A year ago I went to what I expect to be the last Midnight Screening of my life. We saw the finish to the Harry Potter Series and my wife and I came to the conclusion that although we loved being a part of an experience like that, we were getting to the point in our lives where midnight movies were just a bit more than we can chew on. That is the reason that we were not at a screening last night. We did go out and purchase tickets for an AM show. I was at the box office last night at 10:30 or so, and the crowds were beginning to swell. People were in line, friends were joking with each other. I heard a car drive by and the music from “The Dark Knight” was blaring out the windows as another set of fans was arriving at the theater. Everyone seemed prepped for a wonderful time. When we got home, the local news stations were checking in at theaters in the area, interviewing fans, promoting tomorrows reviews and appearances by film makers to talk about the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. While we were not going to see the movie for another twelve hours, all was right with the world and one of the highlights of our summer movie season had arrived.
Cut to this morning and the the alarm on the radio went off. I got up and went in the bathroom and listened to Mark and Brian. I was up early despite the fact that I did not work today, because I wanted to hear them talking about the movie. Their show is just a month away from ending and I am going to soak up as much as I can get until then. It was there that I heard first of the news that a dozen people had been killed at a midnight screening of “the Dark Knight Rises”. I quickly turned on the cable news channels and local news shows to see what was going on. There were the horrifying images, taken from a phone camera, of people exiting the theater in shock. Some of the people I saw were covered in blood. I don’t know if they were wounded or if it was from someone who had fallen near them. The information scrolls were rolling out data, 12 dead, 38 wounded, gunman captured, booby trapped apartment. It was a nightmare come to life. We live hundreds of miles away from the Colorado town where these events took place, but it always feels so close when something like this happens. Everyone knows someone in high school, even if they did not go to Columbine. Everyone knows someone in college, even though they were not students at Virgina Tech. Everyone goes to the movies, even if they don’t go out at midnight to see first screenings. Right now there are families in pain, when they should have been sharing pleasure. I can’t imagine how someone will get through losing a child, a parent or a friend in a situation like this. My heart goes out to all those families that have been touched by this tragedy.
As a film lover, and a consumer of Hollywood Pop culture, I also feel personally attacked. My sense of outrage and frustration cannot begin to compare to those things that families in Aurora Colorado are feeling. In addition to those who died, at least 71 others are shot, many in critical condition. The survivors will have long term medical issues, financial issues and emotional issues to sort out. I don’t carry that burden, but I will always carry a sense of violation and a pall of sadness when I think about my movie going experience from today. Yes, we went ahead and saw the movie as planned. The theater was close to full for a 10:45 a.m. show. The crowd was excited, but I also got a sense of quiet as we settled into our seats. While watching the film, I remembered one of the witnesses saying that the shooting stared during a scene where “Catwoman” is a part of a shootout in an bar and alley. As I watched that sequence, I found my mind drawn to a visualization of the surprise and terror that must have faced a similar audience in Colorado just ten hours earlier. I hated that I was taken out of the movie for those few minutes because that is one of the things I have always loved about going to a movie, the sense of being transported away from your daily life into another story.
I have every intention of writing a full review of the movie for my blog here in a couple of days. I am enthusiastic about the film, but I am not focused on it right now. Trying to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of “The Dark Knight Rises”, at this very moment is not something I want to do. I did want to say that I saw the film, but that the experience is somewhat tainted by the events of the last few hours. I am absolutely not afraid of going to a movie theater. The sudden violence by a lone crazed person is such a random act, that to refrain from seeing movies due to it would be the equivalent of not going out of doors because lightning may strike or a tornado could come by. It is opening day, for what may be the most widely anticipated movie of the summer if not the year. Maybe there will be box office records, maybe the film will be award-worthy, maybe some will be disappointed, and others thrilled. In my mind though, maybe we should just wait a while to talk about those things. Maybe, I’ll have a clearer head and more focused mind then. Maybe then, the excitement of the movie will outweigh the sadness that I feel right now.