Update: Warner Bros. responds to Aurora survivors Joker concerns

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Joker, Aurora, Joaquin Phoenix

Update: Warner Bros. has responded to the letter sent to them from five of the 300-plus survivors of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Aurora, Colorado theater shooting.

You'll find their official statement below:

“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."

Original Article:

In 2012, audience members who'd attended a screening of Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT RISES were shot and killed after a gunmen wearing body armor and armed with multiple weapons opened fire on a crowded theater, killing 12 and injuring 70 others. In time, survivors of the tragedy have been left scarred and in states of "absolute hell and pain" by their memories of the Aurora, Colorado incident. Now, with Todd Phillips' JOKER on its way to theaters on October 4th, family members and sympathetic theatergoers have penned a letter to Warner Bros. expressing their concerns over the new film that focuses on DC's Jester of Genocide.

In a letter obtained by Entertainment Weekly, those concerned about Phillips' JOKER – which paints Phoenix's Arthur Fleck as a psychopathic killer with a sympathetic backstory – voiced their trepidation about the film's story:

“[The Aurora shooting], perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society, has changed the course of our lives,” the letter states. “When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause.”

To be clear, the group is not requesting for Warner Bros. to pull the film from release, nor are they urging others to boycott the villain-centric feature. What they are requesting is for the studio to donate to organizations that provide aid for those affected by gun violence. They also suggest that WB uses their global influence to “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform.” Additionally, they've urged the studio to “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform.”

“We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression,” the letter continues. “But as anybody who has seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities … keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”

The letter also makes a point of mentioning that other companies the likes of Walmart and CVS have already begun taking steps toward bolstering gun safety and awareness within their respective communities. “Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act,” say those who've signed their names to the letter.

Recently a concerned individual by the name of Sandy Phillips spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the film's release, calling it "a slap in the face" for those who've suffered loss at the proverbial hands of gun violence. While speaking with the outlet, Phillips expressed her unease by 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.”

In related JOKER news, it's recently been reported that the Aurora theater where THE DARK KNIGHT RISES shooting had taken place will not be offering screenings of Phillips' JOKER.

Concern about JOKER has been on the lips and pens of entertainment outlets across the globe ever since the film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year. Many have praised the Clwon Prince of Crime's origin story for its emotionally-charged performances and arresting sense of atmosphere. However, a number of those same critics have also expressed concern about the film's level of violence as well as how its contents will be interpreted by audiences.

When asked for comment about the backlash, both Phillips and Phoenix were quick to defend the ultra-violent project.

“Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” Phoenix said while coming to the film's defense. “And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”

“To me, art can be complicated and oftentimes art is meant to be complicated,” Phillips added. “If you want uncomplicated art, you might want to take up calligraphy, but filmmaking will always be a complicated art.”

JOKER will take the cinematic stage on October 4.

Joker, Aurora, Joaquin Phoenix

Source: Entertainment Weekly

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.