Remember we never kill with weapons of any kind!” Those words, uttered by the Caped Crusader to his partner, Robin, in Batman No. 4 (1940) marked the debut of Batman’s “no-kill rule,” an aspect of the hero that has become almost as fundamental a character trait as his cape and cowl … in the comics at least. The film adaptations, on the other hand, have played fast and loose with that rule, with it sometimes existing as a suggestion, other times a matter of semantics, and occasionally, not existing at all.
It seems that freedom of speech has severe repercussions on how people perceive it, The issue of Batman’s no-killing policy is raised with every new Batman film, along with the extension of that rule: Batman doesn’t use guns (except for, y’know, on all his cars, tanks, motorcycles, and planes). Oh, and the spear guns — for sharks, of course.
The Batman star Robert Pattinson’s recent statements about Batman’s use of lethal force have renewed the conflicting takes on Batman’s methods, especially given that this interpretation of Bruce Wayne is more mentally unstable than the previous versions. Pattinson said, “There is this rule with Batman: he must not kill. It can be interpreted in two ways. Either he only wants to inflict the appropriate punishment, or he wants to kill, and his self-control prevents him from doing so.”
Pattinson’s comments spawned a number of social media remarks about a Batman who kills being more “relatable,” “realistic” and “badass,” all of which are bullshit notions born of certain fans’ desire for superheroes to be taken more seriously.
The minority of fans put off by the idea that Pattinson’s Batman won’t use lethal force will cite, without fail, the fact that in his earliest appearances, Batman did indeed kill, and that in nearly every live-action film portrayal of the character, from West to Affleck, and excepting Clooney, Batman has killed, a factor that rarely receives any acknowledgment within the narrative, except in Snyder’s films. But I’ll get to those films all the same in due time.
We’ve seen Batman lose his way in two previous franchises and watched just how low the role can take him, be it the depths of the Lazarus Pit or the death of Superman. Now, it’s time to build a better Batman and watch him glide over the pitfalls that would see his reign end all too soon.