Friday, 17 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: "Bane"

This was going to be included in my appendum article, but I keep finding more and more I want to say about this lump of Tom Hardy barely disguised as a character. At first he was a forgettable bad guy in a worthless film. But the more I think about it, the more I'm realizing a lot of that is the fault of "Bane". He's a black hole, dragging everything else around him down into a place where it all stops making sense.

I am going to try and explain why he is the single worst villain in any Batman movie. But first, a few questions:

At the start of the film, in a plane that's about to crash, he retrieves a body-bag with a dead guy in it. Then he hooks the corpse up to something and drains his blood. Why does he do this? Does it have something to do with his gas-mask? Is it that "Venom" steroid stuff that Bane uses in the comics? I can't remember if the tube leads to anything, and it is of no importance to the plot. The movie never mentions this again. No explanation is given for why this was a thing that had to happen.

On the matter of pointlessness, sometimes Bane will touch a guy and they'll freeze in place. I can't be sure, but I think I heard him gargle the words: "Do you feel that?" to some guy. That guy seemed afraid only when Bane touched him, and then had his neck snapped. Later, he uses the same Magic Touch on an injured Bruce Wayne, and when he leaves, Bruce is suddenly in severe pain.

How does this work? What is the point of this? Does this Magic Touch happen whenever he punches someone? Again, no explanation for how or why this is a thing that happens. This guy is one Big-Lipped Alligator Moment after another.

How did he get access to Gordon's original speech for the start of the movie? How would he already know what was written on it to know it was important enough to steal? Did he get it when Gordon and him were in the sewers? Why would Gordon be carrying the speech that would ruin him on active duty, in an unrelated place and time when he wasn't expecting to be delivering any speeches? Does he just take it around everywhere?

Is it his lucky speech? And how would Bane reading it turn back the law made in Dent's honour? Just finding out that the guy went insane doesn't actually go back and strike laws out of the book. So all of those prisoners don't really have MORE motivation to escape once they hear it. Why would they believe Bane is telling the truth anyway?

"Who farted?"

With that nonsense out of the way, let's talk about character motivation. Bane's plan is to break Batman...

No, wait, now it's to cause a class-war.

No, I'm sorry, wait, now it's to blow up Gotham.

NO, wait, I'm sorry, now it's to do a favour for a girl he likes.

NO, wait, he's dead.

I think. The editing was so quick at that part, it seemed like he would get up again, just a bit bruised. But no, apparently the guy on all of the posters and advertisements, the guy the film spends 90% of its' running time hyping up as some unstoppable killing machine is dispatched and forgotten in about two seconds. It's nearly an off-screen death. Thanks for wasting four years of our lives, Chris!

On a positive note, this guy probably looked really menacing on paper. In fact, let's take a look at the official concept art, which surely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire the finest artists working in-

...SheezyArt, apparently.

That is the legitimate concept art for Bane, featured in an upcoming artbook for the trilogy. When it came time to create a character concept for a multi-million dollar feature film about Batman, they hired your little brother's 4th grade binder doodles. That... actually explains a lot.

For comparison, here is the concept art for Two-Face in The Dark Knight:

I guess what I'm saying is, at some point I became a better artist than the people working on the fucking Batman movies. Or they got a lot worse. Or they just stopped giving a shit.

If it feels like I'm being unfair, you have to understand: I actually like Tom Hardy as an actor. And even though I had my doubts, I was looking forward to seeing what they would do with this rejected Gears of War character. It's not like it was completely hopeless. Tom has a cool bad guy voice, so I was looking forward to hearing that in a major Batman movie. I like how the front of the gas-mask looks like a set of metal teeth, and I want that coat. And in the few times where I could understand what the fuck he was saying, he's not an entirely un-clever creation.

But there are too many nagging issues that keep him from reaching the bar set by previous villains. And not just the big plot inconsistencies. While I dig the mask, did anyone else look at it and think of the Grunts from the original Halo? A rule of thumb I have is that no headlining Batman villain should remind me of the weakest enemy from a shitty video game franchise.

They're both the first to die, and no one important gets killed by them.

And it's not just the voice that suffers. When your character wears a mask, you need to find other ways to express the part. Hardy had to rely on body language and his eyes. The first part he got down well enough, but unfortunately Chris Nolan only hires actors with lifeless fish eyes now. Hardy, Murphy, DiCaprio, Gordon-Levitt, etc.

Ledger was able to get away with this because the black makeup around his eyes accentuated them. But when he was in shadow, it helped them disappear. So all that was left were two black vortexes of hate looking into you. You know, "When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you"?
That's an example of design playing to an actor's strengths and working around his weaknesses.  Bane's design doesn't cooperate with Tom Hardy's strengths and just brings attention to his weaknesses.
The problem here is that sometimes Bane looks cross-eyed. It kind of takes the air out of the tires when your lead antagonist is unintentionally hilarious in every shot.

Is the strip down the middle too wide, blocking his field of vision? During production, they digitally scanned his head to get the exact measurements for the mask, and it still looks like they made it too big. Do you understand what I'm trying to say here? They fucked up this character, even after a computer gave them perfect instructions on how not to.

"Ext. Gotham - NOON: And then Bane talks like Sean Connery wearing a ball-gag."

I always thought it would have been really cool if Bane were just a red herring. If anyone could convince the public about a fake headlining villain, it'd be Chris Nolan. Wouldn't it be cool if it turned out Ra's Al-Gul were still alive? We never saw a body in Batman Begins. There is some strenuous link to Bane and the League of Shadows after all.

What if it turned out that Liam Neeson was recovering from Batman Begins, and started hiring mercenaries to fuck up Bruce Wayne? Very little of this film connects with The Dark Knight. How awesome would it be to find out that even The Joker was all just a part of the League's plans to wipe out Gotham? And that Bane was just the last, desperate back-up plan?

Essentially I'm asking: What if Bane was shitty on purpose?

Well... they sort of do this. But with a character that no casual movie-goer would be familiar with, and comic-fans already figured out half-way through the film. So it's a twist-ending that either everyone sees coming, or nobody cares about. And then 5 minutes later, they're dead too. WOW WHAT A GREAT DIRECTOR

All of this would have been tolerable if he weren't the major antagonist for 95% of the movie. But all of the suspense in a 3-hour movie is hinged on a badly-designed character, with no consistent motivation portrayed through terrible sound-editing.

I hope everyone understands that "Knightfall", the comic that introduced Bane isn't really about Bane. I made the mistake of thinking Bane was intimidating for beating Batman. I thought it was about his victory over Batman. But as Pat Roesle pointed out, it wasn't about how awesome and powerful Bane was. It was about how awesome and powerful Batman is.

Bane could never take Batman in a fair fight. By going to such lengths to weaken Batman, all for the sake of proving to everyone how cool and strong he was, he only proved what a bad-ass Batman is. If that's what it took to win a battle, there's no way Bane could ever win the war.

"The Dark Knight Rises" understands this. The problem is I don't think Chris Nolan understood this. Because we're only going to get crappy reboots after this, this was pretty much our last chance for a great live-action entry in this franchise. He didn't kill Batman; he killed the Batman movies. Comics Bane lost the war. Movie Bane made losers of us all. Not even Joel Schumacher could do that.

So I ask you: after everything I've just said here... would "Calendar Man" really have been worse?




  1. at the beginning of the movie the body bag and shit was to fake the death of the nuclear physicist that he used for the bomb and the man became afraid at banes touch because he realized he was about to die! Bane didn't care about the money.

    1. ...So... he faked his death... so he could Real-Kill him later? What?

      And wouldn't people have just assumed he died in the HORRIBLE PLANE CRASH?

  2. and concept art isnt supposed to be incredible. I believ those are just ideas jotted down. And i feel the final product was great i guess i dont see what you see

    1. Concept art need not be incredible. It just needs to not look like the scribblings of a five-year old. This is a major hollywood production, they least they could have done was act like it.

  3. he didnt say "do you feel that"

    "he said do you feel in charge"
    because the guy said he was. he then killed him because he was of no more use.

    1. Fair enough. But that still doesn't explain what the deal is with his magical touchy-powers.

  4. he brought the dead guy in the beginning to pump Dr Pavel's blood into so when they found the corpse they would think it was the Dr. who died in the crash.

    He got Gordon's speech from his jacket when he searched him down in the sewer. Apparently Gordon loved carrying it around.

    1. Now I'm no forensics expert, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. I'm pretty sure they'd just be wondering why that dead guy had someone else's blood in him.

      BONUS: Gordon somehow knowing Bane's name when he's in the hospital, despite the fact that no one mentioned his name when he was in the sewers with him.