At this point after its release, it’s safe to say that Justice League has, unfortunately, become another divisive entry in the DCEU canon. The film’s critics have mainly attacked the its tonally mixed and patchy narrative, and highlighted that the story doesn’t quite flow or land as it should. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take some positives away from the pic. Even with its flaws, Justice League is still peppered with moments of brilliance.
Superman and the Flash’s super-fast slow motion confrontation has already proved a hit with meme-makers. And there’s one particular interaction between Ezra Miller’s Flash, and Ben Affleck’s Batman, that has become highly popular among fans. Indeed, it’s one of the most successfully executed character moments of the film. And, along with Justice League’s post-credits scenes, it could even hint at where future installments of the DCEU may venture.
So, join us as we take a look at one of the movie’s most important scenes that no one’s really talking about, and explore what it could mean for the Dark Knight moving forward.
“Save One Person”
First off, let’s set the scene. After a brief meetup with J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Cyborg track Steppenwolf to his hideout beneath Gotham Harbor following the kidnapping of several the employees from S.T.A.R. labs, including Silas Stone — Cyborg’s father. The League finds the alien nasties midway through their torture — and murder — of their prisoners. It’s at this point that an important exchange occurs between Barry and Bruce, when the former becomes understandably nervous:
The Flash: It’s really cool that you guys seem ready to do battle and stuff, but – full transparency – I’ve never done battle before. I’ve just pushed some people and run away!
Batman: Save one.
The Flash: What?
Batman: Save one person.
The Flash: Uhh, which one?
Batman: Don’t talk, don’t fight. Get in – get one out.
The Flash: And then?
Batman: Then you’ll know.
Like many parts of Justice League, this conversation moves a tad too quickly to pack as much emotional heft as it should do. Even so, it still clearly defines the kind of people that Batman and the Flash are.
Obviously, Barry Allen’s youth and inexperience as a superhero are pretty heavily foregrounded by his humorous admission that he’s just “pushed some people,” but we also see just how much of a veteran Batman is in this exchange. Admittedly, this the first time that we’ve seen the Caped Crusader facing an alien horde, but it’s clear that Bats is very familiar with these kinds of tense and violent scenarios. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice told us that Bruce has been fighting crime for some twenty years, and this passage of time is effectively conveyed through Affleck’s calm and firm manner, despite the loud, pained cries around him.
We all know that focus and determination are integral parts of Batman’s character. However, this moment in Justice League is the first time that we’ve seen the DCEU’s Bruce Wayne as the tactical and respectful leader we know and love from the comic books.
“Superman Was More Human Than I Am”
The fact that Bruce wants to prevent any one person from meeting a grim fate recalls the dialogue in the critically acclaimed Elseworld’s tale Kingdom Come, where Superman cuts through Bruce’s cynical bluster to make a cutting observation about his soul.
Many other traditionally macho heroes would have encouraged Barry to “man up” and complete the task alongside his fellow heroes. However, Bruce doesn’t dismiss it as a foolish emotion; instead he acknowledges Barry’s hesitancy and accommodates into his battle plan. Not only does Batman’s instruction to save the hostages play to the Flash’s skills as a speedster, but his encouragement for Flash to find himself — to “know” — reveals his compassionate, and nurturing nature.
Certainly, Batman’s empathy towards both the Flash and the abducted citizens really underscores how much he’s developed between his movie appearances. In the wake of Metropolis’s destruction, Batman was previously an intensely nihilistic hero. During his quest to gain the Kryptonite in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Caped Crusader notably went on one-man assault against Lex Luthor’s goons through the streets of Gotham.
With guns blazing and cars flipping everywhere, Batman had seemingly little concern for who he killed or what property he damaged. Moreover, though he learned his lesson in the much derided “Martha moment,” Bruce still murdered or maimed the majority of her kidnappers in that infamous warehouse scene.
Indeed, we’re all familiar with Batman’s brooding — and occasionally hyper-violent — nature. Yet time and time again, our comics have unveiled the Caped Crusader’s underlying optimism, mainly when he’s fostering the talents of another young hero or two.
“That’s How A Team Works!”
Of course, we still witness Batman murdering many a Parademon in Justice League, but this newfound reluctance to kill people, plus his willingness to inspire good in others, is something that we’ve never seen in Ben Affleck’s iteration before. He pressures Diana to take on a more active role in the League’s leadership, and reinvigorate the kind of hope that Superman gave others. And Bruce’s efforts ultimately pay off, too.
The final battle sees Batman attempt to draw the army of Parademons away single-handedly, and it’s at this point that his struggles to protect the Earth and honor Superman are finally rewarded. Instead of leaving him to be overwhelmed by enemy forces, Batman’s fellow League members abandon his battle plan. Much to Bruce’s surprise, they swoop in and come to his aid. By the time the credits roll, the League’s cumulative success against Steppenwolf – and Batman’s mentoring – has clearly inspired every member of the group. Flash has ventured into pastures new (Allen has a job in Central City’s police department) and Diana has moved back into the spotlight, as per Bruce’s encouragement.
And as for Batman himself? Well, he returns to gloomy ol’ Gotham, of course, Yet, in the same way that the other heroes are left in interesting positions, Justice League could be the beginning of a rather compelling arc in Batman’s future movie outings.
What’s Next For The Caped Crusader?
Let’s face it: at this point, the future of the DCEU is looking rather shaky in light of Justice League’s underwhelming box office. More dubious still is Ben Affleck’s continuing involvement in the franchise, which seems to flip flop every other day. Justice League even contains a moment in which Bruce laments to Diana that he’s becoming too old and outclassed to be of any use going forward. But whether Affleck decides to keep the cowl or relinquish it, we can already guess at what the future holds for Batman in the DCEU.
Indeed, the Bat is mostly envisioned as a loner in pop culture, such as in The Dark Knight Trilogy. But many other iterations of the World’s Greatest Detective have seen him forming teams and mentoring heroes. Moreover, the DCEU’s Batman clearly trained up fellow vigilantes in the past, but became too embittered to continue doing so.
We even saw Jason Todd’s costume mournfully displayed in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Therefore, the events of that film and Justice League have effectively reset the character for future movies to expand upon. And this focus on Batman’s collaborative nature seems to be what Warner Bros. has in mind for our hero.
A Cinematic Batman Family?
Whilst everything regarding Matt Reeves’s The Batman is up in the air at the moment, rumor had it that it was originally being tooled as a grounded crime drama with a Red Hood/Jason Todd-centric story line. If this is still the case, it’s a safe bet that The Batman will explore Todd’s days under Batman’s wing. Plus, it would probably include heavy references to his other protégés too. Indeed, with Joss Whedon at the helm of a Batgirl film, and Chris McKay directing a Nightwing solo movie, the trajectory of the Dark Knight seems to be becoming clearer: a cinematic meetup of the Bat and his family might be on the way.
It makes a whole lot of sense for Warner Bros. to traverse this avenue. The LEGO Batman Movie did well at the box office because it offered something new to moviegoers. This was the chance to see a witty and meta-textual take on the hero, who gradually learned to open up for his friends and family. Aside from Joel Schumacher’s decidedly middling attempts in the late 1990s, we haven’t seen a fully-formed, live-action Batman Family on our cinema screen before.
So, having a Batman who’s willing to play with others would definitely cater to this need for freshness. Putting Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson and co. into Warner Brothers’ burgeoning franchise would be a good way to reinvigorate the DCEU’s Caped Crusader. And it would ensure that these new movies differ from Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s days.
Furthermore, expanding Batman’s world wouldn’t be that much of a financial risk for the studio, either. Having several characters with Batman-esque iconography is a good way to attract audiences to their local multiplexes. After all, Batman himself is one of the most popular superheroes in the world.
So, whilst the future of the DCEU is far from clear after Justice League, there’s a strong chance that everything might not be so grim in Gotham going forward.