Movie Critics React to Shooting: Roger Ebert ‘Not sure there is an easy link between movies and gun violence.’ New Yorker Critic Says, ‘No film makes you kill’

Jul 20, 2012  •  Post A Comment

Two major movie critics have checked in with reactions to the shooting of 70 people today during a screening of the new Batman movie in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Roger Ebert, perhaps the best known movie critic in the U.S., said in an op-ed piece posted on The New York Times website: "I’m not sure there is an easy link between movies and gun violence. I think the link is between the violence and the publicity. Those like [the alleged shooter] James Holmes, who feel the need to arm themselves, may also feel a deep, inchoate insecurity and a need for validation. Whenever a tragedy like this takes place, it is assigned catchphrases and theme music, and the same fragmentary TV footage of the shooter is cycled again and again. Somewhere in the night, among those watching, will be another angry, aggrieved loner who is uncoiling toward action. The cinematic prototype is Travis Bickle of ‘Taxi Driver.’ I don’t know if James Holmes cared deeply about Batman. I suspect he cared deeply about seeing himself on the news."

Likewise, Anthony Lane, who reviews movies for The New Yorker, posted a piece on that magazine’s website today that said, in part, "We have been here before, many times; once, very specifically, when John Hinckley, Jr., became fixated on ‘Taxi Driver,’ which came out five years before Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan. What holds true then remains the case today: no film makes you kill. Having a mind to kill, at least in any systematic fashion, means that your mind is ready-warped; that the warping may well have started long before, perhaps in childhood; and that you may perhaps seek out, or be drawn to, areas of sensation—notably those entailing sex or violence—which can encourage, inflame, or accelerate the warping. Whatever we learn of the Aurora murderer, whatever he may profess, and whatever the weaponry, body armor, and headgear that he may have sported, and however it seems like a creepy match for what is worn, by heroes and villains alike, in the Batman movies—despite all that, he was not driven by those movies to slaughter."

Lane adds, "What we can say, for now, is simply this: he took advantage of those movies. He knew that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was not just a film; that it had become, as the studios like to say, and as the press is only too happy to echo, a ‘movie event’…His actions needed no model in a fictional monster, just a profound hostility to regular folk who had gathered, en masse, with their friends and their sodas, to have fun. The screen gave him a stage."

Ebert says in his piece that alleged shooter "James Holmes must also have been insane, and his inner terror expressed itself, as it often does these days, in a link between pop culture and firearms. There was nothing bigger happening in his world right now than the new Batman movie, and in preparation for this day, or another like it, he was purchasing firearms and booby-trapping his apartment. When he was arrested after the shootings, he made no attempt at resistance. His mission was accomplished."

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