Guys... It's here. After what felt like a life time of waiting, the day has finally come, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is finally in theaters for our viewing pleasure and as expected; the response to the film has been pretty divisive.
Before the film came out, I wrote an article about why Zack Snyder may decide to have Batman kill in BvS and why it would be a good thing, which just so happened (*brushes dust off shoulder*) to be true. You can check that article out here: https://moviepilot.com/posts/3832095 and I'll be reiterating a few things from it.
In all honesty, I was among those with mixed feelings after seeing it for the first time, and I'd like to think I was rooting for this movie to be great from day one. And yes, I was at San Diego Comic Con in Hall H during the earth-shattering announcement that this movie was happening all the way back in 2013, so I mean it when I say day one. Having said that, I realize that I may have had some impossibly high expectations to meet, along with two and a half years of anticipation baring down on the shoulders of this film, and I think it's only fair to recognize that.
This is just a theory but it's possible that many of the negative reviews this movie is receiving are due to the simple fact that expectations were so impossibly high, sort of like waiting three years to taste a forbidden fruit only to find out that it's a just a granny smith apple. Hell yeah it's a good apple but it's not blessing me with eternal life or ascending me to a higher dimension so it sucks, catch my drift? No? Well... Anyways, let's get to it...
I really enjoyed BvS. I thought it was masterfully shot, with great performances all around, and breathtaking action that made me feel, like a glee filled little boy watching my favorite Justice League animated series on Saturday morning. BUT, there were some things that I thought I would see in BvS that never happened, and it's hard to tell whether my disappointment is well founded or just a product of the day-after-christmas syndrome, so I turn to the inter-webs to get their thoughts and to share some of my own, so let's talk...
Batman DOES Kill.
In the article I wrote before I saw the movie, https://moviepilot.com/posts/3832095, I pointed out a lot of clues that hinted at the possibility of Batman now being a cold blooded murderer. We can now have a different discussion, because we know that's true...
Does a killing Batman work for the DCEU?
In terms of the universe Warner Bros/ DC is trying to create, yes, it works, and I'll explain why.
Did it work for this film?
Maybe... This is a divisive topic for sure and everyone will form their own opinions on it, so let's talk...
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we get the most emotionally harrowing version of the Caped Crusader we've ever seen and with a past that, we can assume, matches his damaged persona, causing him to give up his no-kill rule. This was a character attribute that I thought worked extremely well for the character, yet, was under-utilized for the main conflict of the film: Batman's fight with Superman.
Batman seeks Justice by punishing and hunting down criminals, while Superman saves people in pursuit of protecting peace. They have similar goals, with very VERY different methods. The Yin and the Yang of the DC Universe, the two equally but opposing forces.
Let's looks at the Ideological difference between Batman and Superman when we meet them in the film...
With the (arguably brilliant) casting of Ben Affleck in the iconic role, we know that Bruce Wayne has been the caped crusader for roughly 20 years. With this fact alone, we know he is worn down, he's dealt with enormous loss, and now that the movie is out we know he doesn't have a problem with taking lives. When Producer of BvS: Dawn of Justice, Charles Roven, was asked about the decision to have the Dark Knight be a killer, here's what he said:
I think that it just came about that this particular Batman, he’s been jaded by the process. There’s a really amazing line in the movie, ‘20 years in Gotham, how many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?’ And let’s face it, he’s a very damaged guy... We see Robin is not around. The character has evolved, and he’s definitely a more brutal guy, and we wanted him to be right on that edge, right on that razor. And he has to be on the razor’s edge, or why would he get Superman’s attention?
I found this to be a huge relief when I read this quote, because it means that this decision wasn't made lightly, and it was with intention. Imagine for a second, Batman's crimefighting career over those 20 years, doing everything in his human power to keep the criminals of Gotham at bay, and actually making progress. He doesn't have to kill to solve crimes, in fact he is more focused on stopping people from getting killed. In an effort to make himself more effective, he puts a protege under his wing (likely more than one) and teaches him/them how to follow the same moral code he's been fighting to preserve over his career.
It's Gotham... Things aren't great, but there are still heroes, and Batman and his team have things under control. Enter Joker
A new kind of enemy without clear goals hell bent on chaos and destruction. Inevitably, the Joker fights a psychological, almost spiritual, battle against the Dark Knight, by trying to push him to break is unbreakable rule: No Killing. He kidnaps Robin and tortures him, all apart of his psychological ploy, giving batman the horrible choice of taking Joker's life and saving Robin, or following his rule and allowing Robin to die.
This is the dilemma in many Batman story arcs but we almost always see the hero find a third option and get out of it, but in this case, he fails. He tries option 3 instead of killing the Joker and Robin pays the price for his failure.
After such a devastating loss, Batman blames himself, questions all of his methods in the past and if they really worked. You see, the Joker actually won the psychological battle, not immediately, but the event poisoned the mind of the Dark Knight and ate away at him, pushing him into retirement and eventually to his breaking point.
An indestructible alien that levels half of Metropolis seemingly the day he shows up, taking thousands of lives, including Zod's, and the next day is worshipped as not just a hero but a savior, a god.
The destruction of Metropolis is the last straw for Bruce Wayne, and over the course of the 2 years after the titanic struggle Superman had with Zod, he begins to train himself to become Batman again, only this time a different Batman, one who no longer takes half measures.
Not to say that killing is his first move, I still think it would be a last resort for him, but it's now an option.
In BvS: Dawn of Justice there wasn't much, if any, background on why Batman now kills people, leaving many to wonder if it's something he's always done (Why even use fists of you have all those guns?).
Ultimately, I think that it hurt the film not to answer any of those questions of why he kills, and even more so to not have that be more of an element of the conflict between Superman and Batman. What if Clark was attacking Batman because he's a murderer in his eyes, while in the eyes of Bruce Wayne, Superman is the murderer for allowing so many to die in Metropolis.
I like to believe that these are dramatic story points to be used in the solo Batman movie and other future DC films.
What it means for the future of the DCEU
With the solo Batman film (rumored to be directed by Ben Affleck) on it's way, the current assumption is that it will be a prequel and adapt the comic Under the Red Hood for it's story. This is a fantastic idea and can answer all the questions we have the BvS left us with, mostly regarding the transition to killing and how the loss of Robin changed Batman.
We also have some more Batman to look forward to in Suicide Squad!
I am confident we'll be getting more background on Batman's past, especially his relation to the criminals he put away, particularly the joker. This is a really ingenious way to pepper in more of Batman's past while introducing more characters, and I'm 100% on board with the universe they have begun to build.
The folks over at DC/ Warner Bros are some smart cookies, and they clearly have a big and bold plan moving forward with their DC properties, regardless of how critics felt about BvS. They're putting a bold, mature spin on their movies which represents a level of respect for the source material that has always been more mature than Marvel properties.
What do you guys think? Was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice everything you hoped it would be? How excited are you for the future of the DCEU? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!