There is growing angst and concern about Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s dark take on the iconic Batman villain Joker.
If you remember on July 20, 2012, a nightmare happened in a theater in Aurora, Colorado. Right before Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight screened, James Eagan Holmes, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms.
Twelve people were killed and seventy others were injured, 58 of them from gunfire. It was the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
Due to the amount of the gun violence in the movie and the fact that the lead is a disturbed individual who causes chaos, many people, from the 2012 victims’ families to critics to even the military and FBI believe that the film could inspire violence again.
Although the standalone DC movie isn’t released until October 4 and stands at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, many critics have voiced their concern and believe that it might be irresponsible to promote the film given the current climate.
The very idea that this could repeat has led the families of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting to write Warner Bros and ask the studio to donate to groups that aid victims of gun violence and “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform.”
The letter doesn’t call for Joker to actually be pulled, however, the Century Aurora and XD — the remodeled Century 16 theater — will not sell tickets for Joker.
After the film was pulled and the families’ letters, Warner Bros did respond. You’ll find the highlights below:
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.
At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero. “
This is clearly a sensitive issue, but it’s important to note that the killer (we won’t name him) did not actually refer to himself as ‘The Joker’ while being arrested despite initial reports to the contrary.”
However, that misconception along with the fact that he had dyed red – not green – hair and committed his heinous crime during a screening of a Batman movie is forever etched in public consciousness. Watch the trailer to the film, which just won the Venice Film Festival, below:
Now, it’s also been revealed that the FBI has uncovered social media posts related to extremists who are classified as “incels” which are about Joker.
The US Military has instructed service members to “identify two escape routes” when entering theaters and, if an attack does happen, they should “run, hide [and] fight.”
This is just a precaution, though, and the FBI is unaware of any specific terror plots or suspects.
“We do this routinely because the safety and security of our workforce is paramount. We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out,” an Army spokesperson said.
For those of you who may not know, “incels” refers to “involuntary celibate” men; a group who feel they are entitled to romantic partners but who have, in their minds, been denied them by society. Sometimes, that leads to violent, racist, or misogynistic behaviour.
The FBI notes that these men “idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against bullies.”
Director Todd Phillips has finally weighed in as well. After acknowledging the concerns of those who were affected by the Aurora shootings, the filmmaker makes it clear that he doesn’t believe Joker is any more concerning that something like John Wick.
“I mean, I think that Aurora is obviously a horrible, horrible situation but even that is not something you blame on the movie. Quite frankly, if you do your own research about Aurora that gentleman wasn’t even going in as Joker, That was misreported, his hair was dyed red he was having, obviously, a mental breakdown and there’s something horrifying about that but it wasn’t related to it outside of the fact that it happened at a movie theater. This is not the thing that the movie is trying to represent.
“The movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world invocations, options, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world that’s been around for 80 years. The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, oh I just saw John Wick 3. He’s a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”
Writer-director Todd Phillips says it isn't fair to link his #JokerMovie to real-world violence: "It's a fictional character in a fictional world that's been around for 80 years." pic.twitter.com/NcT4d9fjOQ
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) September 24, 2019
Here is the official synopsis for Joker:
Director Todd Phillips Joker centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fracturedsociety.
A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.
Directed by Todd Phillips from a script he co-wrote with Scott Silver, Warner Bros.’ Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais, and Shea Whigham.
Joker will be released in theaters on October 4, 2019.