What exactly caused Batman to become the way he is in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? A one man vigilante who terrorizes criminals by beating them badly, right before before branding them for death. In the movie, Batman goes as far as killing his enemies during heavy firefights. “This isn’t the Batman we know”, says thousands of fans of the character. And I think that’s exactly what Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio were going for.
We know this Batman long existed before BvS, by about 20 years. However the film only teases what he’s been through during his time fighting criminals in Gotham. First, there’s the shot of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) looking at a burned Robin costume to remind him of the tragedy, which he feels responsible for. The words painted on the costume “Hahaha! Jokes on you Batman” suggest the Joker (Jared Leto) took the life of Batman’s crime fighting partner, but more on that later. Second, there’s the line “20 years in Gotham, Alfred. We’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left. How many stayed that way”. There are several ways this line can be taken, but without going into a deep analysis once again, it hints at the good becoming corrupted, and possibly others losing their lives.
Going back to the Robin costume, it wasn’t specified exactly which Robin died. There are several versions in the comics, particularly Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Well the reason this post is being written is because we finally learned who’s costume that belonged to. Jason Todd.
There’s a famous story line from the comics called Death in the Family, where Joker captures and beats Jason Todd to death with a crowbar. Batman arrives just in time to see his partner die, and Joker escapes. There’s no confirmation, but many speculate this tragic moment sends Batman into a brief retirement in the DCEU.
For myself, its this bit of information, combined with the events at the end of Man of Steel (beginning of BvS), that send Bruce Wayne down this darker path of killing. He feels powerless and hopeless, after witnessing this (inexperienced) Superman guy with god-like powers, fight and, in the process, kill thousands of people. “Count the dead Alfred. Thousands. What’s next? Millions?”, Bruce Wayne says at one point in the movie. When we first see the Batman, he’s not beating a criminal for holding dozens of people as prisoners in his basement. He only wants to know about the White Portuguese, which is a boat carrying the kryptonite needed to kill Superman. “The Bat interrogated six men, and came away with nothing. It was Bruce Wayne that got the information.”, said Alfred, not knowing Bruce’s real intentions at the time.
The point I’m trying to make here is that for most of the movie, we don’t see Batman. We see a man consumed by hatred and fear that Superman could, at any moment, lose it and become the very horror that his dream foreshadowed. Once the “Martha” moment happens, which I’ll let John Campea explain in the video below, we finally see Bruce come to his senses. Ever wonder why that sequence of Batman fighting in the warehouse looks so awesome (besides the choreography and camera work from Snyder)? Its because we finally see what looks like Batman. He disables most of the guns on the bad guys, leaving them with knifes and a few hand guns. Sure, he still beats the sh*t out these guys, maybe paralyzing a few in the process, but he’s not snapping necks or using other guns for a quick kill, like in the desert fight sequence. He even shies away from shooting the guy with the flamethrower (pointed at Martha) in the head, and instead shoots the gas tank. Batman is doing the most to avoid killing, but we have to accept that deaths in battle cannot be entirely avoided. Sh*t happens.
To conclude this post, I’ll say that for all the flaws for Batman v Superman, I really love what Snyder did with Batman. The character arc could’ve been executed a little better, but its one of the best I’ve seen in a superhero movie. I saw the movie 9 times (8 in theaters), so this is coming from someone who loved what he saw. Batman v Superman doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s totally fine. I wish it wasn’t that way, and hopefully Geoff Johns and company can make this universe even greater, because it has so much promise. However, a movie like BvS that makes me think and look at these characters in ways I never have before is exciting and worth investing in.
Sources: Warner Bros