In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman (Ben Affleck) readily acknowledges that he’s a criminal, and as we see from his actions in the movies, he’s also one that doesn’t have a problem with killing people. The “no killing” rule was supposed to be one of Batman’s cardinal tenets that was right up there with not using guns, but it looks like Zack Snyder’s Dark Knight doesn’t have the inclination for such morality.
Speaking to HeyUGuys, Snyder gave his thoughts on why it’s okay to show Batman killing people:
I tried to do it in a technical way. There’s a great YouTube video that shows all the kills in the Christopher Nolan movies even though we would perceive them as movies where he doesn’t kill anyone. I think there’s 42 potential kills that Batman does! Also, it goes back and includes even the Tim Burton Batman movies where this reputation as a guy that doesn’t kill comes from.
Here’s the video that Snyder’s referencing:
The video is a bit fast and loose with some of Batman’s kills. Some kills are the result of a villain accidentally killing some of his henchmen because Batman dodged a rocket; there’s also a kill that was made in the spur of the moment like Batman pushing Two-Face off a building in order to save Gordon’s kid in The Dark Knight.
The problem in Batman v Superman is that the killing is so brazen, but Snyder thinks that he found a sensible compromise:
So, I tried to do it by proxy. Shoot the car they’re in, the car blows up or the grenade would go off in the guy’s hand, or when he shoots the tank and the guy pretty much lights the tank [himself]. I perceive it as him not killing directly, but if the bad guy’s are associated with a thing that happens to blow up, he would say that that’s not really my problem.
A little more like manslaughter than murder, although I would say that in the Frank Miller comic book that I reference, he kills all the time. There’s a scene from the graphic novel where he busts through a wall, takes the guy’s machine gun…I took that little vignette from a scene in The Dark Knight Returns, and at the end of that, he shoots the guy right between the eyes with the machine gun. One shot. Of course, I went to the gas tank, and all of the guys I work with were like, ‘You’ve gotta shoot him in the head’ because they’re all comic book dorks, and I was like, ‘I’m not gonna be the guy that does that!’
What Snyder doesn’t address is the “Bat Brand”, which is where Batman brands his enemies and we later learn through news reports that such a brand is a death sentence in prison for those who receive it. So Batman is basically worth with criminal. He won’t get his hands dirty himself, but he’s fine if criminals kill each other. That’s not “manslaughter”. That’s usually 2nd- or 3rd-degree murder.
Can we really call Batman v Superman a “superhero” movie when its characters don’t act like heroes?