'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice': Viral video counts Batman's kills
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in a scene from "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice". (Warner Bros.)
I’m Batman. You’re a dead man.
Aside from being the world’s greatest detective and a figure that strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies, one of the Dark Knight’s most enduring traits has been that he won’t kill people, no matter how twisted, evil or dangerous they may be. Oh, he’ll maim, cripple, scar for life and leave his foes broken and shattered. But killing? Killing is wrong.
Batman’s no-kill code has proven a bit flexible over the decades, in the comics and particularly the films. A YouTuber named Mr. Sunday Movies, who regularly edits together montages of cinematic superheroes committing homicide, has now turned his attention to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and tallied up the number of times the Dark Knight killed someone. While the definition of killing is a bit loose here – many of the deaths are Batman’s doing, though not necessarily directly intentional – the final count comes to 21.
Batman v Superman’s big Batmobile chase accounts for the lion’s share of the kills – 13, by Mr. Sunday Movies’ reckoning – while another chunk takes place during Bruce Wayne’s “Knightmare” vision. (Those kills are rolled back, since they don’t technically count. But assuming the sequence is actually a vision of what’s to come unless Bruce rewrites the future, it’s interesting to see that post-apocalyptic Batman has picked up a gun and thrown the no-kill code out the window. Probably for the best.)
In the hands of some of the great comic book creators, Batman’s no-kill code has provided great dramatic fuel. In the movies, though, it can be kind of problematic. How do you show explosive action but keep it non-lethal?
Director Zack Snyder has said the Dark Knight’s kills in Batman v Superman are “a little more like manslaughter than murder,” but it makes you wonder why Snyder is maintaining the illusion of Batman’s code in the first place. It would be much more interesting to see Batman struggle with his choice not to kill, or hesitate before consciously deciding to take deadly action.
Instead, we watch the Caped Crusader ruthlessly eliminate thugs and terrorists in a way that doesn’t actually have him standing over them and pulling a trigger, but is still undoubtedly lethal. He’s having his homicidal bat-cake and eating it too, and he’s not the first – the Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan movies have all had their share of “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” involuntary Batmanslaughter.
(The Batman video games have danced around this as well, though a little more successfully. In last year’s Batman: Arkham Knight, for instance, the Batmobile fires non-lethal rounds, Batman destroys dozens of A.I. drones and his beatdowns supposedly only knock baddies out. Still, that doesn’t explain how the criminals he runs off the road at 200 km/h in the Batmobile survive their mangled wrecks.)
For such an iconic hero, Batman is a tricky one to get right on the big screen. Every iteration has had its flaws – some more than others – but Ben Affleck’s Batman has lots of time to evolve. Maybe he’ll own up to being a murderer. Or maybe he’ll find a softer hand.