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LOU'S VIEWS: On heroes and villains

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Lou Harry

My intention this week was to write about superheroes—comic-book characters with capes and cowls and webs and wonders who make the world safer for the rest of us.

It has been, cinematically, a summer with an abundance of them—with the big-screen releases of “The Avengers,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Dark Knight Rises” topping box office charts and expanding the fan base well beyond their core fans. Earlier this month, I was a guest speaker at a science fiction and fantasy convention where superheroes were a prime subject of conversation (along with the upcoming zombie apocalypse, of course).

But the subject of superheroes isn’t as playful as it was just a few days ago.

The mass murder in Colorado at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” made sure of that. Even though the accused killer has been arrested, there’s a feeling, as I write this, that the world isn’t as safe as it was.

That seems to be the case whenever an attack happens at a place we didn’t expect it, whether that’s a high school, a federal building, a Manhattan landmark or a multiplex movie house. We sit stunned for a few hours, days or weeks, then try to find normalcy, inching back, cautiously reclaiming at least some of the territory that was ours.

This goes beyond a single, horrific incident, though. Even before the killing, sick fans made death threats against those daring to criticize their beloved film franchise. The anonymity of website feedback forms opened the door to either perverse retribution fantasies or frightening threats, depending on how seriously you take them. Even experienced pollsters couldn’t tell you if these are isolated crazies or reflective of a larger population that can’t see that threats aren’t jokes and that movies aren’t as important as human lives.

Yes, I’ve seen “The Dark Knight Rises.” I went the day after the shootings, but before I had been exposed to more than a headline about the massacre.

If this were a movie unattached to a tragedy, I’d go into detail about how the movie’s

positives—a good use of Catwoman, nice work from Michael Caine, and an avoidance of excess computer-generated effects—were dragged down by an uninteresting villain (who sounds annoyingly like Sean Connery voicing the fire-breather in “Dragonheart”), some impossible-to-buy action (the Gotham City cops apparently learned their fighting style from the redcoats), and a grimness that is admirable but often not entertaining.

I’d elaborate on how Christopher Nolan, the film’s driving force, certainly knows how to hold a not-very-fun funhouse mirror up to our world. But I’d follow with how I found less to engage with than in his previous two outings and had little investment in the outcomes of its characters. Seemingly endless fight scenes can have that effect.

It’s hard to write a sentence about “The Dark Knight Rises,” though, without thinking of the real-life murder victims and their families. It’s difficult to contemplate the movie without wondering what’s going on in the minds of people hooked on first-person-shooter games who see in this film a reflection of the world they see on their home screens. If you buy into a world where good citizens can quickly turn into marauding, morality-free monsters—if that’s the world you engage with more than the real one—then a pre-emptive strike might seem like a sensible action.

No, I don’t think the killings in Colorado can be blamed on superhero movies or video games. Too many people enjoy those forms of entertainment without committing unthinkable acts. But for those who have taken first-person-shooter video games from an entertaining distraction to a time-sucking lifestyle, it might be difficult to see the positive message in Nolan’s “Batman” saga.

For all its flaws, “The Dark Knight Rises” says that we all have the potential to be heroes.

Yes, it says life can be difficult and complicated and heroes can’t prevent every sick person from committing unthinkable acts. But it’s clear in its position that being numb to the pain of others is not a desirable quality.

Sadly, one young man didn’t get that message.

Like the rest of us helplessly reading horrific details out of Aurora, I hope his peers there and elsewhere do.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.
 

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  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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