Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a larger-than-life imagining of a dark world, threatened not only by criminals who were born and bred within it, but also from unthinkable terrors from far beyond. The sense of dread and impending doom was heightened by Zack Snyder's dense and gloomy environment, and Hans Zimmer's jarring and haunting soundtrack.
The titular alter ego of Bruce Wayne, portrayed by Ben Affleck, was plopped into this dark and supernatural atmosphere and barely looked out of place. DC's Extended Universe has evolved the character from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, this Batman is befitting of the world around him; while Christian Bale's Caped Crusader was dark, Affleck's is even darker.
One of the biggest questions marks with Affleck's Batman was his lack of hesitation in landing a lethal blow, something traditionally the character has always avoided. It may be easy to judge this as a creative decision to fit a narrative, but behind the tough exterior, is there more going on behind the Batsuit?
The Psychology Of Affleck's Batman
Delving into the murky depths of Batman's psyche is a dangerous game, but one worth playing if it uncovers the motivation behind his actions. After all, with a cameo in Suicide Squad, upcoming appearances in Justice League Part 1 and 2, and his own solo movie, this is a Batman who will be around for a while. We may as well try and understand him.
The DCEU's version of Batman is an ageing and weary version of the character, one who has been busy cleansing the streets of Gotham from criminals for a long time. If we appreciate Bruce Wayne is after all only human, it would make sense if he was feeling the stress, perhaps in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a result of the combination of some unsettling factors:
- Witnessing the death of his parents at a young age.
- Years of constantly fighting bad guys.
- Losing people close to him.
- And, most importantly: Scarecrow's Fear Toxin.
Before we move on, PTSD is a disorder that occurs after someone has witnessed a terrifying event. The symptoms of which include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and uncontrollable rumination of the event. In BvS, we witness Bruce suffer from nightmares and flashbacks, which show strong indication of his fragile mental state, possibly caused by the above factors.
Witnessing The Death Of His Parents
Bruce didn't get off to a great start, witnessing his parents Thomas and Martha murdered in cold blood in the dark streets of Gotham while returning home from the theatre. That helped to inspire Bruce to become the caped vigilante, in order to rid the streets of the kind of criminal responsible for his parents' death.
Years of training accumulated in the hero we know and love; a highly trained combatant who is of genius intellect. Yet by the events of Man of Steel (2013) and General Zod's invasion of Gotham, Bruce had already spend almost two decades battling bad guys, witnessing constant streams of violence, and involving himself in all sorts of psychological warfare with the likes of the Joker.
Not to mention in BvS that Lex Luthor manipulated Bruce by sending him bloodied letters, claiming that he "let his parents die," before proclaiming to Superman how easy it was to manipulate him, using his parents' death as ammunition. As if that isn't enough to damage his psychological state further, Affleck's Batman has also lost people close to him, namely Jason Todd, who has been killed previous to events in BvS. Oh, and just incase you haven't seen Suicide Squad yet:
The movie revealed that Harley Quinn was an accomplice in the murder of Robin. And, considering director David Ayer has previously confirmed the Joker killed him, it looks like the two worked together to kill Batman's protégé.
Could Scarecrow's Fear Toxin Also Have A Role To Play?
Add all these things together, and even the a tough vigilante with genius intellect would be feeling the stress of a lifetime spent fighting crime. But there's also one more significant factor: Scarecrow's Fear Toxin. Could the villain's deadly gas could've contributed to his mental state in the DCEU?
Most recently, Dr. Jonathan Crane was played by Cillian Murphy in Nolan's trilogy, in which he unleashes the toxin in the streets of Gotham, causing widespread fear in civilians. The toxin was created by the Arkham Asylum Scientist after he dedicated research to understanding fear. When inhaled, it causes hallucinations in the form of the victim's worst nightmare.
While Crane hasn't been seen in the DCEU yet, it doesn't rule out run-ins with Batman in the years prior to events in BvS. Could this also mean Batman's nightmare — orchestrated by Flash to send a message for him to find Lois Lane and form the Justice League — was drenched in darkness by Batman's tortured state of mind?
Whatever the cause, the end product is a deeply damaged Bruce Wayne, one who uses alcohol as a coping mechanism, and ultimately a Batman who isn't afraid to kill. With an involvement in the DCEU akin to Tony Stark in the MCU, this could be crucial in the character's decision making in future. Plus, the question remains: Will Bruce Wayne ever overcome his demons?