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A Bluffer’s Guide to the Dark Knight Rises Rumours…

This week has been a bit of an early Christmas for movie geeks such as myself, with Warner Brothers unveiling both the teaser poster and the teaser trailer to The Dark Knight Rises, the much-anticipated closing chapter to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. When we know a bit more later in the year, I’ll dig into the movie in a bit more depth, but it occurred to me that a lot of fans on-line are throwing out concepts and references that might seem a bit foreign to the uninitiated. I can’t imagine how strange it must be for a non-comic-book-fan to hear titles like Knightfall or “Lazarus Pits” thrown into casual conversation. So I’ve put together a bluffer’s guide to all the speculation and rumours, so that you can hopefully understand a bit more of what nerdy geeks like myself are talking about when we casually reference stuff like “I will break you!” It should be stressed that all these are 100% rumour, and not meant to reflect the film, but to help understand geeky references in discussions about the film. Sort of like a handy guide to the “offside rule”in soccer or such.

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Okay, let’s get this started…

Bane

Who is he? This cheerful fellow right here. He’s a comic book character created in the mid-nineties as a foil to Batman – both in intelligence and brute strength. He’s famous for appearing in the storyline Knightfall (see below), in which the muscle-bound strategist not only beats Bruce, but literally breaks him. Unlike how he was portrayed in Batman & Robin, he’s normally portrayed as smart and tactical as well as fiendishly strong thanks to the drug Venom (also see below). He’s currently an essemble player in the villain team-up book Secret Six, which is always worth a recommendation anyway.

Why would we be talking about him? Bane is confirmed as the villain in The Dark Knight Rises. There’s been a photo of Tom Hardy in costume released on-line and he has been glimpsed in the trailer, albeit only in flashes. So, no matter how this plays out, we know that Bane is going to be a major part of the film. Just how major, and in what capacity, we don’t know.

Venom

What is it? It’s a fictional super-steroid, one used by Bane to give him his fiendish strength. Interestingly, it was introduced before Bane, with Batman originally getting hooked on it to maximise his crime-fighting potential. Of course, it had some undesired side-effects and Batman had to quit. In the comics, Bane has attempted to quit the steroid several times, occasionally relapsing into abuse.

Why we’d be talking about it? It’s interesting to wonder if the steroid will make it into the film, especially by name. Nolan’s Joker, after all, avoided the usual trappings of toxic laughing gas and poisonous flowers. Of course, steroids are slightly more realistic and there’s some sort of apparatus attached to Bane’s mask, so expect this to be one of the more hotly-debated nerdy issues.

Knightfall

What is it? It’s the storyline that introduced Bane, basically. Indeed, the character is so firmly linked with it that many commentators argue he’s been looking for direction in the shared universe ever since it ended. At the highest possible level, it was intended to mirror the death of Superman, in the nineties. So Bane “breaks” Batman, literally forcing Bruce out of the cowl. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, with some good ideas (and a decent lead-up), but it goes on too long and doesn’t really resolve itself adequately. The first act is generally considered the strongest and might make the best adaptation, but it does leave the story in need of an ending:

  • Knightfall: Bane, hating the idea of Batman, comes to Gotham and decides to destroy the hero. Rather than doing what most half-assed would-be badguys would, the villain plays a smart game, and orchestrates a massive breakout from Arkham of all of Batman’s top foes. Batman works around the clock to contain and arrest them, on the verge of a mental breakdown. And only after his foe is exhausted does Bane strike, attacking Bruce in his own home and crippling him
  • Knightsquest: While Bruce comes to terms with (and, through magic, overcomes) his disability, a psychotic replacement Batman runs around, causing all sorts of trouble. And, of course, this new Batman defeats Bane with minimal effort.
  • Knightsend: Realising his replacement is a bit loopy, Bruce reclaims the mantle. By force.

Why would we be talking about it? Because it’s so associated with Bane. It’s his one “big” story. Plus, you know, the Joker’s arc in The Dark Knight was loosely modelled after his very first appearance in Batman #1, so it’s possible that Goyer and Nolan will do the same thing here. Other than that, it’s an epic storyline, in terms of scale, and it hits all the big notes about the hero, from the very lowest point to the perfect high. If this is Nolan’s last Bat film, it would be a storyline to remember. Plus, there was footage of Bane staging a breakout, apparently.

The Lazarus Pits

What is it? It’s a pool of liquid that has the power to resurrect the dead and bring them back to the world of the living. This is pretty great, but unfortunately it also has the side effect of making them completely and utterly insane. They are the trademark of another (relatively) recent Batman villain featured in these films: Ra’s Al-Ghul. They have ensured the fiend’s immortality for centuries. There are loads of them.

Why would we be talking about it? It would mark a huge break from Nolan’s pseudo-realism, so I mention it for the sake of completeness. However, the early shooting rumours suggested the crew were filming near a Lazarus Pit set (which could have been a vat of Venom), and other recent leaks have revealed that Liam Neeson is appearing in the film. Neeson could be appearing in flashback, but – given the emphasis on the character in the recent trailer – it’s also (very very very very very) remotely possible that he has been resurrected. I am sorta including this for completeness sake.

No Man’s Land

What is it? Like Knightfall (see above), it’s a nineties storyline in the Batman titles. Because it was the nineties and Gotham was officially the worst place in the world to live, the city was hit by a giant earthquake. The US government, led by Lex Luthor (yes, that Lex Luthor), officially cut off Gotham from the rest of the United States. Because, let’s face it, I imagine the city is a lost cause (also because Lex Luthor was doing some real estate fraud thingy, because he likes that sort of thing). Anyway, Batman and his allies refuse to give up on the city and somehow salvage it. Also: terrible things happen to James Gordon.

Why would we be talking about it? The “crumbling city” motif has been suggested to be more than a metaphor for the potential shaking of Gotham to its core, and evokes the storyline. Also because the only way to make Batman’s day even worse is to stick a giant earthquake on top of everything. I’m not sure I buy it, but the first movie did feature villains using weaponised fear – so you never know.

Talia Al-Ghul

Who is she? The daughter of Batman’s enemy Ra’s Al-Ghul (as portrayed by Liam Neeson). She has a bit of a complicated relationship with Bruce, fathering his obnoxious little brat of a son (yes, he has a son), but also veering into occasionally villainous territory. She has a tendency to call Bruce, “beloved” – even when trying to have him killed.

Why would we be talking about her? The rumour mill seems to suggest that Miranda Tate, as played by Marion Cotillard, is actually going to Talia Al-Ghul, the heir to the League of Shadows who wants to avenge her daddy’s death (and possibly finish his work). It helps that Cotillard has that dark stunning beauty thing going on.

The League of Shadows

What is it? It’s the evil group of ninjas from the first film, where Bruce was almost a member – but kinda ruined his initiation by blowing up their fortress. He later also killed their leader (or allowed him to be killed, at any rate). More extreme in their pursuit of justice than Batman, seeking to destroy Gotham as a warning to all decadent civilisation.

Why would we be talking about it? A lot of evidence suggests that Nolan is tying back to the first film in a big way, and a lot of separate stuff suggests that Bane possibly has ties to the group (and that Liam Neeson will be appearing), so they might be back.

The Killing Joke

What is it? Perhaps the greatest (or most definitive) Joker story ever written, from the pen of Alan Moore (the guy who wrote V For Vendetta and Watchmen). It’s also famous (or infamous) for its treatment of the character Barbara Gordon, who is crippled by the Joker to generate emotional torque for her father (Commissioner Gordon) and Batman. It’s been a difficult subject for DC to tackle, especially lately.

Why would we be talking about it? Okay, the Joker’s gone and probably not appearing here, but there’s no denying (at least based on the portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight) that Goyer and Nolan have a fondness for the book. Indeed, it inspired the character’s “multiple choice” pasts. More than that, the teaser trailer suggests that Gordon will be wounded – possibly even crippled, though we don’t know – in order to manipulate Batman. Perhaps Bane is just cutting out the middleman.

The Replacement Batmen

Who Are They? Anyone and everyone. It’s been a bit of a fad in the comics (especially of late) to play with the idea of the identity of Batman (or even “the idea of Batman”) existing independently of Bruce. In the nineties, during Knightfall, a French man Jean-Paul Valley took over the mantle while Bruce was infirm. In Grant Morrison’s recent run on the character, this idea was taken up to eleven. First, it was revealed that the GCPD had been training “replacements” for the hero… in less-than-ethical circumstances. And then, when Bruce died, there was an all out war over the title between two Robins – Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. The original one. Now he’s back, Bruce is effectively training an army of Batmen around the world under the brand Batman Inc.

Why Would We Be Talking About Them? Well, the trailer pushes forward the idea of Batman being, to borrow another quote Ra’s, “more than a man.” Plus, Batman Begins hinted that Ra’s Al-Ghul was an identity passed from person to person to give the idea of immortality. Some of the crazier rumours about the plot of the film suggest that Bruce may give up the mantle or be incapacitated, and a replacement might be needed. It would be a great way to explore the ideas the first movie suggested about how a man can be ignroed or destroyed, but an idea is stronger than that. Of course, on the ridiculously off-chance that this actually happens, there’s no idea who would don the cape and cowl. Rumours suggest Joseph Gordon Levitt, who is playing a (mostly) unknown cop. But who knows?

The Dark Knight Returns

What is it? It’s regarded as one of the great Batman stories, and one of the great comic books. Written by Frank Miller, it presented a stark psychological profile of Bruce Wayne. Set in the future after Wayne’s retirement, it follows his return to duty – as he realises that he can’t really let the Batman go.

Why would we be talking about it? The title has three of the same words and shares the same initials. Also, a lot of fans got a vibe from the teaser trailer, which suggested Batman had retired or given up – and the Gordon was trying to coax him out of retirement. It’s regarded as the definitive “last” Batman story (even if it spun off a more divisive sequel), so it would certainly fit with what Nolan might be trying to do.

“I will break you!”

What is it? Bane’s somewhat memetic boast to Batman as he snaps the latter’s spine. It’s very much the essential piece of Bane dialogue, because it represents the single greatest thing the character has ever accomplished. Indeed, it’s frequently played with and subverted, even outside of comic books. I particularly like this exchange from the superb Arkham Asylum videogame, as spoken by Kevin Conroy in his role as Batman:

I will break you, Batman, then the bruja!

No, Bane, this time I break YOU.

Without spoiling anything, awesomeness ensues.

Why would we be talking about it? Because it’s Bane’s single greatest moment in his entire existence, and it would be strange to have an adaptation without out. On the other hand, it may seem just a little bit too obvious or campy. But I know Tom hardy would have a fun time with it.

Contagion

What is it? It’s another nineties Batman plot, this time before No Man’s Land. It essentially follows the release of a deadly virus on Gotham by Ra’s Al-Ghul. And then, just as Batman gets things under control, an earthquake hits.

Why would we be talking about it? I haven’t really heard anybody talking about, but I thought I’d throw it in, since (a.) there are a lot of rumours about nineties plotlines, and (b.) there’s a lot of rumours around Ra’s Al-Ghul. I just figured I’d include this as a rather obvious point of overlap.

2 Responses

  1. I mostly think that we’re going to see a lot of Bane and League stuff here, with a lot of the big event things– Knightfall, for example– being ignored. Maybe that storyline could be tied into the film’s plot, since we’re still not really sure what JGL’s role is; maybe he’s the Batman replacement once Bane does his thing.

    • Yep. Nolan tends to borrow scenes and themes more than adapting storylines, so I would expect too much of Knightfall. Even the line itself might be too cheesy.

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