Marathon Bombing Blockbuster: Boston Strong or Just Plain Wrong?

by • April 15, 2016 • Arts & Culture, Featured, Society & People, The World at Large, Visual ArtComments (0)382

“I’ve tried to block out the terrible memories from that day.”

“Moving forward is the only way to heal the wounds of the past.”

“I can’t even think about that day without going numb.”

These are just a few of the phrases spectators of the 117th Boston Marathon offer up when asked about their experiences. Each one of these experiences was powerfully unique, but the common sentiment was clear – dwelling on the tragic events of April 15, 2013 and the days that followed do not do those closely affected any good.

FullSizeRender (2)As a spectator myself on Boylston Street that afternoon, I will never fully get over the vibrations I felt, the smoke I inhaled, the shrieks I heard, and the absolute terror I saw on the faces of the people I loved most as well as the faces of complete, yet equally terrified strangers. Despite the fact that I was still a little more than a block away from the second bomb, I personally struggled with minor PTSD for months after the attack. I cannot, therefore, even imagine the hardship, the sleepless nights, and the pain felt by those most closely affected – the wounded and the family members of the victims. While the memories of this horrific day will never fade from the minds of those present, most simply want to forget.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of this act of terrorism. For Mark Wahlberg however, it is also a workday on the set of his upcoming film, Patriot’s Day, which will tell the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the days that followed. The production of this film, which will be released in Boston, New York, and LA on December 21, and in theaters everywhere on January 13, 2017, began less than three years after one of the biggest terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11 – an attack that shook the streets of Boston and forever altered the lives of hundreds of innocent people. Wahlberg, who is co-producing and starring in the film, directed by Peter Berg, is sparing no expense in the production. The cast list includes stars J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan, and Rachel Brosnahan, all of who have signed on to play some of the heroes of that fatal day. Eighteen-year-old Alex Wolff of Naked Brothers Band fame has recently been cast as terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Themo Melikidze, a virtually unknown but good-looking actor from the country of Georgia has been cast as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the mastermind terrorist.

FullSizeRenderI’ve always been a fan of Mark Wahlberg, and because of this, have been able to overlook Wahlburgers, the Ted franchise, and his extensive criminal history, but this time he may have gone too far. I am adamantly opposed to the making of this film, being hailed a “dramatic thriller”, and I am not alone in my convictions:

“A big-budget, star-studded movie about the Marathon is not something that I’m going to want to see”, stated Emily Paige, 19, who was caught between the two explosions on the opposite side of the street at the time of their detonation. “For people like me, who are still struggling to come to terms with the events that transpired, a movie spotlighting the tragedy isn’t going to be helpful.”

Anyone over the age of 10 who was living in America in April 2013 knows more than enough details surrounding this act of terrorism, therefore rendering the argument that “the story has to be told” invalid. I am not implying that we as a country should forget about the tragedy that occurred, but rather emphasizing that many people, specifically Massachusetts residents, already find the memories of these fear-filled days inescapable, forced to live with what they experienced every day.

FullSizeRender (1)Jane Clark, 19, who was standing at the Mile 26 mark, waiting to see her mother cross the finish line stated, “There should not be a question in anybody’s mind that [the making of] this so-called “movie” is unethical. People lost their lives that day. Innocent people lost their lives that day…this is reality. It is not an event to be used and romanticized as the next big blockbuster hit.”

On top of all of these concerns, my personal biggest grievance with this film is the extreme lengths the crew has gone to in order to achieve authenticity in its shots. The film’s location managers had the audacity to try to obtain permission from Watertown residents to film the shootout scene between Boston Police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the actual streets where these events transpired. These specific scenes would call for rounds of simulated gunshots to go off on these residential streets late at night, so not only would the lives of these residents be disrupted once again, but also this would also likely stir up horrific and unwanted memories. David Henneberry, the owner of the boat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hid out in before his eventual capture, outright refused to allow his property to be shot, stating, “I don’t want it. I don’t need it.”  After weeks of deliberation, the crew was ultimately prevented from shooting in the neighborhood at the request of its residents.

Directors always walk a slippery slope when basing films on true stories, and none more so than when these stories involve tragic events. While there is nothing wrong with bringing these stories to the screen in order to educate the public, honor the lives lost, and commemorate the moment in history, this is accomplished most tastefully through documentaries. If anything, the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon events should be captured in documentary style and told through the voices of first responders, survivors, witnesses, and the family members of the victims. In this way the true essence of the event could be captured while maintaining the voice of those most closely affected. What it should not be is an over-dramatized blockbuster film complete with A-list celebrities, CGI, and fake Boston accents. I cannot even begin to comprehend why Hollywood has decided that a mere three years after the bombing; it’s their duty to shine a blinding light on these events in the glossiest manner possible. The underlying goal of any film is to make a profit, and the mere idea of profiting off of tragedy and terror in the United States is unthinkably disturbing. By completely bypassing the TV documentary stage and taking the story directly to the big screen, however, I cannot help but feel that Wahlberg and company has some ulterior motives at play.

Although I can only assume that the crew will take every care to assure that the film is as accurate, thoughtful, and well-done as possible, there is no scenario in which this film will not leave a bad taste in the mouths of those closest to the tragedy. I respect the fact that the heroes in this tragic event will be spotlighted, but Wahlberg, a Massachusetts native, is taking a huge gamble by producing this movie. Despite my reservations, I sincerely hope that the film is well-received and manages to respectfully capture this emotional moment in time, as well as the inspiring Boston Strong movement that followed, in the appropriate light – if it does anything less, Wahlberg will have certainly jeopardized his career, and quite frankly, Bostonians may never forgive him.

To put it simply, we don’t want it, and we certainly don’t need it.

Photo Two . Photo Three . Photo One Courtesy of Author .

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