Families of Aurora Shooting Victims Criticize Todd Phillips' 'Joker'

The film will not play at the theatre where a mass shooting took place during a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in 2012
Families of Aurora Shooting Victims Criticize Todd Phillips' 'Joker'
While Joaquin Phoenix is not too interested in discussing the potential real-life implications of the violence in his new movie Joker, the conversation rages on. Up next, the families of the victims of the Aurora shooting have spoken out. 

In 2012, during a screening of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, a man with a gun entered a theatre screening the film and murdered 12 people. Now, those victims' families have addressed Todd Phillips' new Joker film in a letter to Warner Bros.

As The Hollywood Reporter explains, five family members of the Aurora shooting victims sent a letter to Warner demanding that they take the implications of gun violence seriously. 

"We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression," the letter says. "But as anyone who has ever 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 with fewer guns."

Speaking with THR, the group's leader Sandy Phillips (no relation to Todd) said she is afraid that the film could inspire another killer. "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," she said. 

The Aurora cinema where the shooting took place will not screen Joker when it opens next month. Warner Bros. has not made an official response to the letter from the victims' families. 

Speaking with IGN, however, Todd Phillips defended his film. He said, "The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message.... It's so, to me, bizarre when people say, 'Oh, well I could handle it. But imagine if you can't.' It's making judgments for other people and I don't even want to bring up the movies in the past that they've said this about because it's shocking and embarrassing when you go, oh my God, Do the Right Thing, they said that about [that movie, too]."

Phoenix, for his part, also addressed concerns about the film's violence with IGN. "Well, I think that, for most of us, you're able to tell the difference between right and wrong," he said. "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."

Joker has achieved mass critical acclaim and is expected to bring in between $80 and $90 million USD when it opens on October 4. Read Exclaim!'s review of Joker.

UPDATE (9/24, 4:45 p.m. EDT): Warner Bros. has issued a statement about Joker and how it relates or does not relate to gun violence. It reads as follows:

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.