Warner Bros has issued a statement in response to concerns over the violence in its new movie, the Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker.
Family members of the victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, signed a letter in which they called upon the studio to show 'social responsibility' when exhibiting violent movies.
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” the studio said in a statement.
“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.
Read more: Joker tipped for Oscar success
“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.”
James Holmes stormed a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July, 2012, in Aurora killing 12 people and injuring 70.
Though police have since said that there was no evidence Holmes was emulating Batman villain the Joker, his hair was dyed red, and media outlets picked up on rumours that he had been inspired by the DC villain, as seen in the previous Batman movie, The Dark Knight.
It has since emerged that the remodelled multiplex in Aurora, where the massacre occurred, will not be showing the new Joker movie, in which Phoenix plays Batman's nemesis on an origin story.
When asked in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph about the movie's violence and if it could lead to similar instances in real life, Phoenix walked out, seemingly perturbed by the question.
He later returned to the interview session, and said that he had panicked because the thought had not occurred to him, though he did not broach the issue again.
In a later interview with IGN, both director Phillips and star Phoenix tackled the question head on.
“I really think there have been a lot of think pieces written by people who proudly state they haven't even seen the movie and they don't need to,” Phillips told IGN.
“I would just argue that you might want to watch the movie, you might want to watch it with an open mind.”
“The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message,” Phillips adds.
“It's so, to me, bizarre when people say, ‘Oh, well I could handle it. But imagine if you can't.’ It's making judgments for other people and I don't even want to bring up the movies in the past that they've said this about because it's shocking and embarrassing when you go, oh my God, Do the Right Thing, they said that about [that movie, too].”
Joaquin Phoenix added: “Well, I think that, for most of us, you're able to tell the difference between right and wrong. And those that aren't are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs.
“They misinterpret passages from books. So I don't think it's the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that's obvious.”
Read more: Aurora cinema will not show Joker
Joker has been critically hailed as 'a masterpiece' by some critics, having won the top prize at the recent Venice Film Festival.
Speaking about the film's violent scenes, Phoenix told SFX magazine: “You always want it to feel real, and you want the little violence that we have to have an impact.
“What happens in a lot of movies is that you get numb to it, you’re killing 40,000 people, you don’t feel it. While being a fictional story in a fictional world, you always want it to feel real. Everything that happens in this movie as far as violence goes, you feel it.”
The movie is released across the UK from 4 October.