Killing in the Nolan Multiverse
This one comes with a serious SPOILER ALERT. If you have not gotten out to see Man of Steel and plan to do so, you may not want to read further. The same goes if you’ve somehow managed to get this far without seeing each entry in The Dark Knight trilogy.
Throughout the Dark Knight films, Bruce Wayne pursues his crusade against crime following a single rule. He refuses to kill. That sole self-imposed limitation becomes a huge liability in the second film once his enemies begin to leverage it against him. Nevertheless, he abides by it until the end, never killing even when the act could be wholly justified.
By contrast, the recently released Man of Steel produced by Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan from a script co-written by Dark Knight scribe David S. Goyer ends with Superman choosing to kill his Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod. Acknowledging that each franchise takes place in different universes, there nonetheless exist significant stylistic and thematic similarities which spawn from their common artistic pool. We may therefore ask whether Superman’s morality proves inferior to Batman’s. Is Clark less of a hero because he chose to kill? Does Bruce present a higher standard?
As we mull such questions over, we do well to consider the inadequacy of Bruce’s standard in the Dark Knight finale. Recall that Batman is rescued by Catwoman, who kills Bane in the process. Since Batman goes on to remove a nuclear weapon from Gotham City, it can be accurately said that Catwoman’s willingness to kill ultimately saves not just his life, but millions of others. Can we derive a lesson from there?
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