I’m just making all the friends on my return to action, aren’t I?
Let’s see, Tuesday I posted a follow-up to a controversial Doctor Who essay, followed that with a review of a show I had to research but I can’t actually watch (and yes, someone on Tumblr called that out without even attempting to refute anything I said), and now we’re back on Zack Snyder’s Batman. Snyder doesn’t get Batman. He thinks if you believe a superhero wouldn’t kill you’re “living in a dream world”…which I thought fiction was, especially superhero fiction, but Snyder’s view of the world is a terrible fit for the DC Universe. That’s not a comment on his skills as a storyteller. He’s good at what he does but nobody asks Clive Barker to do a romantic comedy. Not everyone is a fit for every project. That’s just life.
So why isn’t Snyder a good fit for the Dark Knight? Is it simply the caped crusader’s “no kill” policy (which the above panel clearly shows was not part of his original pulp-influenced origins but became his rule as the folks at National Comics wanted to make him less kill-people-y than the Shadow)? Or are there other elements that made Bruce Wayne a cultural icon for all these decades?
In the following video (I’m still not back to 100% folks), Henry from The Closer Look goes over the Snyder version of Batman as seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and the Synder Cut of Justice League to see why Batman is so beloved and Snyder, whether you like his movies or not, failed to adapt that Batman properly. Don’t worry, this one isn’t five hours long, just under an hour and a half. So still take a seat or listen like a podcast. Note that there is swearing. Again, I can’t edit someone else’s video and I do try to keep things PG. A lot of running trends this week.
Catch more of The Closer Look on Henry’s YouTube channel.
One thing Henry forgets, like so many writers of these movies, is that Batman also is a detective. He can put clues together and solve mysteries. My first exposure to Batman in comics was a murder mystery, without the usual rouges gallery of crazy people. Rare is the story that remembers this in movies. Cartoons and the Adam West series may touch on it or show Batman investigating and doing the stuff that labels him “the world’s greatest detective”, but not so much in movies. The fact that Matt Reeves said he wanted to explore the detective angle was something seen as positive…until the trailer came out and showed that was probably the only thing he was getting right. This is also part of Batman’s intellect and one that should stop being ignored.
As far as Batman’s character goes when it comes to the “no kill” policy (and no, I won’t call it his “one rule”, because it makes it seem like that’s he’s a total sleezebag otherwise when he has plenty of lines he won’t cross without a darn good reason, and even then he limits himself as much as possible) let’s look at a character who’s all about the killing. Imagine if the Punisher was adapted into a story where non-lethal force was used, everything from rubber bullets to simply whipping a guy with his belt. Technically he’s still punishing people, but the Frank Castle we know kills criminals, especially mobsters. In the JLA/Avengers crossover Batman just gets through telling other heroes don’t get involved. You don’t know what who the actual criminals are or the rules that bind the Marvel universe. Then Batman sees the Punisher about to kill some mobsters and…
Remember also this is a story where the Gamemaster and Kronos have said to save their universe they have to find certain items of power native to the DC and Marvel universe. He talks the other heroes out of helping, which is why Plastic Man is mad at the guy. However, that is Batman’s nature. Even the bad guys deserve their day in court. As a superhero (which technically Castle isn’t) you don’t get to play judge, jury, and executioner. That’s who Batman is, but Snyder doesn’t believe in those kinds of heroes, even in a “dream world” fiction so he refuses to make those kinds of stories. Frank Castle kills mobsters as revenge for his family being murdered in a gang shootout (collateral damage, not the target) as he gets home from the war. Events push Castle into being a hunter of gangsters while Bruce saw his parents killed by one mugger as a child and decided he wanted to keep as many people as possible from sharing that fate, his fate as much as his parents’. He felt like he should have done something even though he couldn’t, and that drove him to be able to do something, not kill the mugger but stop him from killing. His parents and later Alfred brought him up knowing killing is wrong except in self-defense (and Bruce even learned how to do that without lethal force through training and gadgets) and thus didn’t become killers like the pulp heroes he was inspired by. Even the image I started the article with wasn’t Batman doing it on purpose, just not really caring that the killer he was punching fell into the acid. Burton kind of got this right in the first movie and not in the second, another strike against Batman Returns for me. He even tried to save the Joker, who wouldn’t let him. You wouldn’t write a non-lethal Punisher (I mean, I would, but my heroes don’t kill and I write/read/watch/play dream worlds) and you shouldn’t write a lethal Batman. In both cases they are not who the character is.
Actually, a story where Bruce is only contemplating killing Superman would have been interesting as Henry describes the plot. The one time Batman has used a gun in modern DC history was attempting to kill Darkseid to end the threat of the anti-life equation. Personally my answer would be just adapt the animated World’s Finest storyline from The New Batman Superman Adventures from the DCAU but Henry’s full idea would have been better than what we got. At the very least it would feel like a proper Batman adaptation. Snyder may be a great director, but his worldview is counter to what made the DC universe last for so long and have so many fans from childhood.