One of the Dark Knight’s strongest codes is to never take a life, but I don’t think every filmmaker remembers that…
I’m Henry Gilbert, a person so nerdy they host their own the comic book podcast called Cape Crisis (via the support on the Laser Time Patreon), and I’m also well known for disliking when Superman kills Zod at the end of Man of Steel. In general, I’m no fan of nonlethal superheroes choosing to take a life period, but it especially bothers it happens in a multimillion dollar summer movie. I expected Kal-El to follow the lead of Batman in movies, where he always talks up not killing folks. However, as the video below attests, movie Bruce Wayne has a good deal of blood on his hands too.
Wow, that’s a whole lot of dead guys, huh? However, to figure out just how at fault Mr. Wayne is, let’s deal with these era by era. First off, there’s no denying that Keaton/Burton’s Batman just straight up kills people. Those guns, the explosions, him throwing two different guys off of buildings – there’s no question that Bruce Wayne doesn’t feel too worried about killing people. I’d chalk that up to Burton not really getting Batman’s philosophy and/or DC not being as stringent about the whole nonlethal policy.
The deaths decrease considerably in Schumacher’s Bat-films. The overuse of neon might be lethal, but most of those kills in that montage are from Batman dodging stuff and the bad guys getting hoisted by their own petard. The most iffy might be Two-Face’s demise, because Bats pretty much knew those coins would distract him, making Harvey lose his balance. And Bruce doesn’t even try to catch him, though that could be waved off that he needs to collect the falling Robin and Chase, instead of Two-Face.
That leaves us with The Dark Knight trilogy, which I thought would be easier to defend than it is. Bruce not taking a life is a major point in each film, starting with his refusal to kill at Ra’s al Ghul’s insistence, though I never realized that Wayne’s choice to not kill that one man resulted in blowing up a temple and killing a whole lot more people. Then we get to the famous “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you either,” and in the cold light of day, it REALLY appears that Wayne is definitely killing Ra’s through inaction.
On the other hand, when it comes to smashing cars, the Batmobile does this nonlethally all the time, usually with an accompanying shot to let you know the person inside the other car is bruised but living. However, this video has a couple Nolanverse moments without those corny cutaways, so you can easily assume the dude in that truck is crushed. And there’s no denying that Bats shoots Talia’s truck, causing it to crash and killing both people inside. Lastly, we’ve got another Two-Face fall and another moment of Batman saving anyone but Two-Face, but seriously, Christian Bale only has two arms.
However, I can’t blame Adam West for anything. That goon is merely in an anti-matter dimension, not dead.
Overall, a couple deaths in there may be easy to shrug off, but many scenes show Batman explicitly killing baddies all the same. Is he snapping their necks and watching their limp bodies fall to the ground? No, but hey, they gotta save something for Batman vs. Superman.
Oh, and if you want to point out Batman killed folks in the comics too, don’t worry, I remember that too. In fact, the author of the above video addressed that bloody history as well!
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