The Bat, The Cat, and the Breaker: Dissecting “The Dark Knight Rises”


In case you’ve missed the blurbs, it landed smack in the middle of the internet this past Wednesday that Christopher Nolan plans on using Bane and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – the 2012 “conclusion” to the revitalized Batman movie franchise.
Along with the character reveal landed the actors selected for those roles – Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, respectively.

Both of these pairs of choices are being received as a relatively mixed bag.

Bane, for those of you unfamiliar with the character, was born and raised in a South American prison. He was subject to a law within a corrupt government which required him to serve a life sentence in place of his father, a revolutionary who ran away from the country when he was convicted of treason.
Through his years of imprisonment, he became a world-class, ass-kicking tough-guy from constantly lifting weights and getting into prison fights as well as a super genius due to his constant study of the prison’s library.
Years later, he becomes “king” of his prison. His rule over the prisoners makes the power-sapped wardens volunteer him for testing of a new drug, Venom. This drug killed all other subjects but, due to his ability to take punishment, Bane gains the benefits without death; drastically increased superhuman strength. This leaves Venom as his only weakness, as his body depends on a dose every twelve hours to keep it from collapsing under the strain of catastrophically fatal withdrawal.
Bane first stepped in to the DC universe as “The Man who Broke the Bat” during the early-90s Knightfall storyline which left Bruce Wayne with a broken back (after Bane cracked him over his knee like a twig) and a psychotic Jean-Paul Valley in a souped-up Batsuit taking over for the injured Dark Knight. Of course, Bruce battles back, rehabs, and takes his city back from Valley who had defeated Bane in Bruce’s absence by separating Bane from his Venom supply (slashing a hose that gave him a constant supply from a pack on his back). Valley beat the living piss out of Bane, but left him alive (because, as Bruce had taught him, Batman should never kill).
Bane went from top-of-the-charts to B-list Villain to, of course, his notable stint as Poison Ivy’s borderline retarded bodyguard in the one big smirch on the Barman franchise’s record: 1997’s Joel Schumacker Debacle Batman and Robin.

This could make for some interesting plot. I wouldn’t doubt if there are shades of the Knightfall story within the script.
Will they change the background to fit Tom Hardy’s overtly British character, or will they make Tom Hardy speak with a British/Spanish/Portuguese accent to fit Bane? Either way, we know that CG will probably be used to create Bane’s ridiculously huge physique. I don’t care how much you people love Tom Hardy, he’s not that big, and no one in the world could ever get that big, I don’t care how much time they’ve been spending with MLB Physicians.

Then comes Anne Hathaway as Catwoman who, in the official WB press release, is referred to as Selena Kyle, in an effort to portray Catwoman as a company cuss word ever since Hally Barry went and shit all over it. Regardless of how the Brothers Warner wish to disguise it, it’s still Catwoman and it may still be a bit too soon to put the multiple Razzie-Award Winning candidate for worst movie of all time behind us. Hell, I read the comics and when someone mentions Catwoman, the first thing I think of is the poster for that movie. Sad, isn’t it?
Most of you will remember Ms. Kyle as she was portrayed in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns; a mousey secretary who is nearly murdered by her corrupt boss for snooping around in his private files, but is mysteriously resurrected by a bunch of alley cats (really?). She then cuts up a vinyl trenchcoat and rough-stiches together the Michelle Pfeiffer costume which dominated the minds of the Male 18-25 bracket (and beyond) for the next few years.
The comic book story is much more confusing yet infinitely more proper for a character often portrayed as the one constant love interest in Bruce Wayne’s life. We’ll cut to the chase and say that it’s not nearly as “supernatural” as Burton made it and Selena was a rather strong woman who fought back against adversity to become one of the best thieves in the world.

The prospect of seeing the lovely Ms. Hathaway don the leather of the Cat (I envision a costume reminiscent, if not dead on, with the latter-day comic book Selena) is something that causes many fanboys to shiver in antici… pation. Strictly on a visual basis, I’d call this a winning proposition.
Still other detractors of Anne’s acting skills thing she’s the wrong one for this job. I’m inclined to disagree. I think she’s got the chops and, more than that, she’s good at being believable, which is what Nolan’s Bat-stories have been about since this all began.

These two characters are looked upon by some as a poor decision for what Nolan swears will be the last entry in the Bat-Franchise which he will direct.

The whispers of the Johnny Depp Riddler and the Phillip-Seymour Hoffman Penguin had people on pins and needles for official word. While I am among the masses disappointed that neither of these fanboy fantasy castings took place, I can understand how neither character fits with Nolan’s overall vision of a (relatively) more realistic superhero scenario.

The Riddler, Johnny Depp or not, would have made for a more boring “conclusion” to the Nolan Years. A dark, evil, twisted, Johnny Depp Riddler would make the Nolan-verse into Batman vs. Saw. Riddler was all about the thinking-man’s death traps. I’m sure this would have been key and, as I just mentioned, Saw has been doing that for a grating six (SIX!) movies now. There won’t be any surprise twists and the plot will not snake. Batman fights death traps, wins. Batman finds Riddler, fights Riddler, wins. Credits. Sorry, Johnny.

The Penguin, while an extremely interesting character in the DC Universe, didn’t even play out well with a truncated origin story and Danny Devito behind him in Batman Returns. Yeah, the character was grotesque and had some awesome one-liners, but in the end, there were penguin rocket troops. Really, Tim? Really?
Phillip-Seymour Hoffman would do the darker nature of the character justice, but there is hardly enough time to establish him as the organized-crime kingpin that DC made him into via No Man’s Land (which was, truly, the first time the character became interesting since Burgess Meredeth quacked). Though, this is more plausible than the Riddler due to the Nolan-verse’s recent power vacuum in Gotham’s underworld (spoilers: Joker killed ALL THE BOSSES in The Dark Knight. Remember that shit? Yeah, you didn’t, did you?). The Penguin’s modern Mafioso persona would have been able to play right into that spot and fit right in with the “more real” Nolan-verse. Might not have been a bad movie, either. The only issue: Batman has taken on the mafia in the last two movies. Let’s see something different.

Other people have suggested different villains, such as Talia Al-Ghul, Ra’s’ daughter, which would bring a delightful symmetry to the movies, but again, Nolan is not one to repeat. The motives would be the same (burn down humanity), the random thugs would be similar (ninjas), and everything would drive toward an even more romantic story than the one Catwoman will probably bring. Also, Talia was not mentioned in the previous flicks and would almost be a stretch to believability if she suddenly showed up claiming to be the Daughter of the Demon’s Head.

At least one person suggested Black Mask, recent star of Batman RIP, building off of that story line, and exposing Thomas and Martha Wayne as careless sex fiends and social deviants to attempt to draw Bruce out and ruin the legacy of both him and Batman. My response: A wonderful idea for a year-long story arc, a terrible idea for a two-and-a-half hour long movie. Too much premise needs to be established and that leaves too little action.

Another one was Harley Quinn, which would be strictly off-limits due to the Joker association.
If you don’t think the studio is trying to avoid anything to do with the Joker, look at the fact that they killed Harvey Dent in the end of The Dark Knight. Why do that when a)Two-Face is awesome, b) the beginning of The Dark Knight proved that villains can continue to exist in the Nolan-verse (as opposed to being ruthlessly killed off in the Burton/Schumaker-verse) by having Cillian Murphy reprise Scarecrow for three or four minutes of screentime, and c) Aaron Eckhart was willing to do whatever they asked him to get even a bit part as Harvey in the third picture.
The news broke that Eckhart had been told by Nolan that Harvey was dead, even though he fell from a height that may not have killed him. Harvey’s origin was tied directly to the Joker and his presence in the sequel would remind people that the Joker was also left alive, hanging from the penthouse window of a half-constructed building, at the end of the last movie. Kill Harvey, no appearance. Joker’s legacy remains ambiguous, we move on to the next detective story. Bring Harley into the mix and you’re rubbing salted lemon juice into the Chelsea Grin wound Heath Ledger left behind.

Personally, I think Hush would have made an awesome villain, but he’s nothing without the grand conspiracy which surrounded his identity and nothing without the Riddler essentially behind it all. Not to mention the cavalcade of associated villains working, knowingly or not, in sync to make that arc quite possibly one of the best Bat-Stories of all time. It would be an Avengers Movie like feat to get that one up and running (considering that it included Superman as well) and would be a fanboy wet dream. At least for this particular nerd.

Other villains not mentioned would neither be strong enough to carry an entire movie nor would they fit the “no sci-fi” creedo of Nolan’s vision. Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ventriloquist and Scarface, Clayface… none of them would work.

My conclusion is that Nolan has the right idea. A master thief and (essentially) a super genius on performance enhancers come in at slightly more realistic, not to mention action-based, than any of the others. He wants his franchise to go out with the same bang which heralded its arrival. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but you watch the movies to see Batman whupping whole-sale ass. You read the comics for the mystery and the thrill of the page-turn. It’s this very principal which makes Hush and RIP two of the best story arcs, but not very fit for the silver screen. It’s also the reason that Nolan wants to leave the detective stories to the funny papers.

I’ve kept you long enough while nerding out. If you have any varying opinions, by all means, feel free to debate me. Just know that I have a PhD in Batman and a MFA in Joker Studies.

You’re damn right Joker Studies is a Fine Arts major.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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