I fully expected to feel rattled today. But I thought Batman and company would do the rattling - not James Holmes.
Very early Friday morning, I was driving home from Columbus where I saw an IMAX screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Then I noticed my iPhone started to flash with news alerts at about 3:30 a.m. "What could be setting off news alerts at this hour?" I wondered.
When I stopped to grab something to eat, I very quickly found out. More than a dozen people had been shot dead, and dozens more wounded, at a screening of the movie I had just seen - a movie with apocalyptic images that were still tumbling in my mind. Soon, images of another kind of apoplyptic scenee flashed across my mind's eye - and what scared me was they weren't entirely different from what I had seen onscreen.
"What has become of us?" I wondered. And that's the question we really should be asking ourselves. I have strong feelings on gun control, but I won't go into that here. Perhaps more gun laws would have helped those people in Aurora. Perhaps they would not have. But now we'll never know.
What we might be able to find out, however, is exactly why our society has become so frighteningly aggressive and divisive. And one place to look for some insight is on the movie screen, where The Dark Knight Rises is playing.
That may sound facile, but I don't mean to suggest that The Dark Knight Rises answers all the questions flying through our heads. No movie could. But I find it ironic that some people have suggested suspending screenings the new Batman movie, at least for a little while, either to prevent copycat crimes or as a gesture of support for the victims.
Both concerns are legitimate, but both are misplaced. The people who are suffering in Aurora will still be suffering, whether Warner Bros. pulls the movie from theaters or not. The president has ordered flags to fly at half staff for a few days - that's a very visible show of support for the victims and their loved ones - far more visible than suspending the movie, however, temporarily, would be. And as we have seen all too often, legislation or other forms of control can do little to suppress determined madness.
One reason this tragedy resonates so strongly is its very setting. Many of us go to the movies to get away from reality for a couple of hours. Then, suddenly, here comes James Holmes and his reality crashing into the theater and leaving behind pools of blood. So much for entertainment.
And yet the movie can still do some good. The Batman movies directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan, have always been more than "just fun." They're meditations on what drives people's souls to become corrupt. The new movie, in particular, takes a good hard look at what drives society to do terrible things on a grand scale. And The Dark Knight Rises also provides some insight into how we can counter that.
Maybe we can't put on a cape and a cowl and jet around in a plane outfitted with machine guns. But we might be able to see how best to get back up when we fall.
I'm not going to tell what I think the movie says about our society. Everyone will have their own interpretation. But The Dark Knight Rises isn't only for those who "just want to be entertained!" It's fine for a movie to be fun. Bit the best movies do more than that. They often hold up a mirror to who we are - and maybe after we look at the screen, we should consider that mirror, while we also think of all those who are hurting.
Up until July 21, The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. Now, it is arguably the most important.