The film, which hit DVD here today, started its theatrical run in Japan last month. Deadline is reporting that the movie will stop screening in roughly 200 theaters immediately, with Warner Entertainment Japan official Satoru Otani saying that in light of current events, continuing to screen the film was "not appropriate."
This isn't the first time studios have scrambled to make changes to films in the wake of international tragedies. Sony was forced to scrap a 'Spider-Man' teaser trailer and poster in the wake of 9/11, for example. Those pieces featured imagery of the Twin Towers and were deemed a too painful reminder of the terrorist attacks.
A bigger question is what will this tragedy mean for a film like Guillermo Del Toro's newly announced 'Pacific Rim'? That title revolves around an alien invasion, and features a giant monster rising up from the ocean floor and attacking Japan in the year 2012. 'Pacific Rim' wouldn't hit theaters until sometime in 2013, but will that still be too soon to show footage of Japan being devastated once again?
The Japanese are a resilient people who endured two atomic bomb attacks during World War II only to rebuild in their wake. They explored some of the issues raised by that event through films like 'Godzilla,' but not until 1954 – nearly a decade after the bombs were dropped. 'Pacific Rim' seems to fit into the Kaiju Eiga (monster movie) paradigm, but will the timing work? That seems like it should be a potentially huge concern for Del Toro and Legendary Pictures moving forward. If it doesn't, 'Pacific Rim' could go down the same path as those early 'Spider-Man' teasers.
An even more interesting topic is what does this catastrophe mean for Japanese film in general? Japan's cinema scene is over a hundred years old and has managed to survive even as Hollywood movies infiltrate foreign markets and kill homegrown product across the globe. While the areas hardest hit by the quake and tsunami weren't the country's filmmaking centers, it seems a given that the aftermath will influence all facets of life across the island nation. Two things are all but guaranteed at this point: It will affect future production, and the psychological scars will have an impact on the tone of Japanese films for years to come. Let's all just hope that the country, and the vibrant cinema scene that has given us filmmakers like Ozu, Kurosawa and Takeshi Kitano, can get back on their feet soon.