Entertainment

Warner Bros. says 'Joker' movie is not 'an endorsement of real-world violence'

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Key Points
  • Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in August, "Joker" has drawn both criticism and praise for its depiction of the comic book serial killer.
  • Some suggest the film could unintentionally be portraying Joker as a heroic or inspirational figure.
  • Warner Bros. says in a statement Tuesday that gun violence is a critical issue and that the studio has a long history of donating to victims of violence.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays Arthur Fleck in Warner Bros. "Joker."
Warner Bros.

With a little more than a week before "Joker" is set to be released, Warner Bros. has finally weighed in on the mounting controversy surrounding the R-rated adaptation of DC Comics' villainous clown prince of crime.

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in August, "Joker" has drawn both criticism and praise for its depiction of the comic book serial killer. Many film critics compared the Todd Phillips-directed movie to Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," calling it a modern-day masterpiece.

"Taxi Driver," which was released in 1976, follows a disturbed loner (played by Robert DeNiro) who becomes obsessed with the idea of saving the world. First he plots to assassinate a presidential candidate but ultimately turns his attention to rescuing a young prostitute from members of the mob.

Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays the titular character in "Joker," has been widely praised, with many calling his performance Oscar-worthy.

Others, however, have questioned whether the film, which depicts mass murder, could unintentionally be portraying Joker as a heroic or inspirational figure.

"Joker" follows an aspiring stand-up comedian whose mental health issues and isolation from society lead him to a life of crime. In the film he inspires others to engage in violent acts, which leads to a bloody climax.

While Warner Bros. had remained mum on the subject, an open letter written by the family members and friends of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, has prompted a response from the studio.

The letter supported the company's right to make the film and its freedom of speech but called upon the studio to get involved in the gun control movement.

Warner Bros. said in a statement Tuesday that gun violence is a critical issue and that the studio has a long history of donating to victims of violence. It also noted that it had joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to address the epidemic.

"Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind," the statement said. "It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for additional comment.

Similarly, Phillips, the film's director, has said that the film does not excuse Joker's behavior.

"Joker" arrives in theaters on Oct. 4. Currently, the film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 76% from 112 reviews.

Here is Warner Bros.' complete statement:

"Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."