To this day, I am still blown away by Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”
It’s a movie that every time it’s on some cable network, I find myself sitting through large portions of it, if not watching the whole thing all over again. The story, cinematography and real world encounters in the film make it by far the best Batman movie ever made, in my opinion.
Ask people who think in the same vein and they’ll be quick to also suggest that it was Heath Ledger’s diabolical role as Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, that made this film what it was. Many feel that Ledger’s method acting and his submersion into the character’s psyche as a result was associated with his unfortunate death just months before the release of the film in 2008.
The film featured mass attacks on civilians, explosions and hostage situations that were orchestrated in a manner that made it believable some madman could very well make these events happen. Ledger was lauded for his role both before his untimely death and even more after he died, winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
Fast forward 11 years later, and look at just how much time has changed.
On Oct. 4, “Joker,” the latest movie related to the Batman series, steers completely away from any correlation to the Dark Knight.
And it’s already receiving a bad wrap. It’s an in-your-face depiction of malice, hate and mass murder in an uber-politically correct time in our society.
The movie hasn’t even dropped nationwide and its production company already had to issue a statement that the film is not an endorsement of real world violence, it’s director Todd Phillips had to preface the same and its main actor Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview when asked his thoughts on whether the film might inspire real-world acts of violence.
Did much of this backlash purely serve as hypebeast material? I’d like to think much of it was — but I wanted a professional opinion.
Now, before I get too crazy with it, I want to preface this by saying that I understand the sensitivities of scenes in the flick that draw too close to real-world situations. Shootings on a mass scale are horrific acts caused by complete cowards and should never be the basis of a film. But from what I was told from our own movie critic, Stephen Silver, whose expert preview of the upcoming slew of film festivals over the next five weeks is this week’s cover story, that’s not even remotely the case.
Furthermore, Silver suggests that the film really isn’t even that good.
“All of the ‘this movie is going to lead to incel people shooting up theaters’ stuff was a bunch of nonsense,” wrote Silver, who noted that people jumped the gun based merely on premise. “I don't know that it's ‘PC,’ really. A lot of people seem to have misinterpreted the trailer to assume the movie was depicting the Joker as an incel who's driven to violence by women rejecting him, but that's not really what happens in the movie. That said, the movie itself isn't particularly good. It pales in comparison to The Dark Knight.”
Here’s my question. While Silver posits that our PC culture’s interpretation may not be the case here, I do believe that the current emphasis on a more thoughtful approach to art-making in the face of so much tragedy is what raised so many alarms about the notion of making a movie like this — especially in our modern climate.
I’d like to think that on the flip, if Todd Phillips’ Joker came out among 2008’s cultural sensitivities as opposed to today’s, there wouldn’t be this much negative hype surrounding it. What I do understand is the move by a number of movie theaters to ban people from wearing certain costumes and masks into the theater. It was that lack of oversight that some believe fueled the Aurora movie theater mass shooting following the release of the last film in the Dark Knight Trilogy in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Are we nearing a culture where movies depicting horrific violence could get banned? I’m sure that’ll be food for thought among the many discussions over film over the next month or so. Personally, I hope not. I’ve seen a ton of films that have depicted real world situations and they’ve never inspired me to cause harm — especially on a mass scale.
I’m not old yet, but I know I’m from a different generation. In mine, films like the Joker are “highly anticipated.” In this one, they are vilified even before release.
Not saying it’s wrong. Just saying it’s something else to get used to.