Producers of the upcoming Joker film have denied accusations it is glorifying violence amid criticism of its portrayal of the comic book villain.
Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Batman’s sadistic nemesis has won widespread critical acclaim, and the film took the top prize after it premiered in Venice last month.
However, family members of the victims of a 2012 mass shooting inside a US cinema, where the killer reportedly identified as the Joker, signed a letter to producers Warner Bros, expressing concerns about the film.
While they accepted the filmmakers’ rights to freedom of expression and did not call for a boycott, the families did ask the studio to donate to groups that aid victims of gun violence.
Warner Bros has now responded, dismissing fears the film encourages violence.
In a statement, a spokesman for the company said: “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.”
On July 20 2012, masked gunman James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 during a mass shooting at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado.
He reportedly identified as the Joker and was armed with a rifle, shotgun and two handguns, according to police.
Joker is directed by Todd Phillips and acts as an origins story for Joker. Set in 1981, it follows failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck, who turns to a life of crime in Gotham City.
The film, rated a 15 in the UK for “strong bloody violence”, also features Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, and Frances Conroy in supporting roles.
Joker premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize.
Joker will be released in the UK on October 4.