News broke early Friday morning of a deadly shooting in Aurora, Colo., during which the alleged gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes, entered a crowded theater showing The Dark Knight Rises, and killed at least 12 people, wounding dozens more. The shooting inevitably raised questions of whether there was a connection between the massacre and Christopher Nolan's re-imagining of the Batman franchise, which has embraced themes of domestic terrorism and the darkest side of the human psyche. Holmes, whose hair was colored red, reportedly told authorities after the shooting that he was "The Joker," a seeming reference to the iconic Batman villain known for his dyed hair. Many are still trying to process the senseless situation, which "highlights the complicated relationship we have with violence" both on- and off-screen, says Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. Is Nolan's beloved franchise marred for good? Here, a guide:
How has Hollywood responded?
A planned premiere in Paris and press interviews with the film's stars were promptly canceled. "Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident," read a statement from the studio. "We extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the victims, their loved ones and those affected by this tragedy." Warner Bros. also pulled a trailer for the upcoming film Gangster Squad that was scheduled to run before Dark Knight screenings. (The trailer features a scene of '40s L.A. mobsters firing into a movie theater from behind a screen.) Director Christopher Nolan has yet to comment on the events, while Cinemark Holdings, Inc., the chain that owns the theater where the shootings occurred, has pledged to step up security. The practice of screening movies at midnight has come into question, both in the press and on Twitter.
Is there a connection between the films and the killings?
There are a "few general parallels" between the Batman universe and the events that unfolded, says the Associated Press. Bruce Wayne's compulsion to become Batman began in his childhood with the death of his parents, who were gunned down by a mugger as the family left a movie theater. In the third issue of DC Comics' Batman: The Dark Knight, legendary writer Frank Miller has the Joker mercilessly kill an entire late-night TV audience with gas. (The suspect reportedly released a gas canister into the theater, and was said to be wearing a "Bane-style" gas mask.) In that same book, a man shoots up a porn theater after getting fired from his job. And The Dark Knight Rises "features at least two scenes where unsuspecting people are attacked in a public venue: the stock exchange and a football stadium."
Could the film still do well?
"You have to preface [such a question] by saying it's only money," Thelma Adams, a Yahoo movies contributing editor, tells ABC News, "and we're dealing with lives that have been lost. That said, there will be some domestic underperformance. It's going to hurt." As planned, the studio released the box office numbers for the midnight showings.
Is the franchise ruined?
The Dark Knight rises was considered "the flick of the summer, a must see," says at Jezebel's Stewart, "but it doesn't quite feel the same now, does it?" Plus, what made the franchise so thrilling to begin with was the "villains were so bad," says Rich Abdill at the New Times Broward Palm Beach. In the end, character studies like Heath Ledger's Joker and Tom Hardy's Bane are only interesting because we know they're fictional. "The people in Aurora's theater nine didn't get to see the credits roll on their third Dark Knight film, because that evil is real, and it's got guns. And who could see a movie after that?"