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Bane: Batman’s Greatest Adversary, Squandered On Screen

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When it comes to Batman’s greatest rivals, three figures come to mind: The Joker, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Bane. While the earlier two are fairly accurate outside of the comic books, Bane hasn’t received his fair treatment.

Introduced in the comic, Knightfall by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Doug Moench, Bane’s brute strength was only matched by his intelligence. As a man obsessed with Batman, he opts not to assault him directly but tires him out by freeing the inmates of Arkham Asylum. After three grueling months to recapture the prisoners, Bane appeared at Wayne Manor deducing Bruce’s alter ego as the Caped Crusader and subsequently, breaking Batman’s back.

Animated adaptations of Bane came close but never reached the impact of Nightfall. His animated debut in Batman: The Animated Series came close to the definitive moment of breaking Batman’s back before Batman used a Batarang to cause Bane’s strength-enhancing venom device to malfunction in the episode, Bane.

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Later depictions of the character on other animated adaptations were not nearly as memorable. In fact, you can almost interchange Bane with Killer Croc as far as cookie cutter brawny Batman villains.

Bane Batman the Brave and the Bold
Bane in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”

When it came to live-action films, Bane appeared in the end as a loyal subservient puppy in both Batman and Robin and The Dark Knight Rises. Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin managed to turn Bane (Robert Swenson) into just a random criminal who happened to be infused with venom to give him his bulky look and take orders from Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Of all the egregious offenses the film committed, it’s one of the biggest ones aside from the horrible script, acting and cheese far worse than Adam West ever made. Ironically, Bane’s lines were probably the most tolerable since it consisted just of growls and saying his name.

The Dark Knight Rises tried to reinvent Bane (Tom Hardy) as a member of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Shadows, which was established in the first film, Batman Begins, of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. Instead of breaking inmates from Arkham Asylum or using venom, Bane took advantage of an aged Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who didn’t really clock in that much time as the Batman. Wayne retired as the Batman entering a depression triggered by the deaths of Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent in the events of The Dark Knight despite at the end of the film, vowing to continue to fight for Gotham.

Instead of venom, Bane uses gas, and sounds more like a muffled Darth Vader. As genuine an attempt at the character it was, I feel Bane needed more than just one film to have Batman recover and take back Gotham. Wayne’s miraculous recovery during the movie losing the impact that breaking his back in the film was supposed to have. Bane breaking Batman’s back was rendered as meaningless as Kirk’s brief death in Star Trek Into Darkness. Also at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane ended up being a loyal subservient puppy to Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard).

Nolan could have edited the film and had John (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) take up the duty of Batman similar to what Azrael did in the comics to help take down Bane instead of “passing the torch” at the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises.

Personally given how the DC Extended Universe is built now, I don’t think it’s worth reintroducing the character unless you can tell his story in two films. The way Doomsday was shoehorned in with far too little build up and killing Superman in Batman v Superman knowing he’ll just return the following Justice League, renders his death meaningless. You don’t rush characters like Doomsday or Bane, and it’s a shame such icons should be mistreated in such a way.

I can only have hope Knightfall can be adapted to an animated feature, but given how The Killing Joke was received, I’m not so sure now.

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Tom Chang
Sci-fi and technology geek since the NES days, Tom loves everything from the cult classics, the contemporary hits to the beast with two backs that is Disney and Marvel. His life's mission is to be the ultimate nerd savant sitting on the iron throne as CEO of Skynet while masquerading as a vigilante at night wearing hockey pads.