20 July 2012

Amoklauf at the Movies: Aurora's Reckoning

There has been a kind of madness coalescing around the release of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, from the hysterical reactions to early pans -- which remain a small minority of the reviews -- to the climactic midnight nightmare in Aurora CO, where all the terrors promised by the old spookshows came to art-imitating life. A man broke into a shopping-mall multiplex theater through an emergency exit, threw some sort of explosive or gas weapon, and opened fire on the audience. He has killed at least 12 people, with more victims in grave condition and many more injured. The suspected assailant has been taken alive and police have been searching his home for explosives. He may fairly be called a terrorist -- not because he had a political agenda, but because he seemed determined not just to kill but to terrorize. Death may well have been second to terror on his agenda; his own death apparently wasn't part of the program. He has been named, but we know little more about him yet. I doubt his act was any comment on the movie or any of its supposed subtexts. The reportedly record-setting turnout for a midnight opening most likely presented a target of opportunity for a madman. The event can't help resonating, however, given the apocalyptic context of the movie and the series's focus on the disproportionate destructive power of violently-driven individuals. The Batman movies, of course, are fantasies of power in the form of wealth; even the new film's demagogic villain seems to have limitless resources for his work. The Aurora amoklauf is a tiny yet shrill echo of the movie's doomsday fantasy of urban warfare that has momentarily drowned out the quarter-billion-dollar production's promotional bombast with a reminder that a real American apocalypse may well be more modest in scale when it comes to your town, but no less lethal than what Hollywood imagines.

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