Family members of those killed in the 2012 mass shooting at the screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado's Aurora, have penned a letter to Warner Bros expressing concerns about the plotline in its upcoming "Joker".
James Holmes opened fire on July 20, 2012 during the midnight premiere of the Christopher Nolan film at Aurora Cinemark theatre, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He was wearing body armour and was armed with numerous weapons when police arrested him outside the cinema hall.
Rated R, the Todd Phillips-directed "Joker" is said to be an exploration of a man disregarded by society that is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.
It is meant to be darker and more experimental in tone and content and is dominating the headlines for Joaquin Phoenix's performance.
The family members said they are still in "absolute hell and pain" over the incident and the upcoming film depicting the character, portrayed as antagonist by Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight Rises", in a "sympathetic" light would be a trigger for them.
"(The Aurora shooting), 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," read the letter, as quoted by The Hollywood Reporter.
In the letter, addressed to new Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff, the signatories don't seek to stop the film's release nor to rally gun critics to boycott it.
They urge the studio to "end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform".
"Use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers...
"We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe."
Warner Bros responded to the letter in a statement, saying "neither the fictional character of Joker, nor the film is an endorsement of real-world violence".
"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... It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero," the statement by the studio read.
Theatre Century Aurora and XD, the remodelled venue where the shooting took place, apparently will not be showing "Joker".
The theatre chain did not respond to a request for comment. But as of Monday night, no showtimes were listed online at the Aurora multiplex.
A theatre employee told THR advance booking was unavailable as "Joker" will not be shown at the venue.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)