The Flash Addresses Fans' Biggest Batman Criticism - In the Wrong Movie
The following contains spoilers for The Flash, now playing in theaters.
Comic book fans have often questioned whether Bruce Wayne's solution to Gotham's endless crime wave is really the best approach. The Flash features a collection of Dark Knights, with Michael Keaton reprising the role of the Caped Crusader alongside Ben Affleck's Batman. In a scene near the start of the film -- which takes place in the DCEU's original timeline -- Affleck's version of the hero finds himself getting a little too honest about his flaws for his own liking.
A surprise cameo from Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman sees the character showing up to lend a helping hand as the Flash and Batman foil a bank robbery. Wonder Woman steps in just in time to stop Batman and one of the crooks falling to their deaths from a bridge, grabbing them both with her Lasso of Truth. After she pulls them to safety, Batman finds himself suddenly opening up under the Lasso's influence. As well as admitting to some ego problems, the Dark Knight confesses he could probably use his wealth to eliminate poverty if he really wanted to end crime.
Batman Knows He's Not Always the Hero Gotham Needs
The topic of how Bruce Wayne uses his wealth to combat crime is often debated by fans and The Flash marks the first time the character has addressed the issue on screen. He makes a fair point. Much of the street-level crime that Batman fights can be understood as a symptom of broader social issues, which could be resolved if Bruce Wayne put his billions of dollars into eliminating poverty and creating opportunities for Gotham's working class, rather than creating high-tech Batsuits and military-grade super vehicles.
The reference to this popular fan debate, as well as the revelation that Batman is well aware of this flaw in his approach, works well as a quick funny moment in The Flash. However, having Batman address this flaw as part of a fleeting gag in another hero's movie means it has no room to turn into anything beyond a one-note joke. Had the Dark Knight made such a confession in a movie where he was the focus, it is something that could have been further explored, with Bruce Wayne having to confront the fact that Batman might be doing more good for himself than for anyone else.
Could Bruce Wayne do More Good Than Batman?
Of course, the Caped Crusader is no tight-fisted miser. Bruce Wayne has a history of philanthropy in the comics, looking to do as much good as he can in his civilian guise as he does by night. However, there can be little doubt that this philanthropy is still overshadowed by the time and effort Bruce puts into becoming Batman and fighting criminals without addressing the root causes of crime. Of course, there is good reason for this: Batman is Bruce Wayne's trauma response, an outlet he has used to react to and cope with the loss of his parents in a senseless act of violence.
Had Bruce's understanding of the flaws in his approach to crime-fighting been brought up in a Batman movie, it could have been examined in greater detail, with Bruce having to reassess why he puts on his cape and cowl. There may be scope for this in the upcoming sequel to The Batman, as the first film in that series touched upon the potential for Bruce Wayne to do more good with his wealth than Batman could with his fists. In the world of The Flash, though, this gag served only as confirmation that, deep down, Batman knows he could be doing more.
The Flash is now playing in theaters.