I went to see Dark Knight Rises with my brother last night. What a surreal, visceral experience. It was something I'll never experience again.
Opening night, 18 hours after a mass murder. We were in an identical theatre, 1,100 miles away. We were there to watch the same movie. The same previews, with a similar crowd of people. Everyone had the same thing on their minds. People died like this. Just like this. Today.
We arrived a half-hour early and got good seats. We were perhaps the 30th and 31st people there.
There was no line outside. I didn't even expect that the theatre would sell out.
People shuffled in. Mike and I avoided speaking about the tragedy. I mentioned to Mike that the trailer for "Gangster Squad" had been pulled from the front of Batman by Warner Brothers, but when the Previews started, there it was, including the scene where gangsters shoot through the screen of a movie theatre into the screaming audience. I guess someone hadn't gotten the message.
There were previews for violent action movies. Gangster Squad. The Watch. Django Unchained. The Bourne Legacy. Each seemed to feature explosions, or machine guns spraying into crowds. Even the comedy "The Watch" features a scene where the heros stuff 10 superfluous bullets into an alien corpse.
Are these big-screen bloodbaths affecting the people who watch them? Would I have even noticed this last week?
After the previews, The movie started.
I knew that the killer in Aurora had started his assualt 15 minutes into the movie. I think everyone in our theatre knew it. I wasn't going to check the time though. My only timepiece is my iphone, and I'm too polite to activate the screen in the middle of a movie. Additionally, I didn't want any other patrons to think that I was paying too much attention to the time.
At about 10 minutes in, a huge usher walked down the aisle with a red-coned flashlight wand. He walked to the Exit door next to the screen. Everyone's eyes were on this guy. What the hell?
He was checking that the exit was still latched. I'm not saying that it was a terrible idea to check the door, but there must have been a way to do that without paralysing the audience.
Satisfied, the usher walked back up to the top of the stairs and left the room.
The movie continued.
The Dark Knight Rises is a violent film. People get shot and hung and stabbed. Tons of people die. At one point a villianous woman drives a tank through a crowd, telling her gunner to "kill them all".
There were some unrealistic scenarios in this movie, but never before was an movie experience so affecting, engaging, real.
This movie is tied up with death. Real death, and real murder.
It is horrifying.