So, this happened:
Really more of an extended teaser, featuring only some 32 seconds of footage from the upcoming film crudely pieced together with clips from the first two – on first viewing you might suspect it’s a fan-made forgery. Yet, somehow, I can’t pretend not to be as shamefully excited as the rest of the cretins out there.
OMG, I say – for it is the new Batman movie.
Like many, I’ve got a lot invested in Nolan’s Batman films – firstly because I think Batman is both wicked and super cool, and secondly because I think Nolan has been and could again be a great filmmaker. The announcement that Bane would be our new villain du jour was an unexpected move, as he’s never been as widely known in non-cretin circles as the classic rogues gallery. Yet, on reflection, he could fit perfectly into Christopher Nolan’s grim and gritty take on the universe with little alteration (think Dennis Hopper from Blue Velvet (1986), if his portable gas turned him into the Incredible Hulk).
Knightfall (1993), the saga for which the character was created, was also my first real love affair with comics, read constantly over toilet and cereal bowls alike until the colours began to fade. It was a bold story arc which tore the Dark Knight down to build him anew, masterminded by Denny O’Neil – the on-again/off-again godfather of Batman comics through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He not only created both Bane and Ra’s al Ghul but was the true founder of the darker, more ‘gritty’ reincarnation of Batman we now know (apologies to any Frank Miller fans with a sufficient reading age to understand this).
The one thing we can be sure Bane won’t do is the one thing he’s most famous for doing – snapping Bruce Wayne’s spine over his knee like a dead branch. In the comics, of course, our hero was able to recover fully from this minor setback with a brisk course of telekinetic therapy and some intensive ninja retraining. That wouldn’t jive with the vibe of these films though, and while leaving Batman paralysed in a hospital bed would be a refreshingly bleak end to the franchise, somehow I don’t think even Nolan has enough studio clout to get away with that.
More likely we’ll see versions of one, the other or both of Bane’s second and third greatest hits. Firstly, his stunning deduction that a vigilante with a truckload of hi-tech gadgets and expert combat skills is really a multi-billionaire philanthropist and world-class athlete with the same height, build and jaw-line. Secondly, blowing up Arkham Asylum to unleash a legion of crazed criminals on the city, in a bid to conquer it – not that this will amount to much, as the pool of baddies who might fit into Nolan’s vision is now pretty shallow. Since he’s refused to recast the Joker and pronounced Two-Face officially dead, we’re basically left with about half a dozen insane men in a selection of colourful leotards and hats.
A more interesting question is what the film will do with Batman himself, rather than the shithouse with a steroid problem. Before Knightfall was a gleam in a comic exec’s eye, Denny O’Neil wrote a miniseries which saw the Dark Knight himself become addicted to the substance Bane later uses, in pursuit of physical perfection. The image of our hero as rabid junkie, struggling to overcome his dependency while the city falls into chaos, could make for an interesting second act.
The film will be the third direct collaboration between Christopher and his brother Jonathan, following The Dark Knight (2008) and The Prestige (2006), both of which suffered from an overdose of raw ideas. In Batman’s last outing, setpieces were piled haphazardly on top of one another, while themes and subtext were pushed directly into the dialogue when there was no room for them anywhere else. Revolving as it must around a simple and very physical conflict between good and evil, The Dark Knight Rises could be the redemptive final act this franchise deserves.