Talkback: Should Warner Bros. Cancel The Dark Knight Rises Screenings?
It's hard to imagine most folks will be eager to rush into cinemas this weekend following the tragedy out of Aurora, Colorado, even those who've been anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises for months. While Matt Patches over at Hollywood.com thoughtfully wonders if audiences will return swiftly to theaters, The Wrap reports that Warner Bros. are themselves scrambling to figure out how to balance their multi-million dollar Dark Knight Rises roll-out campaign with common decency and empathy for the victims, their families, and a shaken nation.
It's not that audiences might recoil from Batman, presuming some direct link between the comics or the character somehow incited suspect James Holmes to allegedly pre-meditate his attack on the dozens of men, women, and children at Aurora's Century 16, despite unconfirmed reports that he may have had hair dyed in the style of The Joker; violence in media doesn't "make" people kill, though access to guns and combat paraphernalia helps sick people do terrible things.
And though fanboy ire this week had reached alarming levels with the hate-speech and death threats lobbied at critics of The Dark Knight Rises, any true Bat-fan knows that the DC hero not only fights to protect lives, he's staunchly anti-gun. (A scene in TDKR highlights this.) So let's not even start to blame the movies for what happened in Aurora. Besides: When tragedy strikes niche communities, it reminds us that we're not so divided after all.
Fandom is what made the Aurora victims sitting ducks for the gun man, who burst through the packed theater's emergency exit doors just minutes after the film had begun. These were people who had anticipated TDKR so much many of them likely bought tickets in advance, wanting to be among the first to see the film. The shooter seemed to be preying on fans, not representing them, though his motives have yet to be revealed. Writing in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane proposes doing away with midnight movies for fear of copycats, though his secondary reason somewhat condescendingly critiques the practice of the midnight screening altogether:
"...those screenings, starting when most people are in bed, often have a crazed and hallucinated air, which is all part of the game to those who enjoy them — anyone who has driven to a theatre to fetch teen-aged Harry Potter devotees, as they wander out in costume at three o’clock in the morning, can attest to that weary delirium — but which, right now, seems volatile, ominous, and redundant.
Theaters around the country will be beefing up security this weekend, with police in NYC and elsewhere promising increased presences at TDKR screenings. But whether or not more officers and metal detectors and other security measures are enacted going forward, the fact remains that this was a lone gunman who entered through an emergency door and shot dozens of people in cold blood. How much can security help, except to encourage moviegoers to head to the multiplex, to not live in fear of tragedy striking again?
Variety's Josh Dickey reports (via Twitter) that WB is not considering pulling screenings, and given the financial investment and massive 4,400-theater release plans it's hard to imagine they would. Cancelling a celebratory press event in Paris is one thing; letting audiences decide if they're ready to head into theaters, with the unshakable specter of Aurora lingering in the hearts and minds of just about everyone, is another.
Just a starting point for discussion, but sound off below as we keep the families and victims of Aurora in our thoughts.