The Dark Knight Rises and the Aurora Tragedy

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
August 9th, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises and the Aurora Tragedy

-- When a psychotic gunman shot dozens of innocent people during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, it would have seemed logical that people would shun future screenings of the movie. However, the shooting did not have a lasting impact on the box-office takings. News reports of the shooting made it clear there was no relation between the film and the gunman's senseless act of destruction. In addition, the star of the film, Christian Bale, visited hospitalized victims of the shooting.

While it is not clear whether Bale's visit to the victims affected the popularity of the film, he did get publicity for his visit. This publicity kept his name and the name of the movie in the news, and in the entertainment business, positive public relations material is priceless. On the other hand, people have a much better understanding of mental illness than they did even a decade or so ago. News of scientific research into the nature of mental illness is published in the popular media. This research shows that even the most violent forms of mental illness are at least partially the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances are biological in nature and are similar to uncontrollable physical illness. Even if "Rise of the Dark Knight" did trigger violence in one particular person, that person had a unique mental profile, and there is no reason to fear the emergence of copycat shooters.

In addition, Americans are positive people by nature. Even after the 9/11 tragedy, the nation resumed its usual activities rather quickly, without forgetting the victims of the terrorist attacks. American moviegoers would not forego a movie that sounds interesting to them just because of a random event at a prior showing of the movie. If anything, some film fans may have gone to see "Rise of the Dark Knight" to express solidarity with the shooting victims. In the United States, the show must go on, and Americans do not surrender to evil by foregoing pleasure out of fear. At most, some moviegoers may temporarily postpone seeing the film, but as the popularity of "Rise of the Dark Knight" grows, these viewers will follow their peers and watch the movie.

The film itself is a quintessentially American film, about the victory of good over evil as expressed by the brave exploits of a comic-book hero brought to life on the silver screen. Christian Bale is an appealing and professional actor who has successfully portrayed Batman in prior films. Motion picture fans were looking forward to seeing this film, as it is the last of its series. Indeed, it continues to bring in very high box-office receipts both in the United States and abroad.

This film does lag behind its predecessor in the series at present. This may be due to some fans postponing watching it because of the shootings. However, it faces competition from the London Olympics. Some potential viewers may simply be staying home to watch the Olympics, and there could be a boom in box-office receipts after the games end. A major factor in favor of the continuing success of "Rise of the Dark Knight" is that it is far more popular and successful than other films released at the same time.

Another factor that may mitigate the impact of the shootings on the box-office takings of this film is that this year is a presidential election year in the United States. Coverage of the shootings has long since taken a back seat to coverage of the presidential campaign. Most remaining coverage of the shootings concerns the gunman. This coverage shows he is truly psychotic, and there is little or no mention of the movie as even a remotely possible impetus for his depraved actions. As the presidential campaign progresses, voters will be paying far more attention to the campaign than to any coverage of an event that has since passed. The shootings will fade into memory, and few will even remember what film was being shown when the gunman went berserk.

Meanwhile, Batman will always be an American superhero who has plenty of fans throughout the world. These fans will no longer remember that a mentally ill gunman shot random victims during the screening of a Batman movie. Instead, they will flock to see "Rise of the Dark Knight," so they can enjoy more adventures of their favorite superhero. In the end, "Rise of the Dark Knight" will continue to rise far above the darkness and evil perpetrated by a lone psychotic shooter.