With Edward Snowden being talked about much more lately than Julian Assange ever has in America, you have to wonder if there’s an almost personal envy from the WikiLeaks founder. You can say that especially when the biopic on Julian Assange (“The Fifth Estate”) bombed at the box office, despite being one of the most significant stories of modern times. With the intention of that film being one of being a story we could still be watching a decade from now, it’s possible it may get washed away in favor of stories of Snowden who seems much more fascinating to Americans.
Yes, because Assange wasn’t American, perhaps his journey is one that Americans didn’t really care about. Snowden’s story is one of a true-blood American supposedly sacrificing himself to expose just how insidious the NSA’s programs have been on the population. It’s a complex American hero story that movie audiences may prefer because it’s one where being a traitor has so many more different layers we haven’t seen before.
In that regard, an announced biopic from Oliver Stone about Snowden is one that may have some sort of resolution to it if Snowden ultimately returns to America to face charges. Perhaps part of the problem with the Assange biopic is that it was done much too early when the WikiLeaks story is one still unfolding and has no real resolution. It’s why there may be truth to the idea that the movie might have a sudden second look over the next decade.
But considering these are essentially stories about hackers, how do hacker movies generally play based on how few have been made recently?
The Track Record of Movies About Hackers
It’s probably telling that, prior to “The Fifth Estate”, the most recent film that told a story about someone who knew how to hack was “The Social Network.” And the farther back you go in time, there seemed to be more movies about hackers than there are now when hackers are much more prevalent in the news. Perhaps the movies were on to the inevitability of hackers becoming a major problem in society, even if those movies showed other criminal acts rather than stealing government secrets.
Some future writers might have realized how bad it could really get when seeing “WarGames” over 30 years ago. Kids may have thought it was cool to see Matthew Broderick hack into a 1980s-era school computer and alter his grades. To national security watching, they may have realized they were seeing a small glimpse into what the world would look like several decades down the line.
Now with reports out that half of all Americans have been hacked, are we all throwing the threats of hacking into the back of our minds to help give us some peace of mind? We may prefer forgetting about hacking since we know they’re there and we hear about them all the time in the media. Seeing a movie about them may not be our favorite subject in the world, especially since it paints a lot of stereotypes we’ve seen before.
Hollywood may also realize this and explains why they haven’t green-lighted many hacking movies in the last five years. Oliver Stone’s Snowden movie would still have some intrigue in showing the details of how he managed to become a so-called spy and the methods he used to break into the NSA files. Nevertheless, it still involves the contrivances of hacking stories outside of his attempt to escape the country to avoid arrest.
Hearing the story directly from Snowden himself may be enough for most people without having to hire an actor to portray him. It’s certainly possible, also, that Snowden would become a secret adviser, which wasn’t done with the Assange biopic, much to Assange’s chagrin. If Snowden advises his own movie clandestinely while still on the run, we may be looking at a setup for an even more interesting film someday.
With the trend of movies about the making of movies, a future movie about Snowden advising on a story the government says is a lie would be one fascinating movie. When you’re not sure whether the government is the one telling the truth, you have a much bigger conflict that’s perfect for the movies, regardless of a hacker being the central character.