WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Batman V Superman
What is the one thing that we all know about Batman? OK, yes, he has pointy ears and a cape. What is the other one thing we all know about Batman? Batman does not kill (except for here, and a few other examples). Sure, after more than 75 years since his creation, Batman has killed a few people, but his one rule is known to even casual Batfans. Enter Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film where Batman kills. A lot.
He kills at least four people during the car chase sequence at the docks. He uses a machine gun during the warehouse fight to dispatch at least two others. Using a high-powered rifle, he ignites the KGBeast's flamethrower, blowing the Russian sky-high. I liked Batman v Superman, but I had a problem with all of this murder. That's not my Batman. It's likely not your Batman either.
But, having spent some time thinking about it, I've come around to the Batmurder. Allow me to present some ideas on why it works in this movie, and why it sets up Batman for the current slate of the DCEU films.
Batman Is A Tragic Figure
He is not the Big, Blue Boy Scout that Superman is. Let's remember why Batman does what he does. A rich (and entitled, depending on what comic you read) boy of approximately eight years old, Bruce Wayne saw his parents gunned down in Crime Alley in Gotham City. This broke Bruce, showing him that even his life of happiness and extravagance could be taken away in an instant. Growing up furious, he eventually dedicated his life to doing everything he possibly could to ensure that nobody under his watch would ever suffer similar pain. In doing so, he sacrificed his body and his personal relationships, often avoiding love and family as a means of protecting those that he cared about. That is true tragedy.
The Batman In BvS Is Truly A Broken Man
This film presents a Batman who has been fighting crime (no doubt a thankless, endless task) in Gotham for 20 years. He's survived the death of Robin (presumably at the hands of The Joker), and is now having to deal with the arrival of a Godlike alien who could "burn the whole place down." He continues doing what he does because it's all he knows, but he has lost his way. He's allowed the grime and the filth to get under his skin, and once he breaks his one rule, it becomes easier for him to do it again. And again. Not only does he kill, but he brands his victims — a level of cruelty we haven't seen from Batman in film before now — an act that (because of some manipulation from Lex Luthor) generally gets branded villains murdered in prison.
So, why am I defending all of this murder? Well, it's really just me having faith in the DCEU (for better or for worse). I could be wrong, but hear me out. My guess is that when Justice League comes along next year, we will see a Batman that doesn't kill. I believe that Batman is at his most broken and brutal in BvS. Writer Chris Terrio referred to this film as the middle of a trilogy (traditionally the darkest part), with Man of Steel being part one, and Justice League being part three. Batman spends the majority of this film hating and suspecting Superman, only to make peace (for a reason that really could have been better) in the final act to unite the Trinity and take down Doomsday. During this battle, Superman sacrifices himself to save all of humanity.
Batman Will Find Redemption
Bruce recognizes that Clark acted in an entirely altruistic manner, and is, therefore, reminded him of his own past, and his one rule. Clark's death acts as the impetus for Bruce to revert back to his original and ideal self. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that Batman does not brand Luthor at the end of the film.
If (and it's a big if), Batman does not do any killing in Justice League, then Zack Snyder has given us all a truly exceptional character arc for Batman. We start with a broken, brutal man — a hero who has experienced a fall from grace. However, if Batman does find and embrace his former self in the next film, that would be redemption. Bruce has never forgiven himself for allowing his parents to die, but to redeem himself by not killing Superman (in BvS), and bringing crooks in by-the-book in Justice League, we truly have an heroic redemption.
Unless, of course, Snyder totally messes it up.
Revisit the iconic moment in Bruce's life when he watched his parents' murder in the video below (and every time we've seen it on screen):
What kind of Batman do you think we'll see in Justice League?