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The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Catwoman and Bane Confirmed as Villains of The Dark Knight Rises (Batman 3)

Read our in-depth review of the film here.

Yesterday was a big day for fans of superhero cinema. Along with photos from X-Men: First Class (and an interview with Kevin Bacon which suggests he’s having a lot of fun, so I likely will too), Warner Brothers released some more photos of Green Lantern and a little bit of news concerning The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy will be playing the steroid-fueled villain Bane, while Anne Hathaway will be playing Catwoman. I’ll just let that sink in.

“Tell me who the villains are!”

Catwoman was a fairly obvious choice. The Dark Knight killed the only female lead in Nolan’s Batman saga, so the ensemble needed a big female role. At the same time, I figured a straight-forward romance would be too easy and casual for Nolan, and that he wouldn’t be introducing any female sidekicks (Oracle, Batgirl, Huntress), so it had to be a female villain. And, this being Nolan’s world, the villain wouldn’t be as over-the-top or supernaturally powered as Poison Ivy (and Harley Quinn is too linked to the Joker), so that left Catwoman.

I’m excited to see how Nolan handles Catwoman. I liked the portrayal of the feline femme fatale in Batman Returns, but she’s also a character who lends herself well to a noir aesthetic. She fills that classic noir stereotype of the morally ambivalent thief, who is neither good nor evil (and, yet, sometimes, both). Given how morally compromised Nolan has made the Caped Crusader, I think that he’ll relish working with Catwoman – who is neither angel nor devil. Just please don’t make her a prostitute, like Frank Miller did in Batman: Year One while reimagining her origin as a gritty noir tale.

Red light Catwoman?

Bane is certainly the more controversial of the two. Bane is, in case anybody is unaware, a relatively new addition to Batman’s gallery of villains. He emerged during the nineties Knightfall crossover as a new threat to Batman, engineering a mass breakout of Arkham Asylum to grind the hero down – before stepping out from the shadow to break Batman’s back himself. Naturally, Batman got better – but it’s still one of the defining chapters in the great Batman saga. Bane himself has varied in portrayal and sophistication since then. Sometimes he’s a tactical genius who just happens to be super-strong, other times he’s almost just dumb muscle.

Viewers familiar with the character from Joel Schumacher’s god-awful Batman & Robin will probably find it hard to associate “tactical genius” with the lumbering villainous sidekick in a gimp mask who followed Poison Ivy around like a lovesick puppy. This bore no resemblance to the actual comic book character. I’m hoping that Tom Hardy’s version of Bane will be more challenging and well-developed. Compare Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Two-Face (with all the triumph and tragedy) to that of Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever (with all the scenery chewing and grunting). That’s what I’m hoping for.

Just stay away from this sort of portrayal…

Personally, I was expecting Nolan to stay away from the “classic” Batman villains – though I did hold out hope for the Riddler. Given the work he’d done with the more modern Ra’s Al Ghul (introduced in the seventies) and even working in a cameo for Mr. Zsasz in his first film (introduced almost the same time as Bane), it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the director opt for a more modern villain.

That said, I’d almost expected Nolan to maybe use the Black Mask as a villain, to serve as a thematic counterpoint to Bruce. A rich orphan wearing a silly mask, the Black mask is basically an evil Batman and dying for a trip to the screen. I’m actually quite delighted he went with an even more modern choice instead of pandering to nostalgia. Both Two-Face and the Joker date back to the start of Batman’s career, so it’s probably for the best to take a wider sampling of Batman’s iconic villains.

In fairness, Bane fits the tapestry Nolan is working quite well. In the comics, the mastermind attacks at Batman’s lowest ebb – which he engineers. However, the end of The Dark Knight put Batman at his weakest point. Bane snapped Batman’s back like a twig, but I don’t expect the confrontation to be as physical here. I imagine we’ll hear “I will break you” uttered as a solemn promise rather than a boisterous threat.

Can he break Batman?

From a thematic standpoint, I like the idea of Bane and Catwoman as a duo (just, you know, probably not working together – too many memories of the last time Bane teamed up with a Batman villainess). The Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul were perfect thematic counterpoint to Batman in Batman Begins because they both manipulated fear in pursuit of their agendas – a mirror to Bruce’s Batman persona. Two-Face in The Dark Knight was a man who had lost everything and found refuge in an alternate persona, like Bruce. The Joker was the flip side of the coin – a villain who didn’t play by the rules for a hero who didn’t play by the rules.

And so, Bane and Catwoman make the perfect thematic counterparts to Batman, representing perhaps the darkest and most primitive driving forces – sex and violence (guess which is which). As such, they represent perhaps the perfect reflection of Bruce – if Batman is truly at his lowest ebb, and Bruce is even more damaged. It marks an interesting thematic progression (from villains who counter Batman to villains who counter Bruce), but I think it makes sense in the context of the trilogy.

The franchise spreads its wings…

Some might note that Bane is very “comic book” for Nolan’s universe, what with all the tubes and the gimp outfit and the being the size of a small to medium van. these are just cosmetic issues, much as Ra’s Al Ghul’s immortality was a cosmetic issue when the character appeared in Batman Begins. Maybe he’ll use a more restrained and realistic form of steroids. Maybe he’ll work out a bit. Either way, Nolan knows better than to present his villain as solely a physical threat. The Joker worked so well because he picked at Batman conceptually, pushing him to compromise – Bane will likely work because he will push Batman to breaking point (emotionally, psychologically and physically).

I’m looking forward to this. Though, as I’ve said before, Nolan could have announced Crazy Quilt as the villain and I’d still be on-board.

18 Responses

  1. I’m on-board with the idea of Hardy as Bane, I’d have preferred Hugo strange, but I believe Nolan will make Bane fit the universe.

    I’m also on-board with the idea of Hathaway as Selin Kyle, if only for the catsuit! I did hope that Talia Al-Ghul would show up as she’s a very strong female character and would work in the context.

    Quite how Bane and Catwoman would both work in one movie however I’m not sure about, but if Nolan can do it with Two-Face and Joker then these other 2 should be no problem.

    • I know, I was leaning toward Hugo Strange what with all the “Prey” rumours of late.

      Bane seems a left field choice, but I think he could work – and, if anyone can, Nolan should be able to. Hell, I thought Tommy Lee Jones had murdered Two Face on film and then Nolan and Eckhart come along to make things better.

      I think there’s still rumours about Talia. Rumour has it there’s two female leads – even money on Talia or Vikki Vale as the second character. I don’t think Talia would overcrowd it – as Catwoman isn’t really a villain, and Nolan has shown he can juggle multiple ones. It would tie back to the original nicely.

  2. I’m psyched for Hardy as Bane. I think that’s a damn near perfect match. You need real physicality to make Bane work. You see pictures of Hardy in Bronsan it’s like, yes that’s Bane alright.

    Hathaway seems a bit wholesome for Kyle. But at this point Nolan has the benefit of the doubt.

    • Whenever I doubt Nolan, I think about how crazy a choice Heath Ledger seemed at the time. I think Hathaway can do it, but it’ll be interesting to see.

  3. I’m still hoping for a title change. “The Dark Knight Rises” is beyond lame. Good to hear Catwoman will be back, though, and Bane should be fun to watch (as you stated) if he’s given at least as much character as he is in the drawn fiction.

    I’m thinking Hathaway can pull off the Selina Kyle bit. She seems to have a real mean streak hiding out in those eyes of hers.

    • I don’t mind “Rises”. I think it leaves them open to hire Snyder to do “Returns” after Nolan leaves.

      I kid. Or so I hope.

      It’s probably a better choice than The Caped Crusader, though.

  4. I keep thinking that Bane will be another leader of the League of Shadows, but I have no evidence to speak of. It brings the fight for Gotham/Bruce’s soul full-circle.

    • I think that’s been bandied around a bit, if only because there’s comic book precedent (Ra’s wanted Bane as his heir, I believe). I’m not sure. I like the full-circle aspect, but I think it might be too backwards-looking for Nolan – I imagine it’ll all be pushing forwards towards Bruce accepting the place he’s in. Still, I do think that Talia Al Ghul makes a better choice for the “second female lead” than Vicki Vale or Julie Madison, though.

      • So far every film has stood on its own legs. I’d imagine that Nolan would keep it going for the third film, although as a conclusion to the trilogy he might have to look back a bit.

      • That’s it. He’s repeatedly stressed he wants to wrap it all up, which makes sense and is incredibly fair – I like closure, I do. So that might mean he’ll bring back the League of Shadows. Keep in mind he was considering bringing back the Joker as well – although with that performance, I can see why he’d like any excuse to capture it on film.

  5. I’m wondering if Bane is his own man or a new head of The League of Shadows. What are your thoughts Darren?

    • I don’t know. I always thought that Nolan isn’t a director to dwell on nostalgia and what came before, but I suspect that – if there is a second femaile lead – Talia will appear. Simply because I think she’s the best alternative to Catwoman (as Bruce will stay away from “good girls” after losing Rachel). Which, I suppose means League of Shadows.

      • Sorry about the double post. My original comment never showed up on my laptop.

      • Nah, the spam filter caught it for some reason. It tends to act up. If anyone ever worries I’m blanking them, it’s probably the spam filter! 🙂

  6. Sources have Robin Williams taking the role of Dr. Strange (not as a full on villain but as Bruce’s psychiatrist).

    • I would love to see Williams get involved. Especially after the whoel Joker thing. And Williams as Hugo Strange just… just works. It’s from Batman-on-Film, so the rumour is just a tad more believable than most.

  7. Given you were freaking out about how Bane could work, I’m surprised you didn’t give a second thought about Catwoman.

    • I think Catwoman had been done well enough in Returns (barring the mystical cat stuff) that I wasn’t too worried. This wasn’t going to be a Halle Berry level disaster. But I will admit to being very impressed with how it turned out.

      I was probably more nervous about Bane because the character essentially has one big storyline and has never been written too consistently outside of that, barring Simone’s Secret Six. Catwoman has a wealth of versions and iterations for the writers to draw upon, from Batman 66 to Batman Returns; Bane is newer and more specific, and he wasn’t used particularly well in Batman & Robin (or even Batman: The Animated Series).

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