When you think about it, it's pretty odd that I haven't done more writing on my favorite movie (even though I have said many times that it's my favorite movie). But soon enough here, in under a month, we will celebrate the sixth anniversary of The Dark Knight's release.
Now, last year, the comic book community was in a fit over Superman killing General Zod in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel because, even though he was doing it to save a defenseless family, he was breaking a fan-created rule which stated he does not kill. Why do I bring this up?
Because Batman did the exact same thing in The Dark Knight six years ago and no one cared.
As you were told countless times throughout Christopher Nolan's brilliant trilogy, Batman doesn't kill people. And this is a rule supported with hard evidence from the comics (unlike Superman's no-kill rule, which is only supported by an idealistic quote from the comics that was not resolute in any sense of the word). Batman says time after time, "I will not kill," or "No killing," or something to that effect. However, in the final confrontation of the second film in the trilogy, Batman straight-up breaks that rule and kills Harvey Dent.
What? When? Take a look at the clip below:
Dent is about to shoot the kid.
Batman tackles him.
Knocks him off a building.
Batman is directly responsible for Two-Face's death. He kills him by tackling him off a building. He says many, many times that he refuses to kill someone, AND THEN KILLS SOMEONE. It just doesn't make sense to me that people got all upset about a made-up rule involving Superman when Batman, who has the rule written and stated countless times, does what is in essence the exact same thing.
Superman kills someone to defend helpless innocents.
So does Batman.
Superman is clearly devastated by the course of action he had to take.
Did you see The Dark Knight Rises? So is Batman.
So why did people freak out about Superman killing when Batman did it without any public disdain? Is it because Superman is supposed to be a Boy Scout and Batman is supposed to walk the line between hero and vigilante?
Or is it because Batman was fulfilling a prophecy? Early in the film, the Joker tells Batman that if he wants to save the people he loves he has to break his one rule. In order to become the hero Gotham deserves, he has to break. Even up to the final confrontation between the two, Batman is unflinching in his conviction. But one person, the one who fell so far and so hard that he's willing to take a child's life to prove his point, only Harvey Dent, could break the Bat. His fall from grace is what pushes Batman to break his rule.
Almost poetic, isn't it?
Superman didn't really have that kind of conversation with anyone in Man of Steel, right? Wrong.
Zod offers Superman a choice: kill him or watch those people die. There was no third option.
So again I pose the question: Why on Earth (or Krypton) did people freak out about Superman killing, and not freak out about Batman when he was placed in the same situation? It's ridiculous.
Now, I liked Man of Steel in spite of all its flaws, and The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Both have heroes who question their callings, and the weight and cost of being a hero. How many heroes do we have today who are Boy Scouts? We live in an age of moral ambiguity. Our heroes can't just explore the gray area, they are born in it, molded by it. The world isn't black and white, and neither are people. Relatable heroes are responsible to uphold the good while the battle against evil rages even in them. They're bound to falter, that's part of what makes them interesting. They have to make tough decisions and make us question that part of ourselves because otherwise, they would just be a charming smile in some tights.