‘The Dark Knight’ Trilogy Villains – A Guide (Part 3)
Having already covered a detailed look at Nolan’s interpretations of the villains in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight it’s time to turn our gaze onto the concluding chapter of the trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises! Now, if you haven’t gone to see The Dark Knight Rises you shouldn’t read this yet as it contains plot details best viewed as part of the complete film ie SPOILERS. Also, what the hell are you thinking, go and see it!
Bane was born in the hellish South American prison called Peña Dura (Hard Rock) after a corrupt government decreed that the unborn child would serve out the life sentence that would have been handed down to his father, a revolutionary, had he not escaped the court system. Not knowing any other life Bane received all of his education within the walls of the horrific prison. He learned to speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin from the prisoners, read all the books he could get his hands on and kept his body strong to allow him to fend for himself. For some time he also received a classical education under the tutelage of a Jusuit Priest. Throughout his early years Bane had no-one he could trust, his only friend being a teddy bear named Osito (Spanish for ‘little bear’). When one convict tried to enlist Bane to collect information for him and under the threat of savage beatings, Bane murdered the man while only eight years old.
As a result of this crime Bane was condemned by the Warden to spend ten years in the ‘pit’, a deep stone well sealed with a heavy grate at the top, where it was assumed he would meet a quick death as the pit was below the level of the tide and flooded every night. Every night Bane would swim to top and cling to the grate to stay alive, and spend the days fighting back hordes of crabs and rats that he would ultimately turn into his food supply. With no other human contact or distractions Bane would develop his physique and practice meditation. On one occasion while under a self-induced trance he found himself menaced by a giant bat creature.
Leaving the pit a decade older Bane had become a legend among the in-mates of the prison. Bane quickly established himself as the ‘king’ of the prison population using his intellect and physical strength to maintain a hold over the convicts. When prison officials became aware of the situation they volunteered him for a medical experiment in which he would be administered with a chemical called ‘Venom’. After killing the other test subjects, Venom almost killed Bane but he survived and found that the chemical vastly improved his strength. This came with a side-effect however, in that Bane would need a new dose every twelve hours delivered into his brain via a set of tubes or he would suffer advanced symptoms and withdrawal.
Having heard stories about Batman after being re-introduced to the prison population he intended to defeat the famed crime fighter and prove his superiority. Braking out of Peña Dura he heads for Gotham and puts into action a plan to drive Batman to his psychological and physical limit by letting loose the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Finally confronting Batman at Wayne Manor after deducing the Dark Knight’s real identity the two fight it out, ending with Bane breaking Batman’s back and declaring himself the ruler of Gotham’s underworld.
In the following years Bane has continued to participate in Gotham’s gang wars. Being a master strategist and one of the strongest criminals in the town he’s proven to be a dangerous foe for Batman and other criminals alike. Mostly working solo, Bane isn’t adverse to teaming up with others such as Ra’s al Ghul (being the only one who can rival the Demon at chess) and hiring his services to Lex Luthor during No Man’s Land. He has even teamed up with Batman to rid Gotham of an illegal supply of Venom. Since his debut Bane has become a fan favourite, representing a threat to Batman that few other characters can offer.
In The Dark Knight Rises Bane is an infamous terrorist and mercenary who, at the beginning of the film, has been captured by the CIA. It’s revealed that his capture was only part of his plan to abduct a Russian scientist and he escapes with his target by crashing the plane they’re on while it’s attached by cable to a larger jet. Arriving in Gotham with his followers Bane lays low in the sewers while preparing for his ultimate plan while under the employ of Wayne Enterprises main rival John Dagget. Appearing on the surface for the first time in an attack on the stock market floor he and his gang hack into the computers before escaping with hostages on motorbikes.
Using the hack combined with fingerprints stolen from Bruce Wayne and resources from Dagget Bane steals Bruce Wayne’s fortune and steals the arsenal from Fox’s Applied Sciences warehouse. He snaps Dagget’s neck and challenges Batman face to face, beating him almost to death and dealing him a severe spinal injury. Bruce Wayne is left in in a Middle Eastern prison where he learns that Bane was born there, being the only person to escape while he was still a child. He inducted into Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Shadows but was the only member to be dismissed from the group presumably because he was to dangerous.
Having wired explosives throughout the city Bane destroys the bridges, major road ways and kills the mayor while simultaneously trapping the police force underground. Facing no opposition Bane turns Gotham into an isolated city-state and keeps the government at bay and citizens in order under the threat of a nuclear fusion device stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Pushing the population into anarchy and executing the upper class Bane has complete rule. Although he presents a philosophy befitting a rebel leader the countdown on the bomb suggests a different motive.
Bane is physically imposing, remarkably fast and keeps his signature gasmask on at all times to prevent an agonizing pain. He speaks with an almost distinguished British accent that is partly muffled by his mask and dresses practically for combat. Bane differs from his comic counterpart in that he doesn’t rely on any form of chemical enhancer to augment his strength and some details of his backstory are changed (specifically his history with Ra’s al Ghul). His motives of wanting to prove himself against Batman and wanting to take over the city remain intact.
Bane’s original story, where he stages a breakout from Arkham and attacks Batman, is still his best. Anyone wanting to learn more about Bane should start with the recently re-released Knightfall. His origin story is also available in the recently released collected Batman vs Bane.
When Gotham city is plagued by a series of robberies Batman looks into the matter, eventually uncovering ‘The Cat’, an attractive young woman who up until then had been donning an old woman disguise to commit her crimes. Escaping Batman, The Cat would return to Gotham again and again, managing to escape each time. When she was eventually apprehended years down the track she revealed herself to be a former air hostess suffering from amnesia who turned to crime after being involved in a plane crash. This was later revealed to be a ruse, but her true identity was finally known to be Selina Kyle.
Her true origin was not as fanciful. Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks Selina was left to do whatever it took to survive. As a young woman she worked as a prostitute before being driven out of the business by her abusive pimp/boyfriend. Because of the dangerous lifestyle and witnesses multiple violent crimes she took up martial arts to defend herself and her sister. Still needing to support them both, Selina decided to rob from the upper class. Needing to protect her identity she donned the catsuit she wore as a prostitute, adding to it to give it a more cat-like appearance. Inspired by Batman she also took on the name ‘Catwoman’.
Being a highly skilled thief, street smart and a powerful fighter she soon found herself in high demand as a thief. In addition to operating as a modern day Robin Hood, Selina Kyle started to be offered contracts to steal on behalf of others. Over the years her relationship with Batman and her role as a criminal and a protector has evolved. Originally she was very much a femme fatale, using her sexuality to distract or lure Batman as required. Later she was redesigned as the independent and headstrong thief she’s known as today. Not inherently an evil character Selina Kyle often takes the people living in the slums around her under her protection, ensuring that no-one is abused or exploited by the police or organized crime rackets.
Although very much rivals at the beginning of their encounters, Batman and Catwoman came to understand and trust each other. On occasion they would work together and Batman would respect Selina’s prerogative in defending the East End. Their relationship was taken further during the events of Hush when they first became romantically involved and Batman revealed his real identity to her. Hush later used this to exact revenge of Batman by abducting Catwoman and surgically removing her heart. An emergency procedure kept her alive and she later returned to a life of crime, teaming up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, although they never fully trusted her because of her relationship with Batman. At present she’s again working as an individual, albeit with some ties to Batman Inc.
Bruce Wayne is disturbed during a charity event when we finds a member of the hired help breaking into his safe and stealing his mother’s pearl necklace. The encounter takes an unexpected turn when the woman, Selina Kyle, trips up Wayne and escapes by flipping out the window. Bruce Wayne deduces that her goal wasn’t to steal the pearls but his fingerprints, having been hired by rival company Dagget. Wayne tracks her down to another party where she was pulling another job, taking her by surprise, and later uses her to reach Bane. It is then revealed that she was leading Batman into a trap, where she learns his real identity and witnesses Bane’s vicious beating of Batman. Her dealings with Dagget and Bane was to be in exchange for having her record purged so she could start a new life, but finds that this was an empty promise.
Unable to escape the city before Bane takes over she becomes trapped in his revolution. She keeps her head down during this time but regrets setting up Batman. When Batman returns to Gotham to reclaim it, Selina joins forces with him and helps him attack Bane’s forces and lead people out of the city, ultimately redeeming herself and earning the fresh start in life that she wanted.
Out of all the villains portrayed in the Nolan Batman films, Catwoman is the one who holds the most in common with the original comic character. She’s smart, talented and quick-witted. Having been dealt a bad hand she does what she needs to but works to earn a second chance. Anne Hathaway plays the character perfectly.
There’s oodles of material available for Catwoman fans, being one of the longest running villains in Batman’s publication history and often having her own line. Recommended reading includes Hush, which provides the best insight into her relationship with Batman and Gotham City Sirens, a recent series concerning her activities with Ivy and Harley.
TALIA AL GHUL
At one point during his extremely long life Ra’s al Ghul met and fell in love with a woman of Chinese, Arab and European heritage who gave him a daughter before succumbing to a drug overdose. Ra’s, in an uncharacteristic show of compassion, took the girl under his care. Talia joined her father on his travels around the world and he oversaw her education which included hand to hand combat and proficiency with swords and fire arms. As she reached adulthood she started playing a role in managing the business side of Ra’s dealings.
Talia first meets Batman when he rescued her from Dr. Drakk, apparent leader of the League of Assassins. Drakk turns out not to be the leader of the League but just an splinter cell that abducted Talia after failing a mission and wanted leverage before dealing with Ra’s. Although Batman initially freed her, Talia turns the gun of Drakk and kills him. Their next encounter occurs when Ra’s approaches Batman to inform him that Talia and Robin have both been kidnapped and he needs the detectives help to rescue them. In reality the plot was the doing of Ra’s who wished to test Batman and judge his worth as a companion to his daughter.
The relationship between Batman and Talia deepened when Ra’s recruited Batman to hunt down a man he believed killed Talia’s mother. During this time Bruce Wayne marries Talia and she becomes pregnant. When the marriage collapses Talia fakes a miscarriage, but in reality carries the child and gives birth to a son. Bruce and Talia’s son, Damien Wayne, was raised by Talia and Ra’s as a member of the League of Assassins and by the time he met his father at the age of ten he was a skilled and merciless killer.
Talia continued to be involved in the life of Bruce Wayne. After finding Jason Todd (the second Robin) returned from the grave after his murder she sought to restore his damaged mind using a Lazarus Pit. Although she was acting out of love for Batman and hoped that restoring Jason Todd would be a way to earn his love in return, Jason was furious that Batman had failed to avenge his murder and began dispensing a violent form of justice as the Red Hood.
As a result of her failed marriage to Batman, disobeying Ra’s in regards to Jason and rejecting his new choice of suitor (Bane) a rift had grown between Ra’s and his daughter and she left the League of Assassins to head up LexCorp where she worked as a double agent to bring down the company. Although estranged from her father she often still employs the power of the League of Assassins, most notably trying to save Batman’s life when he was facing the Black Glove.
Under the guise of Miranda Tate, Talia enters the life of Bruce Wayne as a member of Wayne Enterprises Board. Expressing an interest in protecting the company of further it’s advances in energy research she gains Bruce Wayne’s trust and access to the Fusion Reactor. Shortly thereafter Tate and Wayne become romantically involved, and he seeks to protect her during Bane’s take-over of Gotham and she shows support for him.
It’s only after Batman’s second fight with Bane, when Batman appears to have defeated the mercenary, that Talia shows her true colours by literally stabbing Batman in the back and saving Bane. She reveals her true identity. It is then that Batman understands that the child who’d escaped the prison was not Ra’s son but his daughter, and Bane was the one who protected her in prison. As a result of his actions Bane was viciously beaten by the other inmates and required the aid of his mask to breath with pain. When Ra’s al Ghul excommunicated Bane from the League of Shadows due to his ‘imperfection’ Talia left with him and resented her father. Following Ra’s death, however, she sought to avenge him by carrying out his goal of destroying Gotham using the Fusion Bomb of Wayne Enterprises.
Talia of the Nolan films differs greatly from her role in the comics. Although she is romantically involved with Bruce Wayne it’s part of her plan to earn his trust and destroy him whilst in the comics it’s a result of genuine affection. Her relationship with her father, although off screen, is what defines the character in this instance and although she’s cast as a villain in the film her characteristics remain accurately portrayed.
Son of the Demon is the most important reading to be done for this character, as it explores the relationships that exist between Batman, Talia and Ra’s al Ghul – why they’re drawn to each other and continue to fight.