The upcoming Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie has sparked controversy surrounding the violence in the film, which now sees victims and families of The Dark Knight Rises shooting massacre protest, with Warner Bros. responding.
Update: The FBI and military have responded.
The Dark Knight Rises shooting took place at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado back in July of 2012 where James Holmes shot and killed people watching the final Christopher Nolan Batman film.
So with headlines offering that the Joker movie could spark violence, five people that were related to the Aurora, Colorado shooting released a letter that in part calls for gun control and for Warner Bros. to take responsibility.
It’s also learned Joker will not be playing at the Aurora, Colorado theater where the shooting took place.
Dark Knight Rises shooting victims protest Joker
“[The Aurora shooting], perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society, has changed the course of our lives. When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause,” the letter says.
The group didn’t go so far requesting that Joker be canceled, but rather offered: “We’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.”
“We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression,” the letter continues. “But as anybody who has seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities … keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”
The letter also adds that companies such as Walmart and CVS have taken steps regarding gun safety and says Warner Bros should do the same. “Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act,” they wrote.
Warner Bros. responds to Joker protest
Warner Bros. released the following statement in response:
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.
Sandy Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter was among the slain, told THR in an interview: “I don’t need to see a picture of [Holmes]; I just need to see a Joker promo and I see a picture of the killer… My worry is that one person who may be out there — and who knows if it is just one — who is on the edge, who is wanting to be a mass shooter, may be encouraged by this movie. And that terrifies me.”
Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix defend Joker
Both director Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix defended the movie in an interview with IGN.
“Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” Phoenix said. “And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”
“To me, art can be complicated and oftentimes art is meant to be complicated,” Phillips added. “If you want uncomplicated art, you might want to take up calligraphy, but filmmaking will always be a complicated art.”
Joker opens October 4, 2019 directed by Todd Phillips.