Comics industry rumor site Bleeding Cool is reporting that anonymous sources close to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight will use Bane in–well, in just the way most viewers expect it to. The South American political prisoner-turned-Gotham crime boss will reportedly break Batman’s back in the film, rendering Bruce Wayne at least temporarily paralyzed, just as he did in the ’90s classic Batman #497, the culminating chapter of the epic Knightfall storyline.
According to Bleeding Cool, the sources inside the film mostly feel like it’s almost not a spoiler, and are incredulous at speculation that the incident–which defined Bane’s character for more than a decade before he became much more fleshed out during a recent fan-favorite run of Secret Six–wouldn’t happen in the film. The rumor site headlines the story as “Hardly a Spoiler,” although (like ComicBook.com), they took pains not to reveal it in the headline, a formality which some sites are already foregoing.
First appearing in his own one-shot in the early ’90s, Bane came to prominence as a Batman villain when, at the end of Knightfall, he was able to defeat Batman, leaving him paralyzed and setting the stage for a temporary, violent and wildly unpopular substitute Batman in the form of Jean-Paul Valley, then-recently introduced as the character Azrael in yet another miniseries. The Batman titles in the early ’90s felt a little like Marvel’s entire publishing line lately–every event led to another event, led to another. The plan in Knightfall, though, was somewhat ingenious: Bane understood that Batman’s “wonderful toys” meant somebody fairly wealthy had to be the Dark Knight, so he let all the inmates out of Arkham and then, in the chaos
that came next, staked out his handful of suspects to see which of them showed signs of fatigue as Batman spent long hours of every night trying to round up the gaggle of homicidal maniacs let loose by Bane.
When Bane appeared in the much-maligned 1997 film Batman & Robin, however, he was portrayed as little more than a big, dumb animal with the Venom serum that gave him his enhanced strength seeming to sap him of any sanity or critical thinking skills. His body was hideously disfigured, his skin discolored and he was essentially Poison Ivy’s automaton, leading some fans to wonder whether he was a glorified sex slave since that’s what the movie version of the character basically spent the film trying to make Batman and Robin.
Later iterations of Bane for DC’s animated TV shows have been somewhat more generous to the character, but it’s likely that in the public consciousness, if he’s remembered at all, it’s assumed that he’s a brainless lug.
The Nolan films, though, have played up the chess match nature of Batman’s relationship to his rogues and leave little room for someone without a brain. It’s always seemed likely that Bane would, if not “break the bat”, at least feel truer to his roots. While the preview shown in some theaters before Mission: Impossible this week didn’t do much to clarify the plot (it basically just introduced fans to Bane and reportedly only barely, since he was largely unintelligible), indications that Bane is an ambitious terrorist in this film seem to line up more with the version of the character who blew a wall out of Arkham with an RPG than the one who caused his own death by knocking down a load-bearing wall.
Assuming these rumors are true (and frankly most readers probably will–after all, it seems a logical move for Nolan and all that was needed to make it seem obvious was confirmation), what does it mean for Batman? In the grounded world of Nolan’s Bat-flicks, it seems unlikely we’ll see a miraculous recovery for Bruce, although the earliest teaser for the film, which seemed to show Wayne talking to Jim Gordon in the hospital, could suggest that the extent of his injuries onscreen won’t be as great as those in the comics, where it was at one point declared permanent damage. As the last film in the Nolan trilogy, of course, it could shock everyone by ending with Wayne in a wheelchair and the next candidate (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, anyone?) taking on the mantle of the Batman, reinforcing the theme from Batman Begins that the idea of Batman is bigger and harder to kill than one man–but without Nolan coming back to follow up on it, it almost seems like establishing a new Batman only to presumably reboot for the next director who comes along would defeat its own purpose.
A safe bet? We’ll see a scab-Batman for a while, probably a good cop fighting against the system without the support of the hospitalized Commissioner Gordon. At some point, though, Bruce will be back in the cape and cowl. It’s very hard to believe that a mainstream, big budget film could end with Bruce Wayne NOT winning the fight with Bane in the climax. It would be like Rocky Balboa training someone else to fight Clubber Lang; just not dramatically satisfying.