Batman 'curse' a load of guano
Christian Bale in "Batman Begins." (HO)
Whatever pathology is ultimately assigned to the person who killed 12 people and injured 38 at an Aurora, Colorado theatre, one thing is certain.
One of the most anticipated movies of 2012 - The Dark Knight Rises - will forever be associated with one of the most horrific gun murders in U.S. history.
In fact, knowing as little as we do about alleged gunman James Holmes, it's impossible to know the actual motivation of timing and target. But whether purposefully or not, this mass murder has hitched itself like a lamprey eel to one of the year's biggest marketing campaigns.
What's predictable is that the tragedy will soon take the form of a "curse," a meme that needs little encouragement in the digital age (the infamous "Superman curse" was based on little else than TV Superman George Reeves' controversial suicide, Christopher Reeve's paralyzing accident and Margot Kidder's public psychiatric problems of a few decades past).
In fact, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy had already been the subject of "curse" talk before yesterday's horror.
Exhibit A, of course, was the accidental prescription drug-overdose death of Heath Ledger months before the release of the second film, The Dark Knight. But the film's closing credits actually include two "in memory" notices - one for Ledger and one for an effects technician named Conway Wickliffe, who died driving his camera truck into a tree while filming a stunt on the film.
The "Batman curse" gained further steam a month after The Dark Knight's release in July 2008, when Morgan Freeman (who plays Bruce Wayne's personal weapons inventor Lucius Fox) flipped his car into a ditch outside Charleston, Mississippi and was operated on extensively for nerve damage.
In that same July, Batman himself, Christian Bale was arrested on the eve of the movie's London premiere for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister (no charges were laid).
Meanwhile, the current movie made headlines while filming in Pittsburgh because of multiple on-set crashes.
For the record, I don't believe in curses. And what passes for same will inevitably trivialize a tragedy from which the studio would probably prefer to extricate itself.
This impulse was at work in Sam Raimi's original 2002 Spider-Man, when the World Trade Center towers were airbrushed out of all promotional material and trailers.
More recently, a smaller-scale tragedy - the shooting of Florida youth Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman - prompted Fox Studios to rename next week's Ben Stiller/Jonah Hill comedy from Neighborhood Watch to simply The Watch.
One of the bigger ironies leading up to this weekend's tragedy were the stories of "fanboy" bloggers making trivial death threats against movie critics who gave negative reviews to The Dark Knight Rises.
If this horror encourages some people to grasp the difference between fantasy and reality, perhaps the "curse" could be, in some small way, a blessing.