Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Favourite Film and TV Characters: The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane

While The Dark Knight Rises remains a film that has split the fans, Tom Hardy’s Bane has been universally met with approval. I’d go as far as arguing that he was the most notable character of 2012. From his strong physical presence to his unique voice, Bane offered a significant challenge to the Bat that was evident during his screen time. The original character of Bane is a complex one that, as with the very nature of the comic book industry, has a variety of backstories and personalities. The initial creation of the character had been for the sole purpose of breaking Batman’s back during the Knightfall storyline in the early 1990s. However the sheer popularity surrounding him resulted in the character becoming a regular villain in the Batman franchise. 

My first exposure to Bane was through Joel Schumacher’s horrendous Batman and Robin. Subsequently and understandably, the character cemented himself as a Luchadore with an terrible case of uncontrollable rage. It was only through reading Knightfall and Bane’s other comic appearances that he revealed himself to be a more engaging and profound individual. While the general populace see him as a giant brute with the capability of toppling buildings and picking up cars, there’s a tragic angle that distinguishes him from the likes of Killer Croc and Scarecrow. Surprisingly I’m not a massive fan of Knightfall, primarily because it’s rather dated. The writing and the art obviously resonates with hardcore fans of Batman, but the comic never clicked for me. This was Bane’s first appearance and while it was an intriguing one, it left more to the imagination than the series was actually capable of showing and facilitating, which inevitably was the problem of his original purpose. Nolan’s Bane, on the other hand, offered a realistic perspective that was genuinely more interesting and confounding . 

After Heath Ledger’s Joker stole the entirety of The Dark Knight, Rises was always going to have a tough time replicating the sheer impact and presence that he brought to film. The choice of Bane was undoubtably a challenge for both the film’s writers and fans to wrap their heads around. Taking a drug fuelled, “mexican wrestler” and framing him within the context of Nolan’s gritty and realistic world wasn’t an easily comprehendible notion. Yet the end result offered both a clever and physically impressive adversary that was distinctive and undoubtably inspiring. 

At the heart of my love for the character is Tom Hardy. Hardy’s performance, both physically, vocally, and especially through his eyes, was a captivating one that managed to surpass the impact of much of the film’s cast. His physique silenced some of the hardcore fans, but more importantly was the fact that he and Nolan used their freedom with the character to bring something different. This villain wasn’t simply a fully-charged brute, but like the comics he was an highly intelligent and formidable antagonist.

His voice, while criticised, has a menace and bellow that resonated throughout the film. Apparently Hardy drew inspiration from Bartley Gorman, an Irish traveller and boxer known as the “King of the Gypsies”. Other sources have linked him using the likes of Richard Burton and other British actors to formulate the voice. Either way it still remains distinctive and effective. The distorted and mechanical mix and various inflections resulted in simple chit-chat and breathing seeming a lot more threatening and fierce. Meanwhile, his appearance channels a militaristic but constricted look. The mask and the general abundance of straps showed a character restraining his descent into sheer pain-induced rage, but one that’s visually striking as he stand over a crippled Batman. The physical prowess is there through Hardy’s toned physique, and so too was the scarred mien from his tormented ordeal in “The Pit” and his past. 

But where Hardy’s performance surprisingly succeeded was the manner in which he captured Bane’s human side. Behind the “swagger” that persists through his taunts and general laid back attitude as he watches Gotham fall, there was a mysterious and emotional angle to the character. His origins and early existence are all shrouded in ambiguity, with his adoption into “The League of Shadows” and his relationship with Talia Al Ghul providing an more ardent exploration into his psyche than was previously expected. His expulsion from the League and dismissal by Ra’s Al Ghul hinted at a darker and vindictive expansion of the character that went beyond the intentions and notions the group stood for. Meanwhile the tears he sheds towards Talia proved to be an unexpectedly, fascinating divulgence that offered a touching moment showing a robust chemistry between the two. In some respects it’s pretty impressive to see a character suddenly exposed in an almost sympathetic light. And this is where Bane differed from the previous antagonists of the trilogy. While Ra’s Al Ghul and the Joker offered a constant state of unpredictability throughout the course of the films, their onscreen persona’s did little to change from the madness and panic that surrounded them. Here for this solitary scene, we’re shown the tragedy and frailties of Bane’s character. And that proved to be more intriguing then the rest of the film and his anti-climatic exit. 

I really like The Dark Knight Rises even with its flaws and problems. But Bane in particular stood out. From a great idea in concept and writing, his comic book persona caught an interesting balance within Nolan’s perspective. Bringing him back to a more “human” character with more of an emotional stake in the narrative and characters, Bane offered a distinctive looking and sounding adversary to the omnipotent Batman. Tom Hardy’s great performance managed to add something other than a physical presence, and less of the stereotypical hulk many understand the character to be. Even with the endless parodies and impersonations, Bane still remains captivating to watch and undoubtably one of my favourite film characters. 

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