Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bane: Son of Anarchy

     The villains of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy have each dictated the tone of their respective movies and brought out a new side of Batman himself. Where Rhas Al Ghul became an elegant extremist in the name of justice and balance, the Joker was an agent of chaos with no motive other than turning Gotham around on its head so many times that it would inevitably stab itself in the heart. Everyone knows that the Joker is Batman’s ultimate nemesis, and readers of the books would identify Rhas Al Ghul as the legendary leader of the League of Shadows. Bane is a new kind of villain, and relatively unknown at that, except to avid graphic novel readers. So who is the Bane of Gotham and how does he fit into the Nolan interpretation of the Dark Knight?

     Bane is first and foremost, an anarchist. He is part revolutionary, part dictator, but never setting himself up as an authority figure in Gotham. Even in the peak of his success of turning Gotham inside out and letting its heart rot in the trenches of terror and tyranny, Bane is an embodiment of the spirit of fear. He “rules” Gotham like a prison where he is the alpha inmate. He is a prisoner as well, but he builds a kingdom of horror and dread within that isolated world. His creation is a mockery of democracy, even as he parades the perverse beauty of equality, toppling the wealthy in the manner of the French Revolution where Gotham’s rich are the doomed aristocracy.

     For the first half of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane’s motives are unclear.  He is obviously not the sophisticated strategist that Rhas Al Ghul was, nor is he an unpredictable madman with a promiscuous lust for bedlam like the Joker. Bane is shown to be working for a sniveling power-hungry usurper, almost reminiscent of the relationship between Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2. It doesn't take too long for Bane to assert that he is no one’s pawn (at least not for that money-grabbing weakling), but it's still just as uncertain what he is about. His moves are too calculated and mysterious to be purposeless, but not quite refined enough to be seen as the final step in some grand master plan laid down for generations beforehand. Bane does not seem to be acting as part of a plot—he seems to be dictating his own path, but no one can tell what it is. He does not want political power or wealth, nor is he a mindless machine of destruction.

     Well, spoiler alert for the rest of this review, Bane is an accomplice. Before I come under fire for saying such a thing, finish reading this bit. There is no denying that Bane is a powerful leader. As previously stated, he is part revolutionary, part tyrant. In the engaging opening sequence of the Dark Knight Rises, a very elaborate and grisly plot unfolds to kidnap a scientist off his plane, involving a rather brilliant hijacking if it can even be called such. Here we see a brief but clear demonstration of Bane’s power as a leader when a word to a “brother” convinces the other to die in the wreckage of a plane. Bane’s rule by fear and illusions of brotherhood bring to him a following of cowardly and brutish criminals who blindly follow his merciless lead. All offenses are punishable by death, and yet they flock to tremble in his shadow.

     But even in his mastery of the power of lawlessness and unquestionable brute strength, Bane is (almost disappointingly so) not the brains of the operation. He is the brawn, the passion, and the one who carries out the grand scheme, but he is not the mastermind. That is not to say that he could not be— he certainly has the power and despite comic book archetypes equating bulky bodies with low intellect, Bane is not stupid. But minutes from the credits, his true master steps forward. He is shortly thereafter disposed of unceremoniously in a manner befitting a sidekick.

     Bane may not have been the brains behind the fall of Gotham, but he did the dirty work is his own brutal way. He may be Talia’s pawn, but make no mistake that she does not keep him a leash—she does not have to. She may the only one who does not fear him, so she releases him to accomplish her purposes in whatever way he sees fit. He is still allowed to be the radical terrorist without any real restrictions on his methods.

    After hours of watching the son of anarchy wreak ruthless havoc upon Gotham City, it seems strange and almost out of character that Bane’s downfall would in fact be love. Bane and Talia form a deep and impenetrable bond that resembles a twisted father-daughter relationship, and when he determines to be her protector, she becomes the brains and he becomes the muscles of an elegant, intricate, peculiar partnership. It is never suggested that Bane’s relationship with Talia exceeds that of a fierce and loyal protector. Talia, for all her curves and subtle manipulation, has no need to use her femme fatale tactics on Bane. She rescued him and refused to accept her father’s decree of excommunication against him, so Bane, to the degree that the extremist monster is able, loves her. For her part the favor is returned, but Talia has much of her father in her and believes in sacrifices for the greater good. Her ultimate goal is to finish what Rhas Al Ghul begun, and Bane is her pawn--an unleashed pawn with a presence and power all his own, but a pawn nonetheless. He knows it, and wants to be thus.

     To be fair, even as the right hand man of the true villainess, he is still a force unleashed, worthy to be feared, even if his personality and speech are somewhat suppressed by his facial apparatus. Tom Hardy does as well as he possibly can to bring Bane to life through expressive voice inflections and wild glances, but at times Bane is hard to understand-- literally. His motives are not fully revealed until the condensed finale, making him less compelling than he could have been as a character. By the time Talia is revealed as the alpha-villain, it is too late to just push Bane aside--  he has been the face of evil for the entire movie! Because of this, his exit was unsatisfying, as is his final showdown with Batman. Throughout the film, the fiend has snapped necks, ruthlessly broken Bruce's back, thrown him into the pit of the earth, gutted Gotham inside-out, trapped hundreds of police officials in a claustrophobic nightmare, and toppled the already unstable ruling powers of Gotham. In return for these heinous misdeeds, Batman punches him in the face. To add insult to the injury of not having a finale-worthy Mano-a-mano confrontation, Batman does not even get to finish Bane himself.

     Bane works in a league of his own not to be compared with previous nemeses-- he simply can't be. He is not a perfect villain, but he does well, and he possesses the soul of Gotham adequately enough to be counted a notable adversary. Bane's description of himself as "a necessary evil" sums up quite eloquently his mission and his views. Bane is mysterious, dangerous, and unexpected, but true to his nature and his namesake, is the bane of Gotham and Batman.



1. a person or thing that ruins or spoils
2. a deadly poison
3. death; destruction; ruin

1 comment:

  1. Bane is my second favorite Batman villain, second only to the Joker. I thought Tom Hardy did a fantastic job in the role, even though the overall movie was, in my opinion, inferior to The Dark Knight.