Dark night 

The Batman movie is no longer about Batman.

click to enlarge 'DARK KNIGHT': No forgetting Aurora.
  • 'DARK KNIGHT': No forgetting Aurora.

About a third of the way into "The Dark Knight Rises," the villain Bane and his henchmen storm a stock exchange. To breach security, Bane, a human with the physique of a gorilla, clobbers and shoots some guards. Upon entering the trading floor itself, he and his goons train assault rifles and handguns on traders and blast them indiscriminately.

If you see this film in a theater, this is the point where your eyes will dart to the lit exit signs that flank the screen. And you'll imagine what it was like for the folks in a theater in Aurora, Colo. when a maniac armed with an assault rifle and handguns stalked in and began blasting them indiscriminately.

For all the mass shootings in the bloody recent history of America, the greatest country in the world where a 3-month-old baby can get shot to death during a superhero movie, this massacre in Aurora may be the first to ride mass media in quite this fashion. The shooter did not conscript news media in the way that the 9/11 hijackers did. They implicitly goaded cable news networks to re-run images of murder so that instead of a few thousand people seeing a terrorist act in Manhattan, we all became witnesses. That's how terror works, of course. Killing 3,000 people is not the point; the explosive anger, fear and grief of 300 million is. When in those dark weeks after 9/11 people in flyover America repeated earnestly that "We are all New Yorkers," it was more than symbolic. We all had experienced, vicariously, the horror bearing witness to slaughter.

Who knows if this James Holmes fellow turns out to be so coldly rational as al Qaeda, which succeeded in igniting multiple wars and steering the freedom-loving United States toward becoming a cowering surveillance state. Barring some revelation of design, we'll merely evoke Brad Pitt's lines from "Se7en" when addressing this fellow Holmes: "When a person is insane, as you clearly are, do you know that you're insane? Maybe you're just sitting around, reading 'Guns and Ammo,' masturbating in your own feces — do you just stop and go, 'Wow! It is amazing how fucking crazy I really am!'?" He's no messiah. He's a movie of the week, at best.

But what Holmes has done, whether he meant to or not, is to baptize this particular Batman movie in anger and fear and grief. Whenever we watch television or attend a concert or a play or — especially — watch a movie in a theater, we pay for the pleasure of sharing a hallucination with people around us and many others around the world. The most beloved films are those which lull us into a hallucination so vivid and real that our rational senses do not pull us out until it finishes. Filmmakers who accomplish this are revered as geniuses and visionaries. Audience members who whisper or open their glowing phones during this experience are scorned. And the result is one that is unique to each film. Where you see "The Dark Knight Rises" is no more consequential than where you drink a can of Coke. The hallucination, like the soda, is fungible.

As we share the hallucination on a mass scale, so too do we share such a massive disruption to it as occurred in Aurora. Nightclub fires make us more aware of emergency exits in dark, crowded rooms. Cruise ship disasters prompt us to make mental note of lifeboats. Seventy-one people got plugged in a public theater as they watched "The Dark Knight Rises" and so now anyone who goes to see "The Dark Knight Rises" in a public theater is condemned to feel that twinge of awareness. We hold our breath when driving past graveyards to acknowledge exactly this mortal sensation — there but for the grace of God. At nearly three hours, "The Dark Knight Rises" requires that you breathe.

To attend is to visit a crime scene and to attend a hallucination already punctured. No movie is strong enough to overcome that association, at least not yet, and not when it features scenes that mirror the shared collective vision we've all had in recent days: trying to imagine how we would clamber out of a crowded theater panic with children in arms and spouse at hand while a man shot and shot and shot and shot and shot and shot.


Speaking of "The Dark Knight", Aurora, Colo.

  • The threadbare gun debate

    July 25, 2012
    Every time we have one of these increasingly frequent ritualized killing sprees in the United States, we have essentially the same national conversation. And then nothing happens. /more/
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Sam Eifling

Readers also liked…

  • Gay diamonds

    Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.
    • May 7, 2015
  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • Finalists named in UALR chancellor search

    The University of Arkansas System has announced the three finalists in the search for a successor to Joel Anderson as chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • Post found at Parkin at UA for dating

    A portion of a post unearthed last week by Parkin Archeological State Park archeologist Dr. Jeff Mitchem was taken to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville over the weekend for studies to determine whether it is actually the remains of a cross erected by DeSoto in 1542.
  • The top 20: Segregation of the affluent

    Thomas Edsall writes about the segregation — by education, geography and other markers — of the people in the top fifth of the income scale in the U.S. He quotes from a recent academic research paper:
  • 2016 All-Star nominees

    Here are the students nominated to be Academic All-Stars. They are listed by their hometowns, as indicated by mailing addresses.
  • Low tactics every day: Walmart education

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key fired Baker Kurrus as Little Rock superintendent last week because he ventured off the reservation when he presented data to the state Board of Education on the damaging impact of charter schools on the district, which the state now runs. Kurrus was questioning proposed expansions of two charter schools already draining easier-to-educate children from the LRSD.

Latest in

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Songwriter among songwriters

    Keith Sykes plays South on Main.
  • Paul McCartney plays Verizon

    Also, 'Incognito' in Conway, Arts and the Park in Hot Springs, "Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning" at the Arkansas Arts Center, Patti Lupone at the Fort Smith Convention Center, the Turkish Food Festival, Sunday Court Square Music Festival in Mountain View, St. Luke's Festival of the Senses at St. Luke's Episcopal and the 46th Annual World Famous Armadillo Festival in Hamburg.
  • 'Green Room' thrills

    It's hardcore.

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation