Batman doesn't kill people. So why does his new car showcase a hood-mounted machine gun?
Last night, the director of Batman v. Superman, Zack Snyder, revealed the first clear look at the new Batmobile, designed exclusively for his upcoming film. It takes a sharp turn in a disappointing direction for the caped crusader, downgrading Batman from a genius detective to a rich bro with a tank.
Over the past decade, we've seen variations of the Batmobile in Christopher Nolan's films. Batman's bike, tumbler, and plane riffed on the idea of mobility rather than lethality. Batman's transportation had the singular purpose of closing the gap between point A and B, A being villain and B being Batman.
Now, imagine the the iconic showdown in The Dark Knight, when the Joker plays a game of chicken with the Batmobile, but this time Batman has a giant machine gun.
Batman is downgraded from a genius detective to a rich bro with a tank
Surely, Batman's new artillery will be explained away in some trite dialogue as being scientifically modified to suppress — but never kill — its target. Batman: Arkham Knight, the upcoming Batman video game, set a precedent for the horrifying, but not quite deadly, gun-festooned Batmobile in its preview earlier this summer. In what I played at E3, Batman spent a lot of time killing people, even though the game said he was doing otherwise. I knew technically the enemies weren't dead, because the publicist told me so. After smashing the umpteenth person head first into a cement wall, then firing a round of "safe" ammunition into his neck at a gajillion mph, I decided I was seeing the world through Batman's delusional eyes, and some distance would reveal a wake of corpses.
Or maybe Batman will be a killer. Snyder has a history of using death as emotional spice, like in Man of Steel, where the viewer must assume hundreds if not thousands of people died in its climactic battle, including the evil villain, who had his neck snapped like a bat that flew too close to an Ozzy Osbourne concert.
Snyder has a history of using death as emotional spice
Whether the gun kills or merely vegetates, the weapon represents both laziness and a willingness to pander - then again, so does a title like Batman v. Superman. The gun is lazy because Batman has unlimited funds to create and deploy the gadgetry that lines the furthest walls of our imagination. He can use anything to catch criminals, literally anything. A gun makes him as boring as every bald white dude in my video game shooters. And speaking of video games, it's upsetting to see a version of Batman that panders to the same gaudy, glamorous notion of a militarized police force as games like Battlefield Hardline.
Batman doesn't need an MRAP. He's smart enough, creative enough and financially solvent enough to be better than the real world. Batman is, at his best, an embodiment of the American dream, a beacon of capitalism and a union of liberalism and conservatism. He's a rich philanthropist who uses his wealth and power to protect the citizens of his town — and yeah, stands to make a bit of money for the contracting department at Wayne Enterprises along the way. But unlike the military industrial complex, his goal isn't to make more enemies — it isn't to kill, it isn't to fire heavy artillery, it's to put criminals behind bars to face the due process awarded them as citizens. Not killing people is the one reliable rule that makes Batman Batman, not just another costumed psychopath in the streets of Gotham kicking up trouble.
UPDATE: I hear you, commenters. I failed to clarify a point of this argument. Yes, Batmobiles have had weapons in the past. What I dislike about this Batmobile is how large and centralized the weapon is. It doesn't look like a tool for knocking down garage doors. It looks like a machine gun. I also don't trust Snyder to be subtle or reluctant with the gun's use. But yes, you are all correct. Thanks for the corrections.
And thanks for the contributions in the comments. We compiled some of them for this article: Why a gun belongs on the Batmobile: our reader feedback.
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