Ben Affleck delivers a great performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The early sequence when he’s charging into Metropolis during the Zod fight is really phenomenal, and throughout the course of the film you can truly feel the rage that is boiling under his skin. It’s certainly a credit to Affleck as an actor – but the problem is that he’s playing an interpretation of Batman that isn’t properly in sync with the best versions of the character that we’ve seen, and all-in-all makes for a rough start for him in the growing DC Cinematic Universe.
When broken down, my central problems with the adaptation of the comic book hero in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice can be summed up in five basic parts – looking back on not only the character’s legendary past, but also how we expect him to fit into the building film franchise. Some of the issues can be fixed in a sequel, and some are unfortunately permanent. We’ll start with one in the latter category…
SPOILER WARNING: The following editorial contains massive spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you have not yet had a chance to see the film, please click away to another one of our fantastic articles!
Killing people creates not just moral issues, but logical ones tooLet’s get this out of the way: while most Batman comics have the character sticking to his "no killing" rule, there is comic book precedent of the character taking lives. He’s assassinated villains in their sleep, locked them away in deep, dark holes to presumably starve to death; and even hung one guy from his Batwing until he passed away. That being said, there is a reason why he’s typically not portrayed snuffing people out: it not only makes him harder to root for, but it also screws up the logic of his legendary rogues gallery.
It’s simply logical that we can appreciate Batman more if it seems that he understands the value of human life, but let me also pose this question: if Bruce Wayne has no problem shooting criminals or running henchmen over with his Batmobile, why is the Joker still alive? It’s suggested that the Clown Prince of Crime murdered a Robin, so why is he in Arkham instead of six feet under? And even if you credit that situation with the special relationship between Batman and The Joker, there’s still no explanation as to why there are enough villains still breathing to assemble a Suicide Squad.
He really shouldn’t be using gunsEven if I were to concede the fact that Batman killing people is part of comic canon and therefore valid, there is still another problem that comes with the character’s displayed violence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: he’s a character who really shouldn’t be using guns. On beyond the fact that they are strictly lethal weapons – unlike batarangs, grappling hooks, smoke grenades or any of the Gotham protector’s other typical toys – the hero also happens to have a slight bias against firearms because of the simple fact that one was used in the most traumatic event of his life, the death of his parents.
Guns also have the effect of simply making Batman a less interesting character from a tactical point of view – and the Knightmare sequence is a great example of this. Rather than whipping a pistol out of his belt and shooting people after discovering that his deal for Kryptonite is a set-up, wouldn’t it have been much more compelling if were instead forced to use his intelligence and fight training to try and find a way to escape instead of just capping some dudes? (as seen in thousands of Caped Crusader comics). I can cheer for the Dark Knight when he takes out a room of henchmen with his skills and his smarts, but using guns is a boring cheat.
He’s not a very good detectiveAs seen in just the last few paragraphs, Batman has many different nicknames, but easily one of the most significant is his notoriety as "The World's Greatest Detective" – a title he admittedly stole from Sherlock Holmes. Bruce Wayne doesn’t just fight crime with his fists, but also by analyzing evidence and solving mysteries. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does credit this aspect of the character by having him do a bit of sleuthing in the story… but the problem is that he comes across as being really bad at it.
Not only does Batman’s first little spy mission go wrong when Wonder Woman manages to steal his tech and data ripped from Lex Luthor’s servers, but even when he does get his hands on the material, he doesn’t exactly approach it with the most brilliant mind. For example, why does he have such trouble figuring out that The White Portuguese is a ship rather than a random nickname? Isn’t that an answer a simple internet search could have provided? It’s definitely not too late to redeem this aspect of the Caped Crusader, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is certainly weak in this area.
He’s manipulated shockingly easilyIn case you can’t tell by this point, the quality that I appreciate about Batman above all is his intelligence. He doesn’t have the power sets and abilities of his incredible Justice League co-founders, but he can justifiably stand beside them because he is a brilliant warrior who is always thinking 10 steps ahead of any opponent. Because of this, I really can’t say that I love the fact that the Dark Knight spends most of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Lex Luthor’s pawn.
Given the involvement of Wallace Keefe in the explosion at the senate hearing, and Bruce’s surprise about the sudden reveal of the returned checks, the classic Batman move would be for him to investigate the detonation site and perhaps do a bit of digging into why Lex wasn’t in his reserved seat. But what does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Caped Crusader do? He does exactly what the long-haired manipulative supervillain wants him to do, and arms himself with Kryptonite to wage war on the Man of Steel. The excuse here is that Batman is blinded by his hated of Superman, but that really just works as a segue to my fifth and final big problem with this particular incarnation of the character…
He’s strongly driven by emotion over logic, and that’s the opposite of who Batman isBatman is a stoic. Tying back to the character’s aforementioned intelligence, he is primarily driven by logic over emotion, and it colors every relationship he has. It’s why he keeps rigorous files on the strengths and weaknesses of his Justice League teammates. He isn’t a sociopath (mostly), but when he puts on the cape and cowl a crucial part of his mission is weighing the realities of any single choice and choosing in favor of the greater good. If that’s part of the character in the DC Cinematic Universe, it’s not on display in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It’s true that the introduction of Ben Affleck’s Batman is different than all previous incarnations in that he’s older and world-weary from decades of vigilantism, but it’s a version so broken that it winds up betraying big parts of what make the character great. He’s supposed to get back up after every emotional punch to the gut that he takes, but Batfleck’s xenophobia is so intense that he can’t even hear Superman out for even a second after he’s made up his mind to kill him (seriously, their conflict in the film could be solved with a two minute conversation). This is blessedly an element that can be course-corrected in future films, but combined with all of the other issues, it all makes for a poor introduction to the DCCU take on the Bat.