A wave of controversy follows the release of “Joker”


John Sabato, Reviewer

Since it was announced, the Joker solo film was never meant to be a big-budget blockbuster that rocked a cinematic universe to its core. It was always meant to be a deep character study of one of the most notorious comic book villains of all time. Following Arthur Fleck, an unbefriended and uncherished member of society who had been chewed up and spit out onto the mean streets of Gotham. Like Arthur, the Gotham city itself was on the brink of madness. 

A few weeks from its release, the movie soon became swarmed with controversy. With a wave of supposed un-credible threats, theater chains have become cautious with the release of this film.

Back on Sept. 24, a statement was addressed to Warner Brothers from the families of the Aurora theater shooting victims, where a lone gunman opened fire during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” claiming the lives of 12 and resulting in 70 injuries. The families expressed their concerns with the film in the letter. They weren’t demanding that the film be pulled from theaters or that people should be protesting it, all they asked was that Warner Brothers spread awareness on these issues. 

Others called out Warner Brothers CEO Ann Sarnoff, asking her to stop all political contributions to candidates that accept money from the NRA and asked for her to promote gun reform. Warner Brothers responded to the controversy saying “Gun Violence in our society is a critical issue, we extend our deepest sympathy to all the 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 bipartisan 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”. 

If it wasn’t obvious enough, “Joker” is an R rated film, for strong bloody violence, language, disturbing behavior, and brief sexual images. To make this message even more clear than it already was, AMC theaters had to post up signs warning moviegoers about the film, saying “This is not your typical comic book film and is only intended for mature audiences”. Even our very own NCG theater located in Grand Blanc had flyers posted on the doors as viewers entered the lobby. Furthering the trend, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema issued a warning to parents that this movie was not for children or the faint of heart.

As of release, there have been no actual incidents of violence, except for one theater shutting down after receiving a threat that police say was credible enough to shut down the theater for the night. Joker’s opening weekend box office was surprisingly not affected by the extravagant controversy wracking in $93,500,000 domestically and $140,500,000 in foreign markets making it a record $234,000,000. Making it the biggest domestic and international opening weekend of all time in October, the biggest IMAX October opening, one of Warner Brothers best opening weekends in two years, and career-best for star Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips.