The tragic mass murder at a Colorado screening of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, can’t help but to affect the viewing experience. When watching it foremost in my head was the question of would I want this movie to be the last I saw before I died, as it was for twelve people in Aurora, Colorado?
This question does not mean to lay the blame of the shooting on the filmmakers behind The Dark Knight Rises. That blame lays on the assailant, James Harris, and members of the NRA (if you continue to support an organization which lobbies to make weapons of mass destruction accessible, shame on you). But Hollywood is not free of guilt. The Frank Miller Batman comics this movie was influenced by asked if Batman’s existence created the villains he fought. In the same way are movies and comic books partly responsible for our mass murder culture? For while Batman in this new movie says, “No guns. No Killing.” other characters in the movie are glamorized with their brandishing of firearms. And while Batman is a noble hero who espouses that murder is wrong even toward a homicidal maniac, he still uses violence to solve his problems.
In my dark moments I admit to having fantasies of bashing in the heads of those who do me wrong. I do not act on these impulses, but is it the comic books and movies that have nurtured my brain toward these thoughts or is it our animal nature? Does this make us all one really bad day away from killing a bunch of random strangers?
I am vehemently against guns. They make killing entirely too easy and impersonal. But to be philosophically consistent should I also boycott entertainments that serve as propaganda making firearms sexy and funny and rad?
The Dark Knight Rises allows a defense of these entertainments while having it both ways with the gun issue, alternating between shaking its head at guns and celebrating them. The attack in Colorado seeps through the entirety of the movie (so much so that a cynic could imagine the shooting a publicity stunt for the movie). The Dark Knight Rises features a terrorist named Bane who is charismatic even when committing heinous acts and another anti-hero gets big laughs for firing a gun. These qualities could inspire future villains, but there is a deeper life affirming message laced throughout this feature. When given a chance most people will act heroic. For every jerk who was able to get a gun and murder innocent people, there are ten people in the crowd who will put their bodies in the line of fire to protect others.
And so to get back to my first question in this essay of many, could I accept this being the last movie I ever saw? Hopefully my life is long with hundreds of movies in the far flung future, but The Dark Knight Rises would be a worthy final movie to see. By asking and answering all the right questions it takes the superhero movie as far as it can possibly go, making it the best comic book movie I know of.