- Associated Press - Friday, July 20, 2012

In “The Dark Knight Rises,” a masked villain leads a murderous crew into a packed football stadium and wages an attack involving guns and explosives. It’s just one of the more haunting scenes in what was one of the most anticipated movies in years.

There is no confirmed evidence so far that the motives of the assailant in the Aurora, Colo., killings on Friday had any specific link to “The Dark Knight Rises.” New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he was told the gunman had painted his hair red and called himself the Joker, but Aurora police would not confirm that.

It’s not clear why the shooter chose to enter the movie theater at 12:30 a.m., not far into the midnight screening that marked the film’s opening day. Several survivors remarked on their initial confusion as the attack unfolded at seeing a masked figure silhouetted in a gaseous haze and the sounds of real gunshots mingling with the film soundtrack.

In superhero movies, violent attacks on the public by villains are key components of many plots, including “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-man,” both in theaters now. By Hollywood standards, the Batman movies are more grim than bloody. The Christopher Nolan-directed “Dark Knight” trilogy has been more dark than that of typical superhero films, taking a cue from the comic book series published by DC Comics, including “Detective Comics” and writer Frank Miller’s gritty 1986 take on the character, “Batman: The Dark Knight.”

There are general parallels to the Colorado shooting, “The Dark Knight” and the comic book character:

_ Bruce Wayne’s drive to become Batman arose from witnessing the deaths of his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, at the hands of small-time criminal Joe Chill, who shot and killed them after they had left a theater. 

_ A part of the Batman video game called “Arkham City” takes place in an abandoned movie theater (The Monarch, outside of which Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed).

_ In the “Dark Knight” graphic novel by Miller, the Joker slaughters the audience of a television talk show with gas.

_ In the same book, a beleaguered man shoots up a porn theater after being fired from his job, killing three people with a handgun.

_ “The Dark Knight Rises” features at least two scenes where unsuspecting people are attacked in a public venue: the stock exchange and a football stadium.