I woke up to the news this morning than 50 people had been shot by a young man at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado, and at least twelve are dead.
Sean Collins is right that, to a certain extent, Batman is a fantasy about turning violence that is random, or in this case, unpredictable, into something that can be predicted and contained by the great efforts of a single man. Anthony Lane is correct that movies and murder have been linked before and will be linked again, though I think he is in more tenuous territory in discussing ugly threats against critics who did not like The Dark Knight Rises, which are themselves symbols of a brokenness I think fan culture has to deeply reckon with, and this act of violence. If you think The Dark Knight Rises is the greatest expression of cinema of all time, your next step is unlikely to be to kill people who, by their decision to show up for the first possible screening of the movie, give some semblance of agreeing with you.
Mostly what I feel is this: Midnight screenings are big, hyped, advertiser-driven events that have become a source of new information to feed the Hollywood data beast, by indicating how motivated audiences are to see a movie. But they’re also a product of genuine enthusiasm and an expression of collective joy. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has meant a lot to an enormous number of filmgoers. And as someone who writes about movies, and who cares about the big, flawed thing we call fandom, I’m saddened by someone turning that shared enthusiasm into a weapon. And even if this tragedy hadn’t happened at the premiere of one of a dwindling number of genuinely mass cultural events, I hate the idea of using an audience’s suspension of disbelief, their openness to and absorption in the spectacle unfolding before them, as cover—the gunman reportedly started shooting during a sequence involving gunfire, meaning the audience was slower to react. We are vulnerable when we go to the movies, open to fear, and love, and disgust, and rapture, surrendering our brains and hearts to someone else’s vision of the world. We don’t expect to surrender our bodies, too.