Warner Bros. has released an official statement on the controversy surrounding Joker. The movie is set to arrive in theaters next month and, following its debut at several high-profile festivals, questions have been raised about the movie's depiction of violence, and its sympathetic view of the lead character, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Now, the studio has weighed in, saying the movie isn't an endorsement of real-world violence.
The statement was released shortly after a letter was sent to Warner Bros. from several victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting, which took place on opening night of The Dark Knight Rises. Those who penned the letter didn't ask Warner Bros. to shelve the movie and defended their artistic freedoms. Instead, the letter pleads for them to use their power to help curb gun violence in the U.S. The statement from Warner Bros. reads as follows.
"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."
This all comes at a particularly sensitive time in America regarding gun violence. Several recent shootings have renewed calls for firearms legislation. Blumhouse and Universel even canceled the release of their movie The Hunt following the shootings. Joker will still be released, however, it won't play in the Cinemark Aurora location where the 2012 shooting took place, which left 12 dead and 70 injured.
Director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix have both addressed the violence in Joker as well. In a recent interview with IGN, Phoenix expressed doubts that the movie alone could incite someone to commit violent crime. The Oscar-nominated actor recently walked out of an interview after being asked about the movie possibly leading to real-world violence. Phillips had this to say.
"The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message."
Joker, which is scheduled to be released on October 4, has received praise from many critics thus far and won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. It's on track for a potential record debut at the box office and has a clear path to awards season. That said, with all the controversy that's stirring up, even before the general public has had the chance to see the movie, this is sure to be far more than the usual comic book blockbuster. This news was previously reported by Variety.