How Breaking Batman’s Only Rule Ruined ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Four years have gone by since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice pleased almost no one except the voters of the Razzie Awards. Even now, fans and media outlets are still pondering how the big splash of the DCEU could have gone so wrong right out of the gate. 

We can’t change the past, but we can certainly look back at it. One of the retrospectives puts the blame on Batman — not on Ben Affleck’s performance, which was one of the more well-liked parts of the movie, but on how the Dark Knight broke a rule some say he should never break. 

‘Batman v. Superman’: High anticipation, low return

Ben Affleck as Batman
Ben Affleck as Batman in ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ l Warner Bros.

It didn’t take much to ramp up anticipation for the movie in 2016: All you had to do was say “Batman and Superman fight,” and people would show up. The two iconic characters, who shaped the entire comic superhero genre, had fought a number of times in the comics, but a fight on the big screen promised a spectacle like no other. 

Then people saw the movie.

The air after any given screening was thick with disappointment. The movie opened huge, with $166 million, but that turned out to be half of its total gross domestically. That meant the movie had no legs, as interest flagged quickly. Even what praise the movie got was often half-hearted, with a lot of “buts.” 

When the Razzies, the awards that honor the worst in films, came around about a year later, it got four awards: Worst Supporting Actor for Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, Worst Screen Combo for Affleck and Henry Cavill, Worst Prequel/Remake/Rip-Off/Sequel, and Worst Screenplay. Sad Affleck indeed. 

What rule did Batman break?

A comprehensive look at what went wrong with the movie could take a half-dozen articles or more, but Screen Rant boils it down to a very simple failing. Batman killed people in this movie. 

That may seem like a strange argument, given that Batman is literally a dark knight, and it’s also a bit ironic, given that Zack Snyder’s previous film, Man of Steel, had Superman killing someone, and that seemed to many fans to betray his character. So why is it just as bad for Batman as it is for Superman?

Screen Rant’s analysis argues, “Batman v Superman doesn’t really attempt to reckon with (the killings) in a logical or meaningful way. Had this version of Batman not killed anyone else in the movie, but was aiming to make Superman his first, it would have greatly impacted several elements of the story.” The writer argues this decision made it had to empathize with Batman, but it would have been novel if it were Superman who prompted him to break his code. 

How does Ben Affleck look back at the role?

As much as fans have played “what if” with Batman v. Superman, the movie is what it is and will forever remain a disappointment to many. Its follow-up, Justice League, wasn’t regarded as much better, but it was the extensive reshoots of that film that helped convince Affleck to turn his back on Batman. 

Affleck, who had won a Best Picture Oscar for Argo, was going to direct Batman’s standalone movie, but he gave an uncommonly candid interview to the New York Times about why that all fell apart. “I showed somebody ‘The Batman’ script,” Affleck explained: “They said, ‘I think the script is good. I also think you’ll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again.'”

That was a non-starter for Affleck, who by his own admission has struggled with drinking so much, it wrecked his marriage. The actor has put Batman behind him and even addressed his problems on-screen with his latest movie The Way Back. Still, some people may never be able to put Batman v. Superman behind them – not as long as someone cries “Martha!”