Todd Phillips’ Joker won’t screen at the Colorado theater where a 2012 massacre happened during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Fabled Batman villain The Joker has become more than just a comic book character in the decades since he first appeared in DC Comics. With his new take on The Joker, writer-director Phillips is veering entirely away from established comic book canon, introducing an iteration of the character that was not inspired by any previous version.
As played by Joaquin Phoenix, the new Joker is a would-be entertainer named Arthur Fleck, whose desire to bring joy to the world is finally snuffed out by society’s cruelty, leading him to take on the persona of a criminal mastermind in clown makeup. Unlike prior cinematic takes on The Joker, Phillips and Phoenix’s film comes with an R rating, promising the darkest envisioning of the character yet created. Fans are clearly excited about what Joker has in store by way of exploring the darkness of the most popular of all comic book supervillains, but not everyone is so eager to experience Phoenix’s twisted take on Arthur Fleck. In fact there has already been some critical pushback against the movie, with some expressing fears that Joker could inspire another violent episode like the shooting that took place in an Aurora, Colorado theater in 2012 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, when 12 people lost their lives.
Amid worries about a repeat of that 2012 shooting, the Aurora theater where the incident took place has indeed already decided not to screen Joker (via THR), according to a theater employee. The Century theater chain, which runs the remodeled Aurora Century and XD, did not respond when asked to comment.
The Aurora theater’s decision not to run Joker comes as family members of 2012 victims have written a letter to Warner Bros. expressing their own concerns about the film and calling on the studio to donate proceeds to groups that aid gun violence victims. Speaking to THR, Sandy Phillips spoke of her worries that Joker could lead to a repeat of the incident that claimed her daughter Jessica Ghawi’s life, saying:
"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.
The letter dispatched to Warner Bros. by victims’ family members pointed out the similarities between James Holmes, the perpetrator of the 2012 shooting, and the character of Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man who feels “wronged” by society and unleashes violence as a result. For their part, Warner Bros. say they have not yet received the letter and therefore can’t comment. For the record, not all family members of 2012 massacre victims signed on to the letter. Tom Sullivan, a current Colorado state representative whose son was killed, says he doesn’t believe seeing movies like Joker acts as a catalyst to cause people to undertake violence.
The debate over whether movies, video games and other media cause mass violence is of course a heated one, and given its subject matter, it’s no surprise to see Joker right in the middle of that particular on-going argument. Given circumstances, it’s understandable that the Aurora Century and XD has elected not to screen Joker, and it’s also understandable that families of victims would voice concerns.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022