One Key Detail in Batman v Superman that Ruins Batman

Questionable character choices are abound in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie wastes no time changing basic history that it does so right in the opening credits. In an otherwise gorgeous series of shots, we are regaled again with the story of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. This does a couple of things: First, it tells us that this is definitively Batman’s movie. Second and most importantly, it shows that Thomas Wayne was about to fight back as he was staring down the barrel of that gun.

Small detail right? Thomas Wayne, facing his attacker (Is it Joe Chill? Does the movie ever tell us? Either way, he’ll just be “attacker” here.) and nobly standing between him and his family, clenches his fist which is holding back his young son, Bruce. We see Thomas begin to swing his arm up, presumably to connect with his attacker just before he is shot and falls to the ground. The rest of the sequence takes place as history dictates but that small gesture, a clenched fist about to be thrown from a disadvantageous position completely reframes Bruce’s loss and descent in becoming The Bat.

The problem with this small detail is that changing the way Bruce sees the murders to become an act of aggression completely entrenches the idea that Batman must force the world to bend in his direction at all costs. Bruce makes this an explicit statement later in the film as he literally says his parents taught him that to have the world the way he wants, he needs to force it to be so (bad paraphrasing, but those are the essentials). Batman also tells Superman during their battle that Superman “…isn’t brave. Men are brave.” The movie is directly telling us that this feeling comes from that moment just before Bruce’s parents were gunned-down. Thomas’s lasting impression on his son is a last ditch effort to stop the cruelty of the world. Is that a bad thing taken on its own? I don’t think it is but Bruce isn’t an average kid who learns average lessons. Bruce becomes a borderline fascist vigilante who does everything he can to not tip the scales and become a criminal himself.


It is a supremely concerning detail because Bruce Wayne’s history has taught us that he leans on the kindness and generous legacy of his father to help balance his anger. There are runs of the character (written by Frank Miller, which would be apt considering his influence on this film) that paint Thomas as a more gruff father who cared more about his patients than Bruce. Still, Thomas’s care for humanity around him constantly informs Bruce’s decisions as he lives his life behind a mask.

From an even more concerning angle, this almost-punch could have very well triggered the gunman to kill the Waynes in the first place! Would he have killed Thomas and Martha if not provoked by an act of violence? Yes, probably because this is Batman but it leaves the question completely open for interpretation.

The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents could have been provoked by Thomas Wayne almost punching a guy with a gun.

These details will be picked out by defenders of the movie as looking too deeply into a “fun movie” or hating on DC characters. By looking deeply into the choices of a filmmaker, we give them the respect they deserve as artists to believe that everything is on the screen for a reason. To just pass off a detail as something unimportant, you’re doing the movie and the artists behind it more discredit than by addressing the matter. These choices are purposefully made and, in good films, they uphold the characters and plot and reasoning behind it all. In bad films and in films detailing already established and beloved characters, choices like this contradict our understanding of a character’s journey and do a disservice to the story.

Characters deserve reexamining and even changing now and then. In this case, Thomas Wayne’s aggression is the film’s first transgression against a list of characters that mold Batman v Superman into something fans shouldn’t even recognize.

Curtis Waugh
Curtis Waugh
Curtis is a Los Angeles transplant from a long lost land called Ohio. He aspires to transmute his experiences growing up a Monster Kid into something that will horrify normal people around the world. When he isn't bemoaning the loss of the latest Guillermo del Toro project, Curtis can be found every Thursday night at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, awaiting the next Dwayne Johnson movie.