Listen: Is Joker a 'Dangerous' Movie? Director Todd Phillips Responds to Critics
"Director Todd Phillips Take on the jokers starring Joaquin Phoenix is bringing bringing up a now familiar conversation what is Hollywood's role when it comes to gun violence and how should the industry respond to concerns about excessive violence in film NTV Brent Lang is executive editor for film immediate variety and he wrote about why the families of the twenty twelve Aurora theater shooting are concerned about joker oh car. Hey Brent Hi John can you I set up a little bit of the premise of joker and how violence is part of its story sure so joker is is an origin story and it it takes a look at this man who's a mentally disturbed man living with his kind of crazy mother and a very rundown rundown part of the city and he has kind of aspirations of being a stand up comic and you know without giving too much away those those dreams don't come to pass and instead he kind of gradually loses touch with reality and a lot of violence ensues and but as part of that he kind of inspires this anarchic uprising in Gotham city and it is it is a very violent very bloody very R a-rated comic book adaptation so how much of the premise or the violence is behind the families of the Aurora shooting victims to write this letter and Dan share their concerns well as far as I can tell the families of the Aurora shooting victims have not seen the film they're they're reacting to kind live coverage of the pitcher and and they say that you know when their letter they say that that they've heard that it presents the character as a as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin origin story and and that gave them pause and they're they're very clear though they're they're not asking Warner Brothers to not release the movie they say that they support the right to free speech and free expression but then they also sort of take a page out of Spiderman and say with with great power comes great responsibility so they're using this film to Urge Warner Brothers and its parent company Warner Media and I suppose at and T. as an extension extension to become more involved in the issue of gun reform and they're asking for the company to support of certain in sort of specific means of of social engagement they're asking them to end political contributions to candidates who who take money from the NRA they're asking them to used their their clout and their platform to pressure Congress to act for gun reform and they're also asking them to help fund survivor funds and and gun violence intervention programs and it seems like the conversation around joker is part of a broader conversation around violence in Hollywood your or editor in chief. Claudia eller wrote an op Ed for variety around the time that blunt house productions film the hunt was dropped by universal pictures. The headline on that piece is why it's time for Hollywood to reconsider the amount of violence on screen so even if the families from Aurora are not really asking Warner Brothers to limit the violence that is in their movies it does feel like these things are starting to percolate up and there might might be a bigger conversation. That's either about to happen or is already happening. Absolutely I mean I think that that this is a conversation that that's been happening for a while. It's interesting I talked to someone named Igor Volk Street and he runs an organization called guns down America and he helped craft this letter and I actually asked him sort of specifically if they were implying that that there was a connection between onscreen violence and and and gun violence and he was very careful and he said actually science doesn't back that up and that that they aren't contending that but just because he thinks that it doesn't mean that other people don't and I think it's a debate that's going to continue through the release of joker and onto the release of other violent movies that Hollywood backs. I WANNA play a a little bit of what Joker Director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix said about this issue in an interview with the website jeon. There have been a lot of pieces written by people people who proudly state they haven't even seen the movie and they don't need to. I would just argue that you might want to watch the movie you might want to watch it with an open mind. The movie make statements about lack of love childhood trauma lack of compassion in the world and I think people can handle that message. It's it's it's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable for for all of us. I think we all are aware of these issues and we are concerned. I think that's why we talk about it I. I don't think that we can be afraid to talk about it so they're offering this defense but it feels like this debate is probably GonNa get a lot more interesting really soon around movies like this absolutely and as you mentioned it already existed around the hunt now I will just say that as somebody. I'm not a critic but I did see joker and I can't say that I thought that it had a lot of profound things to say about violence in America or what what what Spurs people to violent action I didn't think that that anything there was was terribly deep to me it sort of played like a riff on Scorsese films like taxi driver or King of comedy movies that had a little more depth but that's my personal opinion and is it possible Zabol that this whole debate could affect the way the film has received might have some consequences. I think it definitely could it could have consequences on the box office. If people you know have safety concerns of some kind I it could have consequences on its awards chances because joker is being positioned as an awards play by Warner brothers Joaquin Phoenix who stars as the title character's was received a great deal of claim but if the film becomes too controversial potentially not that that kills its its Oscar chances so there's a lot of impact financially critically in in terms of awards Brent Lang is is the executive editor for film and Media at Variety Joker opens in theaters October fourth brand. Thanks much for coming back on the show. Thanks for having me."