreality in this sensitive time. As to the question of whether we'll ever see a thoughtful exploration of the issue of Islamist extremism -- I would think that exercise would be more suited to a documentary format than high-gloss fiction.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:38 PM on March 28, 2002

I saw a preview for The Sum of All Fears, and it was pretty disturbing. Ummm...the events shown in the preview were disturbing, I mean, although the movie looks like a pretty generic action/adventure movie. I'm not confident that there won't be futher terrorist attacks in the US, possibly including a nuclear attack of some kind, so stuff like this is a little too close to home for escapist entertainment.

Considering that martial law wasn't instituted in The Siege until after a sustained terrorist bombing campaign in New York, I wouldn't dismiss the possibility. If there were a similar real-life campaign, we'd have tanks in the streets.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:42 PM on March 28, 2002

mcsweetie, though, perhaps you have certain ethnic stereotypes you might find it salutary to re-examine.

yeah, I'm still coming to terms with issues I've developed regarding racists. it's a slow, day-to-day process, but in due time I'll come to the point where I can respect bigotry and it's oftentimes violent expression.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2002

msweetie, I think it's important to remember the contributions groups like the National Association for Advancement of Redneck People (NAARP) have made. They have exposed the bigoted laws that require shoes and shirt for service. They have fought long legal battles to make sure that people arrested on "Cops" receive proper royalties and syndication rights. They have made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on whether or not one has a mullet. And most importantly, they have been a major influence in trailer park fee controls.

So the next time you feel like going to a Circle K or Stuckey's and want to pee on the candy display, you're free to do that because of the work of the NAARP.
posted by billman at 3:09 PM on March 28, 2002

Side note: dhartung, there actually is a standard for romanizing Arabic, at least in the US. It's ANSI Z39.12-1972 (not available on the web). I don't think there is an international standard, though.
posted by Potsy at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2002

Last I heard, the rednecks were running way behind the towelheads in the box score. But I just overheard the half-time report, so maybe I got it wrong. Maybe mcsweetie's right and the rednecks will take the cup this year. Or maybe we're beyond blaming movies and videogames and other forms of popular entertainment for violence? Nah, that would mean we were in a perfect, perfect world.
posted by dhartung at 4:46 PM on March 28, 2002

the sum of all my fears rests in the moment that ben affleck somehow achieves some sort of legitimacy as an actor.

maybe if we just ignore him he'll go away.

in any case, virtually every post- sept 11 "action-adventure" movie will have some sort of resonance for people living in the states. especially if they involve government agencies and worst- case scenarios.

it doesn't matter which ethnic/ terrorist/ hate/ militia group is used as the antagonist.
posted by ronv at 5:35 PM on March 28, 2002

Sorry to drift more, but I'm curious about that use if "the Ukraine." I think of it as being like "the Levant" or "the Maghreb" or "the Altiplano", non-national regions that are well deifned enough to have an identity of their own. Are there other nations that hqave this quasi-regional status? (No, I'm not talking about what we "should" say to avoid offending someone's national pride, I'm talking about what people do or did say.) The only examples I can think of are "The Sudan" and "The Gambia". "The Sudan", as opposed to the current country of Sudan, originally meant all of sub-Saharan Africa, and the usage seems to have transferred to the nation when it became independent. "The Gambia" I don't really understand. There's also "the Argentine", which doesn't seem to mean Argentina exactly. All of these strike me as Britishisms. Are there any other examples?
posted by rodii at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2002

Oh, yes, also "The Netherlands," duh, and many Brits (used to?) say "the Lebanon". Here's a Linguist List post (rant) on the issue.
posted by rodii at 6:26 PM on March 28, 2002

mcsweetie-redneck dosen't always equal "bigot". Some folks just use it as a self-deprecating slang term. Also, saying that the typical bigot is a "bubba" type glosses over the fact that if racism=bigotry + power then white-collar prejudices are far more harmful than any redneckism.

I realize that I promised to end my 'common man' crusade, but here it actually is relevant.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 PM on March 28, 2002

"Today that must look dated" i dont think so. a background to terrorism was not really needed, to me, the movie seemed to capture the shift in terrorism, one that is more deadly. The movie tried to show the esculation of violence...a warning...a bus...a theatre...Fed 1 plaza... so the movie gave us a glimpse of what might have been...mass mistrust, arrest by the 1000's....hmmmm. In New York city circa late 1850s, the dead rabbitt riots broke out, lasted near a week, the largest gathering of gangs in u.s. history.(over 5000 men) Chaos, our own citizens. the NY police didnt (couldnt) do anything and the larger police force (forget which) thought that it was somebodies elses mess.(like the CAV) Finally it took a gang leader going to officals threating, you call the military or i will. Though the draft riots of '63 where more deadly, this riot signified that a mob will get out of hand and turn on its own...that mob violence thing...watts, detriot, phily, new york and L.A. Ordering a light division into Manhattan is stupid, so the whole military scenerio is jagged in 'The Seige' (Denzel shoulda got his OSC for that) I think the movie is relevant for what denzels character said to the general, perhaps this is the goal, only to weaken our laws.
posted by clavdivs at 7:02 PM on March 28, 2002 god, clancy whined about Ford playing this his move or did cpa suggest affleck.
posted by clavdivs at 7:05 PM on March 28, 2002

Rodii: the English actually added a Portuguese definite article(o) to the name of Portugal's second largest city, turning Porto into Oporto, i.e. The Porto. Go figure.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:17 PM on March 28, 2002

clavdivs: If they only wanted to weaken our laws, they should have just filed a bunch of lawsuits or used their millions to buy off Congressmen to pass weaker laws for them. What? They can't play by the same rules our corporations do?

Seirously though, I think that whole "our way of life" thing is a somewhat weak argument. Think about history, when did one force want to weaken the laws of its enemy? They don't hate our way of life, they hate their's. Poor people don't hate rich people because they are rich. They hate rich people because they are not themselves rich.
posted by billman at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2002

"they only wanted to weaken our laws, they should have just filed a bunch of lawsuits or used their millions to buy off Congressmen to pass weaker laws for them" your thinking of huey long stlye kinda politics. That is exactly the goal. Ive told many a MeFi to read Sun Tzus artofwar (or re-read it)...oh your making a lite funny? sorry. thats funny but untrue/."Think about history" seems like im the only one who does. (dhart and a few others do and do it well despite my pathetic temper tandrums) "They don't hate our way of life, they hate their's" i have beau coup prejudices but find great things from other cultures older then my own. Im poor as a churchmouse but do not hate rich..."when did one force want to weaken the laws of its enemy"....oh man.
if your comment was tounge-in-cheek cool, but if too.
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 PM on March 28, 2002

What is this...the 3rd actor who played Jack Ryan? Obviously the movie studios don't know a thing.

plemeljr - Two words: James Bond.
posted by schlaager at 9:56 PM on March 28, 2002


The first part was obviously tounge in cheek but the second part, though somewhat simplistic, I am a little more serious about.

I've just never bought into the "they hate our way of life" thing. Too simple. IMHO, if the Arab/Muslim world was still the center of knowledge, trade, and holder of great power, I don't think OBL would give a rat's ass if we had titty bars on every corner as long as we kept it in the US. There have been some very well written theories that much of this anger is coming out of the fact that either the US is wrong or the Koran must be wrong. How can a country that does everything offensive to Allah become rich and powerful while Allah's faithful eat dirt clods? Their anger comes not from what we do, but from why they are where they are. Of course, that's just a theory, perhaps we'll find out the truth one day.

And in terms of weakening laws, I understand the concept and agree that it could be used effectively (and have read The Art of War) but I don't think that's his strategy. There are too many ways that would have been more effective in bringing those kinds of changes in a more clandestine manner. Again, not saying that it's not an effective strategy, IMHO, I don't think that is his motive. Hell, why not just buy CBS or CNN and start slanting the news to a pro-Muslim agenda? He had that kind of money at one time (to be taken seriously enough to get financing for the deal) and he certainly could have raised any money he needed from his own family or others (mom, dad, I've seen the light and have given up all that crazy talk and now I just want to make the world a better place). In other words, the US is far more likely to crumble from the inside than from an attack from the outside. He could have come to the US and secretly financed hate groups and militias and attempted to create a civil war. Again, just my thoughts on it. Obviously nobody but OBL knows so it's merely uninformed speculation.
posted by billman at 11:18 PM on March 28, 2002

"There are too many ways that would have been more effective in bringing those kinds of changes in a more clandestine manner" name a few. he never had CNN kinda cash."In other words, the US is far more likely to crumble from the inside" that is the only way really and the 'Seige' scenerio points that out. Hate groups are in check, i dont think there is really any organized crime left, least not on say Lanskys scale. Hoover and others wanted to trace where money was coming from to support certain questionable groups, hell through-out his reighn, any money from bin laden to these groups post 91' would send up a huge red flag. here is a local example of the semantics that have formed from 9-11. some hispanic gangs shot up some peoples house in Flint Mi. near where i live....hispanic upon the National Action Network or some group has issued an advisory to all u.s. citizens to be cautiuos when travelling on the east side esp. IF ONE IS BLACK. i'm searching for links, as this was in todays Flint Journal...holy week can make me a little batty but as aaron once said, i feel some "serious bad ju-ju" coming from all sides....itz...a...gettin wild west like in all quarters. but the best thing you said is that it is speculation. it is as is mine and i like your turn on the love thing, better place and all. good advise for me at least.
posted by clavdivs at 1:34 PM on March 29, 2002

I'll take an Affleck performance over a Brad Pitt or Matt Damon "acting" job any day...
posted by owillis at 2:48 PM on March 29, 2002

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