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Taking A Moment: Thoughts On The 'The Dark Knight Rises' Colorado Movie Theater Shooting

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
July 20, 2012 1:55 PM
28 Comments
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They were, in all likelihood, people like you. Many more of you, like ourselves, are planning trips tonight, or over the weekend, to see Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. But the keenest went to the very first midnight screenings last night (some of you right now are waking up bleary-eyed from the late night). In the Aurora suburb of Denver, Colorado, several thousand moviegoers did the same on Thursday, heading to the late-night screening at the Century multiplex cinema.

And then something terrible happened. Reports are still coming in and being confirmed throughout the day, but what's clear is that about half an hour into the film, a man in a gas mask stood up, set off what appeared to be tear gas, and opened fire into the crowd. Shots pierced the wall into the theater next door, and moviegoers were hit there too. As it stands, 12 people have been reported dead, and at least 38 injured. The suspect was found sitting in his car behind the theater, and has been taken into custody. More details will emerge as time goes on, with a further press conference by the police scheduled for around 11 AM Denver time. And it should go without saying that our hearts go out to the victims, and their families.

There will be a lot of discussion over the coming days, inevitably. Endless op-eds will be written. Some of them will be valuable, some of them won't. Arguments about gun control, and the link between movies and violence, and the terrible phenomenon of the mass shooting (the theater was only 20 miles from Littleton where the Columbine shootings took place 13 years ago) will be brought up, and these questions should absolutely be asked. We don't have the heart right now. Ultimately, this was a senseless, random, terrible incident. And what we keep coming back to is what we opened with; these were people like you. And people like us.

We've had our frustrations with fandom, as a phenomenon, but more often than not, it's a wonderful, laudable thing. People drawn together over a shared love for something, be it music or books or sports or, in this case, Batman. Given the anti-social hours of the screening, many of those in the theater were likely among the most fervent fans, and footage from the scene has already shown more than one person in full costume. The victims were there to see something they loved, and something they'd likely been looking forward to it for months, years even.

And one of the marks of Nolan's films is the way that that love for the character has been shared with an even wider audience. Many of those in the audience wouldn't have ever read a Batman comic, or know who Bane is. They were there because they loved movies. And that's why this stings particularly for us, right now. The cinema is our church. Our temple. It's where we go to be comforted, and challenged. And it's always felt like a safe space.

And we're determined for that not to change. We'd be lying if we thought that we wouldn't feel a little uneasy when we stepped into the theater tonight. And we're going to see increased security in movie theaters in the short term, at least. But again, this was a terrible, random incident, likely picked because it was where a large number of people were gathered, more than anything else. It's not going to prevent us going to the movies, just as Columbine didn't make us afraid to go to school. So this weekend, go and see a movie. Or watch one at home. That's all the audience in Aurora were trying to do.

There's a quote that lingers at moments like this, that gives us a little comfort. After the massacre in Norway last year, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, told a press conference, "If one man can create that hate, you can only imagine how much love we as a togetherness can create."

And we put it to you -- Batman fans and film lovers alike -- to prove him right. The Batman myth has remained potent for over 70 years in part because he's a man born into wealth and privilege, who rejects complacency, and stands up for those who can't help themselves. Thanks to the internet, we're capable of coming together and organizing over the most meaningless bullshit, so let's do something that actually matters. For the people directly affected by the shooting. And for those who might be affected by similar events. Alan Cerny of Ain't It Cool News has already suggested on Twitter that movie websites do something for charity, and we're on board for whatever that ends up being. And we're optimistic that you, the readers, can do something too. Let's let something great come out of this. The night can be darkest just before the dawn.

Update: "The Dark Knight Rises" director Christopher Nolan has released a statement.

"Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie.

I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

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28 Comments

  • joan | July 27, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    Could it be that this dark movie evoked this horror? What happened to a movie that shows that crime does not pay? As for me i had worried about lice from movie seats now this. I for sure will not be going to ANY movie soon. I feel that the movie theatre was also responsible in not having better security on locked doors. They should be held responsible. I heard someone say that we should not even utter this killers name to give him attention. Let the law do with him what they must, but let him not walk amongst us again. May God Bless Us All

  • arab | July 21, 2012 3:00 PMReply

    now you know how it is to be an iraqi, when masked men from your country invade my house and our social gatherings and start firing. But Sad event this is.

  • Nik | July 21, 2012 2:55 PMReply

    Great article.

  • hank | July 21, 2012 4:29 AMReply

    Very nicely said, Oliver. Thank you.

  • jingmei | July 20, 2012 11:55 PMReply

    A heart-touching thoughtful wrapping-up article this is.

  • red | July 20, 2012 8:56 PMReply

    Such a fucking horrible story!!! Why?? Just why would someone do something like that??

    " They were there because they loved movies. And that's why this stings particularly for us, right now. The cinema is our church. Our temple. It's where we go to be comforted, and challenged. And it's always felt like a safe space."

    So true... great,great article Oliver.

  • Gil Thelander | July 20, 2012 6:36 PMReply

    How about "just as Columbine didn't make us stop going to school"? I'm sure plenty of people were afraid to go to school after the shootings.

  • DG | July 20, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    Really, really, powerfull and well-written article. This whole thing is so sad I don't really even know what else to say. You're right the cinema is our church, and our community too, and thats what we need in times like this, is community, people helping each other out

  • Mike | July 20, 2012 4:10 PMReply

    Thanks for this very well intended & written piece that didn't go to extremes the way I expect many will over the next few days. I for one know that my excitement to see the movie this weekend has drained significantly & it'll be very hard to shake the association of this event from it for me and probably many others, probably forever.

  • Karen K | July 20, 2012 3:16 PMReply

    Great article and articulates exactly what so many feel. We make and watch movies to escape the realities of life. There will be plenty of time to discuss and argue and point blame in the days and weeks to come. Today, we need go come together and grieve. And watch movies.

  • Nolan | July 20, 2012 3:08 PMReply

    I live in San Diego (the shooter grew up here, his family still lives here) and the coverage that the local news stations are pursuing is almost as disgusting as the shooting itself. We are routinely taken to helicopter shots of the parent's house (why? to see them move around?) We cut to feed of a reporter who followed the father to the airport to harass him for quotes as he's standing in the security line, fighting back tears. None of this does anything to add to the story. These people are complete scum.

  • thaRiddler | July 21, 2012 2:51 AM

    For sure man. Politicians and the media love to take advantage of tragic events such as this. All in the hopes to pass draconian bills and to gather higher ratings. This people are scumbags and make me sick just as much as the shooter.

  • Lucy | July 20, 2012 4:03 PM

    I agree Nolan. Sad., horrible event and the media especially what I've seen in San Diego make me sick to my stomach with what they're doing. My best friend's entire family is from the area, it's also very close to Columbine high school which they also dealt with. It's so horrible I'm speechless.

  • Peter Macamley | July 20, 2012 3:01 PMReply

    This is a great article, but I take incredulous issue with this part,

    "We've had our frustrations with fandom ..."

    Holmes' actions have NOTHING to do with fandom. Please be rational especially at a time like this.

  • Marko | July 20, 2012 10:38 PM

    So I guess we can still expect more snarky remarks about Batman fanboys then?

  • Rob | July 20, 2012 7:05 PM

    No, Peter, literally, that insinuation is absent from the article. I don't know how you're making that connection. The sentence in question, put another way is, is "look, fanboys can be annoying sometimes but the essence of what they're about is commendable." It is not drawing any lines between fandom and Holmes. I suppose it is your privilege to misunderstand something, but at least cop to that.

  • Peter Macamley | July 20, 2012 3:25 PM

    I disagree Kevin. I also began by saying how great this article is. If I don't agree with every single thing written in it - that, I think you'll find is a commenter's privilege.

    Moving on, today not the day for petty.

  • Kevin | July 20, 2012 3:02 PM

    Read of the rest of that sentence and paragraph. No where did we make that suggestion.

  • Glass | July 20, 2012 2:39 PMReply

    What puts all movies in such stark perspective is the dispatch recordings where the cops getting to the victims in the theater are frustrated and yelling "I NEED SOMEBODY TO SHUT THIS MOVIE OFF," "HOW DO WE SHUT THE MOVIE OFF IN 9?" This epic movie was like people's whole lives for the past few weeks (i.e. the Rotten Tomatoes comments incident), and in that moment it's just this irritating thing that needs to be turned off ASAP so they can find people in the theater... There was a victim on CNN earlier who started comparing the lessons to learn from the shooting with the lessons that these Batman films teach, and used that same "darkest before the dawn" quote from TDK. Genuine and emotional dude.

  • Glass | July 20, 2012 2:48 PM

    And now that guy is trending on Twitter. Chris Ramos.

  • Jorge Ramos. | July 20, 2012 2:26 PMReply

    Despicable event. With all due respect, a society that idolizes represented violence
    in the screen should understands this "outbursts" as a direct consequence of the
    material they consume. The discussion whether is ethical to portray a killing in media
    as an heroic act, has not even started.

  • Brandon | July 21, 2012 12:47 AM

    Jorge your statement which boils sown to "monkey see, monkey do" is utter nonsense. I grew up in a household where I was free to play with toy guns and watch violent (within reason when I was little) movies and have grown up to be a relative pacifist. According to you however I am nothing more than a ticking timebomb waiting to explode the fake violence I have borne witness to into the world. People are responsible for their own actions. This guy shot those people, let him own it. Don't offer him excuses.

    And as to the statements that he was dressed like the joker: one cop stated this based on the fact that when his mask was removed that he had red hair. As anyone even casually familiar with the character knows, the Joker has GREEN hair. In no other report or statement from witnesses has anyone said he looked like the joker all said he was dressed head to toe in tactical gear.

    This is a shameful act of senseless violence that should be laid at the feet of the shooter AND NO ONE ELSE. This is not a fault of movies, video games, or any other work of fiction. I'm tired of all the apologists out there who place the blame on everyone and everything else except the person who ACTUALLY did it. He alone in his guilt, he alone is to blame.

  • Alan | July 20, 2012 9:27 PM

    Jorge, you don't know anything about the gunman or his psychology. Where did he grow up? Who were his parents? What was his upbringing like? If you want to take this tragand spin it into a passive-aggressive lecture on cinema, that's fine, but I think it's disrespectful to everyone involved.

  • Charlie | July 20, 2012 6:43 PM

    WOW. Get a grip. Believe it or not, violence has existed LONG before cinema, buddy.

  • JORGE RAMOS. | July 20, 2012 4:00 PM

    Yes. Really. What part of "A society that consumes any representation (large and small?) in any form, will find it's consumers emulating what they see" you don't get. Studies say that, but it's also basic logic. Or do we think it's an accident?

  • mike_m | July 20, 2012 2:54 PM

    "a society that idolizes represented violence in the screen should understands this 'outbursts' as a direct consequence of the material they consume"

    Really? Just because people watch and enjoy seeing violence on the screen, both large and small, in a fictional setting does not mean people, as a whole, which you stipulate, will commit said acts.

  • Laura | July 20, 2012 2:26 PMReply

    Perhaps, special event screenings of "Bowling for Columbine" with talkbacks would be helpful at this time; Focus on a charity or organization that calls for better background checks and mental health screenings for gun owners and/or more restrictive gun laws. Sad when people are afraid to go to the movie theater. How can we as filmmakers be better advocates of non violence and spokespersons leading discussions for our films that deal with violence?

  • Christian | July 20, 2012 2:12 PMReply

    It's such a depressing tragedy. Here in Denmark the story is all over the news and we Danes are genuinly speechless that something so macabre could happen at the movies because of one crazy individual. Everyone here asks the question about what his motives were... Good article, I'll promise to watch the film this Monday when I get home from my vacation. Peace and love, film fans! Long live Batman, we need him as a symbol now.

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