On Tuesday, Warner Bros. released a statement regarding the controversy surrounding Joker.
In theaters next weekend, the Joaquin Phoenix-led project chronicles the origin of the Joker in a way that — according to some critics — paints the Gotham villain as a sympathetic outcast rather than a mass murderer.
The depiction has raised concerns among many, most notably the survivors and families of victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting that took place during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. The shooting killed 12, and injured 70.
“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 statement reads, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.
“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.”
The statement comes shortly after five families of Aurora victims released an open letter calling for Warner Bros. to join other high-profile corporations in advocating for gun control.
“We’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns,” the letter states, per Variety. “We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe.”
Notably, the letter does not call for a Joker boycott or ban — but the authors do state that the film’s apparent “sympathetic origin story” raises some concern.
Earlier this month, the film earned the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, an accolade that often signifies a movie is on-track for Academy Award Best Picture consideration.
Joker will not screen at the Cinemark Aurora theater where the 2012 shooting took place, a decision reached mutually by Warner Bros. and Cinemark per Deadline.