Jul 23, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At first blush, Friday afternoon was supposed to be a chance to follow up on eager anticipation by stepping into a darkened movie theater and see the year’s most anticipated film.
Then we woke up Friday morning to the news that, in the Denver suburb of Aurora, at one of those sold-out midnight showings of The Dark Knight Rises, a young man named James Holmes walked into one of those darkened theaters, unleashed a gas canister and then opened fire with multiple guns, killing 12 and wounding nearly 60.
It was impossible not to flash back to those other mass shootings that have scarred America’s psyche, especially the one that took place 13 years ago not far from Aurora, at a school called Columbine.
Have we learned absolutely nothing from Columbine or other mass shootings? Attempts to meaningfully address gun violence in this country have been literally shot down, either because opponents want to regulate too much or because proponents, especially the NRA, believe any attempt at regulation subverts their sacred Second Amendment rights.
Isn’t it enough to say that this sort of violence is unacceptable, period? To be sure, you can’t stereotype all gun owners through the awful acts of one person, but at the same time those that don’t have guns have the right to feel safe, too.
Some have already looked to the Batman films as a scapegoat. Director Christopher Nolan tackled a lot of themes in his Batman trilogy, one of them the way a society reacts to mindless, overwhelming violence.
So it’s natural that some will consider this dark act an imitation of the art on the screen. Many witnesses and survivors said that they initially thought the gas canister was part of the program until, a split-second later, they realized the awful truth. Holmes told police he was the Joker, and little else.
Others can, and will, point to the incessant attention given to The Dark Knight Rises for weeks and months before it opened. Yes, it was too much hype. No work of art, no matter how well made, merits the sort of attention we ought to give to serious issues.
It only got more intense in the last days before that fateful midnight showing in Aurora. Any sort of negative review generated some threats from fans toward the critics who offered them. The fact that the main villain was named Bane was translated, by a certain radio host who goes by the initials RL, as a liberal attack on Mitt Romney, which was just as ridiculous.
For a while on Friday, I pondered whether going to see the film was appropriate or even tasteless. But I did, partly because we shouldn’t have to live in fear, and partly to try and find any sort of tie between Nolan’s work and the tragedy that unfolded in its wake.
Round about the two-hour mark in the two hour, 45-minute epic, the message was received. Gotham’s moment of absolute despair and hopelessness could not help but remind me of the desperate scenes in Aurora, young people scrambling out of the theater, their shirts drenched in blood, carrying out the dead and wounded, families everywhere plunged into sudden grief.
Slowly, painfully, beautifully, Gotham is able to fight back, live again and carry on, mostly through the actions of those who don’t want to be bathed in glory. In that, Nolan hits again, perfectly, on his main trilogy theme – the nature of heroism, and the fact that what we consider it to be may not reflect the actual deeds, or the actual do-gooders.
All the performers, from Christian Bale’s Batman to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, shine, as does old pros Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. And yes, a few of his words were tough to understand, and no one will ever tough Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Tom Hardy’s Bane was scary enough, and quite unforgettable.
Though I didn’t ask anyone in the theater, I doubt that anyone was kept away from The Dark Knight Rises by the Aurora shootings. They showed up, paid attention, and were riveted until the final, emotion-filled minutes, the payoff quite satisfying.
The most emotional part, though, had nothing to do with the film itself. It was when those lights in the theater darkened, just as they had done 15 or so hours earlier in Aurora, and maybe all of us uttered a silent prayer for those we lost who just wanted to have that same fun communal experience of going to the movies.
Nearly three hours later, we all left safely. That was the most important thing of all.