Editor's note: In light of last week's shootings at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., Reel Critics contributor Susanne Perez asked that this special column be published with her thoughts as a moviegoer.

*

For many, July 20 became a memorable day for movies for the worst reasons imaginable. It was the day that violence jumped off the screen and reached out, literally, to an audience watching "The Dark Knight Rises."

Unbelievable.

To think that yet another place where we felt safe, and which has given us countless hours of enjoyment and harmless escapism, could turn into such a cold-blooded reality.

Unthinkable.

Friday night at Big Newport was eerily quiet, and the expected huge crowds had not materialized. Death has a way of putting things in perspective, and a movie felt so insignificant. And yet life goes on.

From a film critic's perspective, "The Dark Knight Rises" is an amazing end to a saga, building upon the previous movies to reveal deeper levels of emotional and societal ills, and a more conflicted Bruce Wayne (the mesmerizing Christian Bale) than before. It has a grandeur that sets it apart from any other superhero movie.

The Caped Crusader is now the villain of Gotham City, and Bruce is a retired recluse. Even his most faithful friend Alfred (marvelous Michael Caine) can't seem to draw him out.

Bruce catches Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaking into his safe, and his curiosity gets him out and about again. The best Catwoman ever, Selina has wit, brains and beauty. She gets caught up in a complicated scheme involving the stock market, a nuclear device and a walking boulder named Bane (Tom Hardy).

A young cop (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) still believes Batman is a hero, and a lovely executive (Marion Cotillard) wants Bruce to return to his philanthropic ways. Many characters from the previous films make small but noteworthy appearances.

The action is brilliant, including the opening segment and a final frenzied chase. The actors are first-rate, but too bad we don't see more from Tom Hardy, unrecognizable and often unintelligible.

A follow up to "TDKR" seems inevitable, although Christopher Nolan has said he won't make another. But this ending was so perfect, I wonder if there is really a need for another.

I also wonder — how long before I stop jumping in my seat when there is a gunshot onscreen. How long before I stop looking at the emergency exits, imagining what it must have been like to see a real-life villain, a destroyer of worlds, on that darkest of nights.

Life does go on. Be well and be blessed.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

JOHN DEPKO has the week off.