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The Dark Knight Rises: Breakdown Part 2: All things Bane, DC vs Hardy

August 8, 2012

Bane must be wearing lifts, because Bale is much taller than Hardy!

The MoviesFilmsandFlix crew has been having a lot of fun with all things The Dark Knight Rises.  It all started with a playful Round Table Panel Discussion and then The Hof’s original review of the film.  Then I took a few jabs at Nolan and his trilogy closer in my Breakdown Part 1: All things non-Bane, to which Hofsey replied in quippy kind.  Now we’ve started to pick on villains, beginning with The Unappreciated Bad Guy (a character profile of The Scarecrow) and leading us ultimately to my final contribution about Bane—both the DC comic version (DC Bane) and the latest imagining by Christopher Nolan (Hardy Bane).

The Bane of Bane:
It’s all too often that film-adaptations of books and comics make changes that upset the fans of the original storyline.  I understand that fans can’t always get their exact little way and feel so hurt that they would describe Hollywood producers, writers and directors as “idiots who got all it wrong.”  Conversely, I also understand that not all written stories translate well into the formulaic film framework of “a beginning, a middle, and an end.”  Books can take as long as they like developing backstories and comic plot arcs endure until their popularity thrives no more, at which point an ending is architected (often in hindsight) based on what was allowed to happen thus far and this ending—made overly dramatic to resurrect sales and perhaps incite a spinoff or continuation of the series—is the final and largest climax in a long series of climaxes punctuated by itty-bitty beginnings, middles and ends, linked together by weak and convenient anecdotal evidence.  I happen to be one who loves the originals, one who loves to see film-adaptations made of the original, and one who posts self-serving opinions online.

Not the body of a supervillain!

The original Bane was similar to our latest Bane in many respects…
Both were raised in a terrible prison which served as the mold for the monsters they become and both are exceptionally well-educated and well-trained.  In fact, with minute detail aside, the movie accurately depicts Bane’s history with The League of Shadows and his intellectual capabilities—without spelling everything out.  DC-Bane (as we’ll call the his comic book version) was, being in a more super-villainous context, a bit of an exaggerated form compared to Hardy-Bane (Nolan’s take on Bane).  But I feel that they credibly translated this aspect of Bane well into film.

Both wear masks which enhance their performance—but in very different ways.
Based on a backstory element that does not match the DC universe, Hardy-Bane suffered from “plague” and his mask was crafted by doctors (fellow prisoners) to relieve the crippling pain which would otherwise forever afflict him.  In this case, the mask allows him to be himself as if he was never afflicted by some plague.  DC-Bane was the sole surviving subject of an experiment on prisoners.  The experiment exposed him to “venom,” a drug to which he became dependent to similarly crippling extremity if he didn’t get his regular fix.  But instead of allowing DC-Bane to be all that he can be, it rather enhances him with superhuman strength and healing capabilities.  Later in the story arc DC-Bane swears off the use of venom, but not before crippling Batman and moving on to other things.

It looks like back-breaking would be much easier for “this” Bane.

Both break Batman’s back—but one did so much more plausibly than the other.
Size is my issue.  Hardy gained 30 pounds for this role, increasing his weight to 198 lbs.  Not bad for 5’10”.  Although he was 205 lbs and noticeably more lean in Warrior (presenting him as a middle weight only weighing in the 170s in the film).

I think he’d have a tough time lifting a 180-200 pound Batman wearing 20+ pounds of body armor and gear over his head for a drop-to-the-knee back-breaking—but Nolan made it look like he could do a set of ten reps of Batman backbreakers.  At least, he’d do it with much less authority than DC-Bane’s build—who, in properly exaggerated comic book form, is inhumanly huge.  Here are some comic book images of Bane, some preternatural, some verging on biological impossibility.  DC-Bane, varying from one comic series to the other, seems to range from 6’6” 300+ lbs to 8’ and 500+ lbs.

Why even cast Tom Hardy as Bane?
I liked watching Tom Hardy play Bane and I even liked the “masked” villain voice he adopted for him…a lot.  But why cast an actor when no one would have guessed it was even him?  If the trailers, posters, Access Hollywood and IMDB didn’t tell us, I don’t think we would have known it was him.  He has never looked like that (not that we can really see his face anyway) and he has never sounded like that.  In fact, you can really only “hear” his acting ability—and that was all voiced over.  With the exception of shedding a few tears behind some sad puppy dog eyes, it’s not like we could infer much expressiveness from his face throughout the film, so his acting skill couldn’t be the reason behind his casting.  This just feels like Christopher Nolan was playing the name recognition game to fill theater seats—as if the cast needed any more buffing.  Why not just have Hardy voicing-over an actor with a more suitably menacing build?  Here’s about where someone would ask “well who would you have picked that would’ve been better to play a ridiculously huge and muscled villain?”  My answer:  Nathan Jones.  He’s 6’11”, a lean 360 lbs with a six-pack, and has a history of playing shirtless, over-sized brutes (e.g., Conan the Barbarian (2011), The Condemned (2007), Fearless (2006), The Protector (2005), Troy (2004) which made my Best Fights and Kills of Film, Jackie Chan’s First Strike (1996)).  Since acting really isn’t a factor here, I’d challenge anyone—ANYONE!!!to give me a better exemplar for Bane who has a filmography.

You couldn’t even look to the men of World’s Strongest Man unless they went on a crash diet to get some abs and grew another 3-6 inches in height.  Not to mention that they likely lack the flexibility, range of motion, and cardiovascular conditioning that this film’s choreography demanded (on which Hardy couldn’t deliver) and that Nathan Jones has demonstrated.  Again, I enjoyed watching Hardy.  But when Bane is demonstrating unreasonable strength by punching concrete chunks out of a pillar or lifting Christian Bale (who is 2 inches taller than Hardy and heavily suited) aloft in a one-handed chokehold while casually pacing forward and lecturing him as if the feat was effortless, this is just a big Hollywood-fail.

I should add that the last live-action Bane (Batman and Robin) was played by the 80s-era wrestler Robert Swenson.  At 6’4” and 405 lbs, he was a truly menacing.  Really, several wrestlers would fare well as Bane—Dwayne Johnson, Batista, etcetera.

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What was Ra’s al Ghul’s teaching in the League of Shadows?
Wild, drunken haymakers fueled by blind rage—by the looks of the fight choreography.  In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne emerges as a damned certified ninja!  Evidently Bane was also a student there.  Where’s the ninja-like technique in this movie?  Ugh…this is too upsetting to dissect.  I just hope that the next franchise-rebooting director learns from Nolan’s combat victories in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and considers The Dark Knight Rises’ fightsto be akin to the products of a divorce-induced bender.

In the history of all ninjas these are the biggest punch wind-ups EVER.  And, hey, is it me?  Or does Batman’s suit look like plain old rubber and not a thing like Kevlar in this action still?

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