All that is wrong with the world…

February 27, 2011

Preliminary thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises

There have been a lot of interesting rumors about the next Batman movie, the poorly named The Dark Knight Rises in the last few weeks. For a long time both the Riddler and/or the Penguin have been fan favorites to be included which of cause all changed once Tom Hardy was announced to be playing Bane and Anne Hathaway to be playing Selina Kyle. For those not up to speed with the comics, Selina Kyle is also known as Catwoman. I have quite a few thoughts on what these castings and rumors may mean for the next Batman movie, so without further ado….

Bane

The most interesting thing to me is that we will be getting Bane as a villain. Bane is a very interesting casting choice and was a villain I would hope would appear in Nolan’s movies for quite a while. He is someone who is just as intelligent as Bruce Wayne although is a hell of a lot bigger, yet without the training. Growing up in prison being punished for his father’s crimes and turning into the hardest of the hard. He is used to ruling by fear and understands that this is how Batman controls Gotham and decides to take his place. He is an interesting character because it examines what Bruce Wayne may have become had things turned out differently…or how far innate capabilities extend.

To date, there has not been even a semi-accurate portrayal of bane outside of the comics. Batman and Robin had a juiced up roid raging slave in a gimp mask and the overrated Batman: Arkham Asylum and DCUO had an interpretation that wasn’t too far from that. The Batman and The Brave and the Bold animated series interpretations made the same mistakes as the live action interpretations ignoring everything that makes the character unique and interesting. Batman: TAS probably had the most accurate portrayal so far, although even this interpretation had the intelligence and cunning significantly toned down to the point it was a different character.

It’s a shame because Bane is one of the most interesting villains and someone I thought would fit into the realistic take on Batman perfectly. In his introduction he is shown studying Batman for months, screwing with his personal life to push batman to his emotional limit. Then releasing the inmates of Arkham to push him to his mental and physical limit. When Bane breaks the Bat it is not because he is stronger or a better fighter, it was because he studied and Batman and worked out what made him tick and then exploited that completely. No villain had managed to break Batman before perhaps save Joseph Blackfire and even then it wasn’t to the same extent. I think Bane as a direct adaptation from Knightfall would work well in the Nolan universe, not least because the appearance of Batman would cause some people to become obsessive and want to challenge him. Bane also has the distinction of being one of the completely sane villains in the Batman universe which makes him all the more fascinating.

The question is, what will Nolan do with Bane as a character? To date he hasn’t been respectful to a lot of characters either reducing them to pseudonyms or killing them off before they can actually develop. Bane was always a Hispanic villain which obviously won’t be the case with Tom Hardy being cast to portray him. The fact that Bane was raised in Latin America shaped a lot of the character so it is a shame to see that being lost. They won’t likely have the Venom or life in prison aspect in this new interpretation although perhaps they can keep some of the core characteristics by rewriting the character to have grown up in gangs or something.

Tom Hardy is only aiming to be around 196lbs which is just 4 more pounds than Bale was in Batman Begins. I haven’t seen Bronson yet but looking at this picture that has been making the rounds, Hardy can certainly beef up into an imposing figure. Given this it seems unlikely that Bane will be dwarfing Batman in size I hope that he will try and manipulate Batman into a weaker state mentally to then defeat him physically. Nolan likes Hardy as an actor so I don’t see the character being trivialized. At the same time it is probably too much to ask for the some elements of the Knightfall story arc. Though I do think that would play well…Batman being broken and having to overcome everything….The Dark Knight broken only to rise more powerful than before. As long as they treat the character with respect and have him as the challenge to Batman that he is, I’ll be fairly happy.

What about Venom? Venom was a very interesting concept in the comics and something that caused Bane to be that much more formidable physically. Batman is at the peak of physical perfection as is Bane, so with the addition of Venom Bane was able to surpass the natural limits of what a human can achieve and be able to outmatch Batman. Venom was also explored in the Batman: Venom story arc where after blaming himself for being unable to save a little girl from drowning due to not being strong enough to move a boulder, looks for solutions to enhance his strength. Both Batman and Bane ultimately rejected Venom as the mental numbing and addiction were not considered worth the increase in strength. I don’t think Venom would be too much of a stretch in Nolan’s universe. We already have drugs such as PCP in the real world that can enhance a person’s strength, so as long as the instant hulking up aspect was removed I don’t see why there would be a problem.

It also makes sense given that we know Hardy and Bale are going to be very very close in physical size. Given that Batman has the advantage of an armored suit that also grants additional strength, Bane would need to have some way of matching or surpassing that. Without Venom what could he possibly use? While I would love to see Venom in the nolanverse I would not be so upset if it doesn’t make an appearance. There are other solutions for Bane breaking Batman, such as Batman being physically injured for some reason and Bane taking advantage of that. I don’t think it is so important how Bane beats Batman physically so much as how he breaks him mentally, which is the entire reason he was able to beat him in the first place. It will be interesting to see what rumors develop regarding this.

Selina Kyle

The casting of Selina Kyle is the other interesting recently confirmed news, although I don’t find it terribly surprising. I always thought it likely that Catwoman would be in the next movie because she is one of the safer choices, fits nicely into the realistic take on batman as well as being a romantic or sexual interest for Bruce Wayne. It is important to note that the casting notice makes no mention of ‘Catwoman’ but only Selina Kyle, her alter ego. This could be similar to the casting notice for The Dark Knight which only mentioned Harvey Dent and not Two-Face at all. Of course the result of that is that we only got Two-Face for twenty minutes of screen time during which he was never referred to as such. I wrote above about my fear of Nolan diminishing Bane as a character and given how he has treated characters so far it is a well founded fear. It would be an interesting movie to just have Selina Kyle as a love interest for Bruce Wayne exploring her link to the Falcone family, which could be interfering with Batman’s work. Even so, to leave out the Catwoman aspect of the character except in the last few minutes would be a wasted opportunity.

I do wonder which interpretation of Selina Kyle/Catwoman will will get in TDKR. Will the origin of the character be completely rewritten as Nolan has done a few times? Or will it be mostly true to one of the comic interpretations? Nolan so far has borrowed a lot from Year One and The Long Halloween although I can’t see him using those comics as inspiration for Catwoman. Probably Selinas’s origin as a prostitute will be omitted as will hopefully the ridiculous costume with whiskers. What I would like to see is a Catwoman costume similar to the current incarnation as well as the cat burglar aspect. There are many possibilities here….they could go the Falcone daughter route and not have her be Catwoman at all…, or come from a poor background and thus cat burgling…or perhaps something more mundane, another vigilante working outside the law with different methods that Batman can’t criticize without examining himself.

What was far more interesting than it being reveled that Selina Kyle would be in the film was the casting of Anne Hathaway to play Selina Kyle. Hathaway is the last person many would have expected as Catwoman is known for being confident while sexually alluring…not something the star of the Princess Diaries is known for. The few films I have seen her in I haven’t though much of with her simply being an OK actor, although I am having a lot of trouble picturing her in the Catwoman role. It’s easier to imagine her just as Selina Kyle without the Catwoman aspect, a woman investigating her personal connection to the Falcone family, although that isn’t nearly as interesting.

If the movie does decide to have Selina Kyle play Catwoman then it will be interesting to see what Hathaway does with the role. She doesn’t seem to have the graceful agility and athleticism that Catwoman has although who knows what she will be capable of? Nolan has demonstrated he can get great performances out of actors that wouldn’t otherwise be expected, so we will have to see. People have made the point that Hathaway’s casting is comparable to Ledgers, although I think this is the case at all. Ledgers casting was so very unexpected that people honestly unable to imagine what his portrayal would be like. Hathaway is a popular mainstream choice at the moment and the curiosity that came with Ledgers casting doesn’t exist with Hathaway.

It’s possible that she may surprise us all and I hope so. Catwoman is a well known iconic character and to really shine in this movie as Catwoman she will need to be allowed to make it her own, unlike any other interpretation just as Ledger did with the Joker. If that isn’t the case then Catwoman’s appearance in the movie is likely going to be forgettable. The more I think about it I think they are going to omit Catwoman and just have Selina Kyle as a love interest for Bruce Wayne while she explores her links to the crime underworld. I’m also interested to see how Nolan handles Catwoman. Nolan so far has been terrible at handling women and creating good male/female chemistry. He tends to favor a majority male cast with women characters being quite in the background. It would be a mistake to do that with Selina Kyle which I’m sure he realizes, but can he pull off having Hathaway be sexy and alluring to fuel the intense chemistry that exists between Catwoman and Batman as in the comics? Only time will tell.

Hugo Strange, Talia al Ghul, Robin

For the longest time it was <a href="http://www.slashfilm.com/the-dark-knight-rises-story-revealed-prey-dr-hugo-strange/"rumored that Hugo Strange was going to be the main villain with a script based on the Prey storyline. This would have been an interesting choice and would make sense as the storyline includes Batman being hunted by the Police and the introduction of Catwoman as an antagonist. Given that Hugo Strange has not yet been cast it seems unlikely that they will be going this route. I much prefer Bane as a primary villain hopefully influenced by the Knightfall story arc, which is now at least a possibility with his casting.

Hugo Strange would have been an interesting villain, a brilliant mind able to pick apart Batman and deduce his identity although unable to match him physically, so manipulating others to satisfy that shortcoming. In fact had they gone with the Prey storyline it would have been possible that Bane would fill in the part of the Night Scourge…although I hope this is not the case as whenever Bane is used as a tool by someone else it diminishes the character.

Then recently there have been rumors of Talia appearing with the casting of Marion Cotillard. This is interesting to speculate on although I think it is quite unlikely. The introduction of Talia would seem out of place in Nolan’s universe as the League of Assassins was never properly expanded in Batman Begins. Would Talia now be in control of the league? Without Ra’s that just doesn’t seem as interesting. I suppose Talia could show up holding Batman accountable for the death of her father….but that would have to be a main plotline and with Bane and Catwoman in the mix it doesn’t seem likely. What I would really like to see are the Lazarus pits and for Ra’s to return. For Ra’s al Ghul to just be killed of trivializes the character (as with Two-Face) especially when the character is defined by his immortality. Nolan has demonstrated his ability to make sci-fi fairly realistic as shown in The Prestige and I do believe he is capable of introducing something like the Lazarus pits in a realistic way. The return of Ra’s could also tie in nicely with the Bane storyline as Bane was the only person other than Batman considered worthy enough to be Ra’s successor. I really hope they won’t have Bane simply show up representing the League without Ra’s playing any part.

The Robin rumors don’t even deserve attention. Nolan has said that Robin won’t appear due to Batman being too young in his films. I don’t think that has really changed much, although it would be interesting. The only issue I have with robin too appear is that he would need to be stretched over two films. Adopted in the first film as a child and then training and being Robin in the next. Having a child swinging around a huge metropolis and fighting criminals pushes suspension of disbelief a little too far. Robin would have to be at least 15 or so as per the Batman: TAS portrayal to believably take on adult men with guns.

Final Thoughts

I guess the main question is what will be the general storyline of The Dark Knight Rises? There are quite a few storylines involving Bane and Catwoman, many of which could be adapted without much change, and others yet that would not suffer terribly from minor changes. Nolan’s treatment of Batman characters is interesting. He often uses stellar origin comics for inspiration such as Year One and The Killing Joke but at the same time doesn’t respect the characters such as having Batman kill people or reducing Two-Face to the point that he did. Given this trend it seems probably elements of Knightfall may appear in TDKR but that the interpretation of Bane may not be true to the comics. It’s impossible to speculate with any degree of accuracy at the moment, there are a few key moments that I would to see on film. Obviously Bane actually breaking Batman’s back would be amazing to see although I don’t consider that too likely. What I would like to see and what I think would work well is Batman training himself again and getting his confidence back….such as having the confidence to jump from skyscrapers. Of course Nolan’s Batman doesn’t tend to swing between buildings but something similar would be nice to see.

I would hope we get to see perhaps part of Bane’s origin with the life in prison showing his character and just why he is a challenge to Batman. Then perhaps have Catwoman at the same time breaking the law in a morally gray way that makes it difficult for Batman to simply class her as a criminal. Perhaps have Bane causing mayhem to try and cement his standing and then have Catwoman and Batman unite to stop him, after which Gotham thanks Batman after realizing what a great hero he is. In which case the title would refer to Batman rising after being broken by Bane and also rising by being appreciated rather than scorned by Gotham. There is so much potential for the final Nolan Batman movie to be amazing, I just hope it isn’t at the expense of diminishing characters as he has done in both previous movies.

A lot of mention has also been made of the amount of villains in the next movie, although at present only Bane is a confirmed villain. It is unknown if Selina Kyle will play a villain, anti-hero or just a romantic interest. Even if the film ads in some gangsters and such I don’t think it will be too many. Batman Begins had 5 villains while The Dark Knight had about 7. The key was that many of them were minor roles that served the story without being the focus, and Nolan has shown that he can pull this off brilliantly. The only thing I would worry about is that Talia al Ghul, Selina Kyle and Bane are all too important to be reduced to subplots to serve a greater story. The crime families of Gotham or Scarecrow in TDK being reduced are fine, as they have been expanded enough to serve the story. I don’t see how it would be possible to adequately introduce the characters on screen if they only have a short amount of screen time and are being used to further another characters story arc.

I don’t know if there will be a psychology angle in TDKR, but I think it would be interesting. Assuming there is still a police taskforce whose objective is to capture Batman, a psychologist input could be interesting and serve the story well. It wouldn’t have to be Hugo Strange, but I don’t think I would have a problem if it was and we didn’t get a Hugo Strange story arc. Once the character is introduced he can be further developed in further films, or just a hint at his obsession would be sufficient. What I would hope to see is an exploration of the idea that the appearance of Batman inspired the appearance of other psychotic villains in Gotham. So far this has not been the case save for the Joker, as Scarecrow and Ra’s were in action before Batman appeared. It would be interesting if in the next film the appearance of various villains were implied to be a direct consequence of Batman and how he would react and deal with that.

While there are a lot of problems with Nolan’s Batman films in the sense of staying true to the characters, they have all been excellent films in their own right and I look forward to seeing how he will end his story of Batman. I just hope he isn’t stupid and selfish enough to having Batman end his career which would both be untrue to the character and lock out the possibility of future movies. At this point only time will tell, but here’s hoping for the best.

NOTE: The left part of the Catwoman image was taken from http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/rorschachsrants/news/?a=28446

Update 1 – March 1st 2011
So much of my speculation has become irrelevant since the next day Anne Hathaway revealed she will in fact play Catwoman. Meh.

8 Comments »

  1. I don’t see where Nolan’s been “terrible” at handling women.
    -http://danyfantombeast.wordpress.com/

    Comment by danyfantombeast — February 27, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

    • He has rarely cast a woman in a leading role, and when he has their performances tend to lack chemistry.

      Comment by allthatiswrong — February 28, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  2. Would you juxtapose a Nolan example with a more positive example?
    Then explain where he’s lacking so I can see where you’re coming from?

    Comment by danyfantombeast — March 1, 2011 @ 12:37 am

    • Look at his filmography:

      Following – Have not seen it but reading the plot synopsis there does not seem to be a main female character.

      Memento – Carrie-Anne Moss’s character was a catalyst for the main plot and was not herself a main character.

      Insomnia – Williams and Pacino were the main characters, while Duff’s character could have been played by anyone or removed all together.

      Batman Begins – An all male cast except for Holmes, whose character was awkward and never should have been introduced in the first place. Also, an extreme lack of chemistry between her and Bale.

      The Prestige – An all male main cast, with the only female character dieing early on and being a catalyst for the rest of the story.

      The Dark Knight – The only female significant female character Rachel Dawes recast with Maggie Gyllenhaal, still awkward and still no chemistry.

      Inception – Ellen Page’s character very flat, no chemistry with anyone. Marion Cotillard’s character was interesting but definitely not a main character.

      Thus, looking at his filmography you can see he has had next to no women in male roles and when he has, I personally think they have lacked chemistry.

      If you want a juxtaposition then you can compare any of his films to any film with a female lead.

      Out of curiosity, why out of everything I wrote is my remark about his handling women what drew your attention? Just curious.

      Comment by allthatiswrong — March 1, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  3. Oh, it’s just that male/female relations fascinate me.
    That and I tend to like Nolan as a director/storyteller.
    No disrespect intended though.

    I think his inclusion of females in his stories wreaked of love and respect thus far.
    I’ve seen other movies prominently featuring women, and haven’t reached your conclusion.

    And I wouldn’t want ANY storyteller to intentionally “pander-swap” where they’ve written a male character.

    Same for any other group of people.

    It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that there isn’t a plethora of African Americans in his movies, for example.

    Just trying to get a clear grasp of what you’re asking for.

    Also, I’m pretty sure David S. Goyer wrote the screenplay for Batman Begins/The Dark Knight.
    Though his attitude/ pessimism about Superman raises my eyebrow.
    He’s certainly worthy of SOME obvious criticism.

    Comment by danyfantombeast — March 1, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

    • Hey no worries, I wasn’t offended or anything, just curious🙂

      Male/female relations interest me a lot as well, and I plan on writing an article on exaggerated gender differences later in the year.

      I don’t mean to say that I have any problem with his movies being predominantly male, just that personally I don’t think he is great at directing females in a way that brings out chemistry between them and their male counterpart.

      Hathaway and Bale might end up having amazing chemistry today and he might be able to pull an unexpected sultry performance out of her yet. At the moment though I expect her Selina Kyle to be a lot like Rachel Dawes but in a costume.

      We shall see🙂

      P.S. I checked out your blog, some interesting things so far and I look forward to keeping up with it.

      Cheers,
      atiw

      Comment by allthatiswrong — March 2, 2011 @ 12:35 am

  4. Ha Thanks.

    I imagine he’d treat Catwoman as a logical OPPOSITE of Rachel Dawes, now that you mention it…

    It retroactively/posthumously places her as an important foil for Catwoman.

    Comment by danyfantombeast — March 2, 2011 @ 12:47 am

    • When I say a lot like Rachel Dawes (by the way a shitty character that should not have been introduced) I mean chemistry passion wise. I didn’t think there was much between Holmes or Gyllenhaal in the previous movies IMO.

      Comment by allthatiswrong — March 5, 2011 @ 7:06 pm


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