25 Sep – Despite its title, the content delivered by "Joker" is no laughing matter as the movie tells the dark origin story of one of the biggest supervillains in the comic book universe.
As its early October release in cinemas draws near, moviegoers, especially those in the United States where violence and mass shootings are prevalent, have been expressing their concern over the movie's possibility of influencing its audience to become violent.
While some fans brush off the concern by saying that it's just a movie, the subject matter does prove to hit a little too close to home for certain people, especially for those who've experienced similar violence or knew someone who did.
Case in point, the friends and families of a mass shooting that killed 12 and injured 70 during the screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on 20 July 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.
Here are excerpts from the letter to Warner Bros. CEO, Ann Sarnoff, as obtained by Variety, that was written by the victims' friends and families.
"This tragic event, perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt "wronged" by society has changed the course of our lives."
"When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called "Joker" that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause. We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That's why we're calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns."
The letter asks Warner Bros. to "end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform," use its "political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform," and "help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence."
In response, the studio released the following statement via its official website:
"Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.
"At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."
Starring Joaquin Phoenix in what is said to be an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the titular villain, "Joker" follows a failed stand-up comedian who is mentally disturbed and as his career derails, he loses touch with reality, turning into a life of chaos and crime in Gotham City, provoking anarchic violence.