Mythology: Ethics of The Dark Knight Rises Tragedy
By Martin Felipe
July 25, 2012
The irony is that I was planning to write about darker versions of famous mythologies for this column. You know, like the recent Battlestar Galactica vs. the original from the ‘70s for example. Then, as we all know, a shooter decided to open fire in a movie theatre, killing 12 people and wounding dozens more. And now the movie is, for the time being, known more for the tragedy than for its own merits.
The film in question, of course, is The Dark Knight Rises. May fans have called for silence on this connection, preferring that the film’s reputation exist apart from the killing. Though this is a worthy concern, and one for which I have great sympathy, the connection is there, fair or not, and it makes the timing of my proposed dark mythologies column perhaps a little crass and insensitive.
You see, the current incarnation of Batman has become somewhat of the poster child for the darker interpretation of existing lore. This, by no means, should be an issue of blame. I do not believe for a second that Batman inspired the killings. The shooter has whatever issues he has, which have nothing to do with Christopher Nolan or his vision. To quote Scream, “movies don’t create psychos, they make psychos more creative.”
To be honest, I feel a little crass just using that quote to describe the recent event. It seems glib. Yet, the core of it is true to me. Nolan bears no responsibility for what the killer did in that theatre. If he was determined to shoot up a bunch of people, he would have found a venue for it had Nolan’s trilogy never been made.
On the other hand, writing a column celebrating dark versions leaves me a little cold this week. I can only imagine that this hesitancy on my part is being felt on the part of the Studio folks as well. With the current Batman incarnation coming to a conclusion, the time has come for another reboot, and I wonder if the Colorado incident will color the direction that the reboot takes.
Certainly it won’t go the direction of Schumacher’s version. That camp travesty remains a black mark on the Bat-franchise to this day. On the other hand, Nolan reaches such creative heights with his trilogy that it’ll be near impossible for any film maker to follow up, even had the tragedy never taken place. It’ll probably end up in the same sort of middle ground as the Spider-Man reboot; Spider-Man, but with a more muted color palette.
I’m again getting uncomfortable even speculating about how the shooting affects the property’s future, but it’s a legitimate ethical quandary. Do we allow this jerk’s awful actions to hinder our artists’ creativity? Or do we owe respect to the survivors and victims to maintain creative discretion? Is it business as usual or do we employ thoughtful reverence? It comes back to the old cliché, if we change our behavior in any measurable way, have the terrorists really won?
I’m not naïve, I know cinema is a business and the financial bottom line can’t help but come into play in this murky, ethical swamp, but my heart lies more with the creative types than with the fat cats. I’d hate to see Nolan or his successors compromise their visions because some monster violated their cinematic sanctuary. For that matter, if you’ll allow me a moment of indulgence, I hate that I feel the need to hold off on writing the column that I really wanted to write.
But, if I had written it, I would have felt wrong about it. On a purely intellectual level, I don’t feel that it would have been wrong. But damn it, there’s more to me than intellect. There’s a beating heart somewhere inside of me, and that heart makes me think I should probably hold off for a week. Does that mean that the shooter has won? I don’t know, and, on some level, I don’t care. It’ll happen. I’ll go back to doing my own thing, but, for now, my heart is with the folks who were in that movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.