Joker was released in theatres recently and it is continuing to stir controversy on its opening weekend.
Some audiences stormed out of the theatres around the world, saying that the movie is too disturbing and “triggering”.
The R-rated supervillain flick smashed October opening-day box office records after taking home US$39.9 million in US domestic ticket sales on Friday and is on pace to take in an eye-watering US$92-million weekend total.
However, not everyone is embracing the dark, ultra-violent film which sees Joaquin Phoenix portray Arthur Fleck, the embattled clown who later transforms into Batman’s most iconic nemesis.
One fan wrote on Twitter: “Literally just walked out of a screening of Joker. Way too terrifying to be there, with… the way the movie glamorizes gun violence and mental health issues.”
Some have gone as far as calling for the movie to be banned from theatres, saying it promotes violence and could even inspire a mass shooting.
Police across the nation went on high alert and beefed up security at theatres and so far there have been no reports of violence at screenings, but minor and isolated disruptions.
Police responded to calls in New York City after one audience member sparked fears by spitting on others and clapping loudly every time the Joker killed someone.
Fearing he had ill intentions, police escorted the man out of the theatre. A witness reported that the man had poured a bottle of tequila into his (slushie) before the movie began.
“S**t was scary – like a 4-D movie experience,” the witness tweeted.
Some fans unprepared for the movie’s dark intensity took to Twitter to reveal that they had walked out of screenings.
Twitter users wrote: “Just walked out of #Joker. Haven’t been that anxious in a movie theatre since GOOD TIME. F**k man…”
“I walked out of this movie #Joker BAN THIS MOVIE!! It’s a psychological approach on the mind! I was rooting for him until s**t got real… Oh man…”
“By unanimous decision, the four of us walked out of the Joker movie. I haven’t walked out of a movie in years… I have never walked out of a theatre more uncomfortable than I am right now walking out of Joker…”
Both Phoenix and director Todd Phillips have defended the film, with the actor saying he trusts audiences to know the difference between right and wrong.
Phillips recently said the criticism of Joker surprised him, because he took measures to instil “real-world implications” of violence not often found in cartoon films and television shows.
The 48-year-old director revealed during the New York Film Festival on Wednesday night that his depictions of violence were a needed departure from the glorification found in other action movies.
Phoenix portrays Fleck as a bullying victim who—after living on the outskirts of society—snaps and takes revenge on those who have wronged him.
“That’s the surprising thing to me,” he said at the movie’s east coast US premiere. “I thought, isn’t that a good thing, to put real-world implications on violence?”
Despite receiving critical acclaim, social media monitoring FBI agents in the US have warned it could inspire screening attacks from ‘incels’ – a term which refers to men who are “involuntarily celibate” and blame their situation on women.