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'Dark Knight Rises' Opening Clouded by Brutal Theater-Shooting Spree; Ignites Larger Debate UPDATED

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 20, 2012 at 1:14PM

"There's a storm coming," Catwoman whispers in Bruce Wayne's ear in "The Dark Knight Rises." A gunman firing into the crowd inside a Thursday midnight show of the film at a Colorado movie theater, killing 12 and wounding some 22, will yield a firestorm of debate in this presidential election year. Shortly after the start of the film...
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Dark Knight Rises 2

"There's a storm coming," Catwoman whispers in Bruce Wayne's ear in Chris Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises."

A gunman firing into the crowd inside a Thursday midnight show of the film at a Colorado movie theater, wounding 59 and killing 12, will yield a firestorm of debate in this presidential election year.  Shortly after the start of the film, the alleged shooter, 24-year-old neuroscience grad student James Holmes, wearing a bullet-proof vest and gas mask and carrying an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, threw something resembling a gas cannister into a Century 16 theater in the Denver suburb Aurora, and fired, wounding some 71 attendees, 59 treated in six area hospitals (including a four-month old baby who was sent home with minor injuries), and killing 12.

Aurora Colorado Century 16

Back on the table: the easy accessibility of firearms in our violent society. President Barack Obama reacted, saying he was shocked and saddened by the "horrific and tragic shooting" and was "committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded." He stated: "As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors."

Also returning as a subject for debate: the impact of movies about violence on behavior. Nolan's superb well-reviewed trilogy finale  could not be in any way responsible for what this man did. Few people had seen the film as of Thursday midnight. And yet the movie is about fanatics who hold a city hostage as they blow up bridges and threaten to ignite a nuclear bomb. Now the "Batman" franchise will be forever linked with this sad event. UPDATE: Here's the New Yorker's Anthony Lane and Roger Ebert's op-ed piece for the New York Times.

It's the "worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians and more than two dozen others wounded," wrote the AP.  Warner Bros. cancelled the film's Friday Paris premiere and press junket and issued a statement:

"Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."

The MPAA issued a statement from chairman Chris Dodd:

"We share the shock and sadness of everyone in the motion picture community at the news of this terrible event. We extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the victims, their loved ones and all those affected by this tragedy." 

Theaters around the country are reportedly beefing up security after the most deadly in-theater incident ever. UPDATE: Following reports that the suspect was wearing "Joker" makeup, AMC is banning costumes and fake weapons from theaters. The National Assn. of Theater Owners stated:

This article is related to: Batman, The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan, Warner Bros./New Line, Exhibition


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