Tag Archives: Bane

State of the Art – BANE on the Brain

Bane is a pretty one dimensional character in my opinion, and I am not a fan.

Although I do like seeing the different interpretations of the character across various DC related media.

This article is the first then in a visual series showing the comparative look at the art style and redesigns of Batman characters in the comics, and other mediums.

These articles are designed so that you can skip up and down the page to see the contrasting pictures, reading the comments is up to you.  It it not intended to be comprehensive, I am not going to show every version of Bane, because that would be boring.  I will choose whatever I find unique, interesting, or just damn cool art showcasing how Bane is interpreted in different mediums.

Batman Vengeance of Bane one shot cover Chuck Dixon

The Vengeance of Bane one-shot written by Chuck Dixon was the prelude to the Knightfall Saga.  In the story we meet Bane first as a child born in a South American prison, who inexplicably remains in prison for life despite not committing any crime, and despite all good common sense.

Bane reads a bunch of stuff, works out some and decides to “break” Batman.

Batman whom Bane has never met or even seen a picture of, nor has any reason to hurt, nor any proof that Batman even exists.  Bane just decides that he has to break the symbolic champion of Gotham.

Why not? I guess it beats sitting around in a cell all day.  The cover here shows us his eventual costumed look, that of a mexican wrestler with the typical full face mask.  Of course Bane is a lot taller and bigger than the typical Mexican wrestler, but the basic look is an obvious homage to a show wrestler, right down to the lace up boots and hunched over aggressive macho posture.

Of note here are the the long pants and shoes which Bane only appears to wear on this cover and not in subsequent stories. The footwear may be shoes or boots covered with the leg of the pants, it it not clear.  The prominent tubing from Bane’s head to his arm tells us this is a significant aspect to the character by being highlighted in yellow.

The way Bane is looking out at the reader suggests some urgency to the character, he has beaten (and possibly killed) some men in uniform, and is eagerly looking to move to his next target, or get on with his quest / mission.  He is clearly a man of action.

Batman - Knightfall Bane first full apearance

On this page we see the first full image of Bane in costume in a Batman comic.  A previous page shows him without his mask in profile and partial views, putting on his outfit, (he has a rubbish hair cut) leading to this dramatic splash page that announces to the reader that Bane is here and he means business.

Here we can see Bane with mask, tubing from his head, wearing pants that look more like fabric, but could be leather, and a wrestler style open vest, that conveniently turns into a more traditional singlet depending on who the artist is.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 5 Batman off a building

The previous chapter in the Knightfall story ended with Bane breaking Batman’s back. Here at the beginning of the next chapter, Bane is standing on top of a building, boasting of his victory, then he throws Batman to the ground.

Batman should really be dead at this point, your life expectancy tends to go down when being thrown of off a building while unconscious with a broken back.  Also, when I re-read this story now, it is impossible not to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice .  Go ahead, read the speech bubbles in the following picture below and try NOT to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in your mind when you read you read it.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 6 Batman off a building

Re-reading the Knightfall story this year (in preparation for more blog posts, and to see the similarities to the film) I now can not hear anyone’s voice but Tom Hardy’s when I read Bane’s dialogue.  Significant in this scene is the unobstucted rear view of of Bane’s mask and tubing, which is clearly connected to his his head, braced at the neck/upper shoulder region and connected to his wrist/forearm.

Batman - Knightfall Bane knightfall cover1

This art by prominent comic artist Kelley Jones became synonymous with the Knightfall / Bane saga.  First used as the cover to Batman #497, and later used on the cover or insert to later trade paperback collections of the Knightfall storyline.

This image show Bane maxed out on the Venom drug, with a grotesque physique that is over exaggerated in every way for emphasis, and showing his total domination over Batman.  It’s a great functional piece of art, in that it sells the book, and I want to know more about the story inside.

Kelley Jones is known for his moody Gothic style art, some people hate the extra long ears on Batman, I don’t mind them.  My favourite work of his is the Batman Elseworlds Vampire Trilogy where Batman becomes a vampire, punches the undead in the face and kills Dracula to save Gotham.

Batman - Knightfall Bane3 Broken Batman backk

Apart from being the critical moment, the money shot of when Bane breaks Batman’s back in Knightfall (the same scene would be pilfered and recreated in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises) this art is also notable for Bane having excessively hairy shoulders, which is typical of a man with high levels of testosterone.  I guess he had time to stop and shave them between breaking Batman’s back in this scene, and then throwing Batman off a building soon afterward.

Jokes aside, this image is brilliant.  You have the visual shock of a splash page, the look of pain on Batman’s face, the unusual jagged panel border sells the scene.

Batman the animated series Bane_800x533

Here in Batman the Animated Series, Bane’s costume becomes a full wrestler outfit with pants that are likely tights, the one piece swimsuit style singlet, a prominent belt and of course his mask looks even more like a Mexican wrestler mask than his earlier incarnations in the various Batman comic books.

I think he looks a bit goofy here, but the look does the job for the show so I can’t complain.  I mean does he want to hurt Batman or just pin him for a three count?

Bane concept art arkham asylum video game by Chuck Dee
Concept art for Batman Arkham Asylum by Chuck Dee

Chuck Dee drew a lot of fantastic character specific concept art  that was used in the character designs for both Batman Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City.  Of note here is the massive, almost Incredible Hulk like proportions of Bane, his arms and biceps drawn as thicker than his legs.

The image recalls the overly-exaggerated look of Bane from the earlier Kelley Jones Bane art, particularly the cover with Bane breaking Batman’s back.  In this image, Bane is clearly Hulked out on the Venom drug, hence his over-exaggerated un-natural and grotesque physique.

The orange pants are a prison uniform, as are the shackles on his feet and wrists, which have been incorporated into his Venom delivery system for reasons unknown.  Bane’s belt glows red, whether an artistic flourish or whether it has anything to do with the Venom delivery here is unknown.

Instead of one main tube connecting from his head to wrist here Bane has multiple tubes directly into his body, and a much larger module on his upper back which is no longer just a bracing point, but clearly has tubing connected to it, rather than just held in place.  The straps seem to connect his back, making the overall Venom kit more like a backpack than the old tiny canisters in previous versions of Bane.

Bane wears a metal mask and collar, which are presumably part of his prison restraints.

Chuck Dee concept art for Bane DC MMO game

Chuck Dee art here again, this picture of Bane is concept art for DC’s MMO.  I don’t know what the final look was in the game as I’ve never played it.  I downloaded the game on PS3, but it took like twenty minutes to even get the game booted so I just deleted it, but I think the concept art here is pretty cool.  This design uses all the main Bane characteristics established in other incarnations.

Mask, mean looking, belt, wrestler singlet and pants, chunky belt and of course the Venom drug delivery tubing.  Of note here is the spiky collar which gives Bane a slightly goth punk or fetish look in combination with the all black outfit and small silver studs on his wrist braces, belt and padded knee boots.  But I have to wonder is Bane tuly angry, or are those pants just a bit too tight?  This look seems to have been influenced by Bane’s look in The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.

Bane Arkham Asylum concept art by Chuck Dee

Further conceptual designs for Bane in the Arkham Asylum series by Chuck Dee.

The side on view of the metal mask is very Hannibal Lecter, while the knuckle dusters just seem like overkill for a character who is already very strong. While menacing, something of Bane’s essential elements are lost without his traditional mask here, he could be just another Venom fueled goon.

The overtly fetishized costume, belts and mask to me suggest maniac or psycho, overall not a great look for Bane in my opinion.  But the look can serve as the opening to a story, once Bane is back in more regular clothes, he would look much better.  The great thing about concept art is that an artist can really cut loose and play around with different experimental elements before arriving at a final design.

I like all of Chuck Dee’s concept art for the Batman Arkham games, a fair amount oh his work was used in video game articles, online wallpapers and other promotional ways for the game series, such as the covers on the tie in comic books. His Joker art is to die for.


This image is a CG render of Bane as he looks in the first two Arkham Aslyum video games.  You can see that the orange prison pants and the giant wrist straps have turned into restraints that also double as wrist gauntlets.

The neck collar / dog collar delivers electric shock to uncooperative prisoners in Arkham Asylum / Akrham City.  The action figure of this version of Bane was a really nice toy [see below], and looks just the same as the CG render here.  The Batman toy by contrast looks good, but the eyes (pupils) are really creepy.

I know because I have that same Batman toy on my desk here as I’m typing, and yeah the eyes just ruin an otherwise great action figure if you ask me.  I’m going to put some white out on the eyeballs at some point, so he looks more like the white eyed creepy Batman, who is creepy in a good way, and not in a silicon valley way.

DC_Collectibles_Batman_Arkham_Asylum_Batman_Bane RESIZED

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins RESIZED

The follow up to the Rocksteady Arkham City video game was Arkham Origins, a prequel game that is set in the early years  of Batman’s career.  I played through all three games in the Arkham series multiple times, and this version of Bane was my favourite.  You fight Bane twice in the game.

The first time he looks like this and later in the game you fight Bane again as the final boss fight, and he looks absolutely horrific maxed out on Venom.  You fight Bane three times all up, as the second battle is in two parts, and the third time he goes insane as he overdoses on Venom and swells up to Incredible Hulk sized proportions.

In the first fight he runs away after the battle and jumps into a helicopter, then the Joker fires an RPG at the helicopter, a pretty awesome scene with plenty of explosions and just pure chaos courtesy of Mr J, who basically tries to murder the guy he hired to kill Batman just for fun. I wish joker had managed to kill Bane at the start of the game so I didn’t have to fight him again at the end of the game.  Stupid Bane.

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins Render front and back

When you fight Bane again at the end of the game, he pumps himself up with drug of choice, the ever reliable Venom.

Overall I really like this look, Bane is big and muscly without looking freakish, and the boss battle while a little boring and predictable, is still good fun, unlike the third fight that follows, which made me Hulk out and turn into Al Swearengen from Deadwood.  %$#%&^*$%$ing Bane!

Bane Arkham Origins Final Boss Fight Version CG Render

After you beat Bane in the fight at the end of the game, he later overdoses on the Venom drug, and then basically Hulks out, going totally nuts.  You can’t damage Bane directly in this fight, which means you have to make him do dumb things like run into walls, electrocute him, all the usual stuff really.

The final Bane boss fight is tedious and annoying, you die easily, while Bane takes a fair bit of damage to beat.  If you stuff up some of the environmental cues (parts of the scenery you can use to damage Bane) then he becomes impossible to beat as there is no way to damage him, and you just have to start again.  I enjoyed all the boss battles in Arkham Origins, except for this one.

Injustice-gods-among-us-bane-render RESIZED  This is another CG render of Bane.  This time from the Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game.  I recently got around to playing this game, and well, it is awful.  One of the worst fighting games I have ever played, terrible controls, un-intuitive combat.

Some of the character renders look decent, this is not one of them.  I think Bane looks awful in this game, and the art style I don’t care for at all.  He look sto angular and spiky, and I don’t find him threatening at all.

The relatively rubbish spin off comic based on the story of the game (which has Batman fighting Superman) was more enjoyable then the game, but that is not saying much.  I really wanted to like this game, but yeah it is rubbish in terms of game mechanics.  Some nice Dragonball Z style knock back attacks and supers, but that is about it.

You can watch a Youtube video in a few minutes of the best animations, and then forget this game ever existed.  Not even my cat like this game, and he normally loves everything with Batman.  The mobile/tablet version of the game looks excellent, but gets boring after five minutes, and it takes forever to upgrade your characters, so steer clear of that one too.

Bane Batman the Animated Series later seasons

I was never a fan of the gimp mask and spiky collar combo from The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.  But like it or not, the look works, the art style works, and of course this one of my favourite versions of the animated Batman.  I didn’t care for Batman’s redesign in the JLA cartoon, I think here in New Adventures he looks timeless and classic.  At least this version of Bane looks mean and genuinely threatening.

Bane Batman Brave and the Bold

This version of Bane is from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a great show that is under appreciated in my opinion.  Yeah, this version, it looks crap if you ask me.  Did the animators go out to lunch and get the work experience boy to whip this one up?  I mean Jesus, LOOK at him, what were they thinking?  If they were aiming for the worst looking version of Bane, then they succeeded .  I don’t know WHAT they were going for this design.

The basic elements and motifs are there, the mask, the green Venom cable tubing, the wrestler pants belt and singlet.  But the face, and the overly rounded silly looking shoulders just make me want to laugh at Bane, rather than be afraid of him.  The less said about this version the better.  Let’s move on.

Bane THe Batman show

Wow!  What is going on here.  This redesign is from The Batman (another animated Batman show) and is the most dramatically different version of Bane so far.  It is weird looking.  I don’t know if the red parts are meant to be a costume or he has read skin?

Overall I like that something different was attempted here, but I don’t think the look really works.  He looks a bit like Red Hulk after a night out in a fetish club.  I don’t love it, or hate it, but it is an interesting redesign.  The Batman show also gave the Joker a dreadlocked Rastafarian look, that show really changed up the look of the villains with some bizarre choices.

So this strange looking Bane is not that strange when you look at him in context with the other characters on the show, who are basically all weird looking.  I give them credit for mixing things up.  But weird for the sake of it does not equal good in my book.

Bane Justice League Animated DOOM

Now this is more like it.  This version is from JLA: DOOM, a pretty bland direct market animated feature.  Bane looks like a bad-ass.  Don’t mess with this guy!

Except… wait a minute, did he accidentally burn a hole in his clothes?

Why is there a giant Superman diamond shaped hole on the front of his one piece?  Overall, I love this look, but the open chest piece looks ridiculous.  Either cover it up or put him a proper singlet, not this bastardised piece of clothing.

I’m starting to sound like a real misery guts here, and I gotta tell ya, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Bane Young Justice 2 RESIZEDBane from the Young Justice animated show (a great show, well the first season is brilliant, second season not so much).

Another good look. Stripped back, no spiky collar or silly straps and junk all over him.  Just lean and mean.

Mask?  Check.  Venom cable (in fashionable red) and the classic prison tough guy singlet.  This is Bane before he hulks out on Venom of course, so he looks a bit skinny, but that is just the art style of the show, and for me it works.  i like than in the show he appear to be genuinely Mexican, rather than speaking with an accent and basically being white.  That always bugged me.

I can’t stand when characters of various non-caucasian races are anglicised for comics, or because they ran out of ink at the printers again.  Yeah, sorry old man whitey at the printer, that excuse may have held up in the forties, but don’t be pulling that shit now!


Sweet Jesus what were they drinking the day they came up with this one and where can I get some?

This is (sadly) the most camp version of Bane from the Batman and Robin live action movie.  In the film Bane just grunts and mumbles, and doesn’t talk. He is a mindless henchman to Poison Ivy.  His skin is so green and scaly you could almost mistake him for Killer Croc.  The spikes on the belt are just silly, not scary.  The prominent crotch is offensive.

Batman 66 did camp on purpose, and the villains in that show still look great today.  Cesare Romero’s Joker,  Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler.  Love or hate the show, the costumes worked in context, and the villains really popped on screen with their vibrant gaudy colours. The show looked like a comic book.

In contrast, Bane in Batman and Robin looks like the drawing of some ten year old kid who had never seen Bane, and based his drawing based on a description his mate told him of what Bane looked like.  Nothing about the costume, the overall look or the style works here in my view.  Utter rubbish.

This version of Bane was played by Robert ‘Jeep’ Swenson, a pro wrestler who sadly died in the same year Batman and Robin came out in 1997.  His physique was impressive, imagine what he could have been like in a modern comic book movie instead of the lousy Batman and Robin. He will be missed.

Bane Secret Six Cover MaskAn issue of the Secret Six comic book. Secret Six is another book that takes a bunch of DC super villains and puts them into a ad hoc team, similar to the Suicide Squad.  The results are mixed, some issues are great fun, others are pretty bland.

Depends on who is writer is really.  The cover is pretty cool.  Bane’s mask reminds me of Spawn, or Venom, take your pick. This cover may even be a homage to Spawn?  I don’t know, stranger things have happened.

Bane Lego Batman 2

This little fella is rather cute.  Bane from the Lego Batman video games of course.  His Venomised version basically looks like Hulk from Lego Marvel but with a a different skin.

Marvel vs DC 2 Bane vs Captain America shield slap to the face

I didn’t need to include this one, the costume is classic Bane and unremarkable.  I only included this image because I love seeing Bane doing a face plant after getting shield slapped by the good Captain.  Eat pavement idiot!

Every artist has the right to express their unique version of a character.  How boring would it be if Batman and his rogues gallery still looked exactly the same as they did in the fifties?  Pretty boring.  I love artistic diversity.  I don’t love Bane, but it has been fun looking at some of  the different artistic interpretations of one of my least liked Batman bad guys.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the visual comparisons too, and didn’t mind my criticisms too much.

Soon I’ll be doing visual comparisons of the different looks of other Batman characters, and eventually Batman himself, along with the Joker.

If I had to pick a favourite version of Bane,  I would go with the less pumped up look from the Arkham Origins game.  That was the first time I felt that I enjoyed Bane as a character, other than of course the cinematic version that I like – in my view the definitive Bane – Tom Hardy’s Bane in Dark Knight Rises.

Bane is awesome_publicity shot_dark knight rises 549x600
Tom Hardy Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

At first I did not care for this version of Bane but after watching the film multiple times, this look has really grown on me to the point where I like it.  Except for the part where the mask does basically nothing, and is attached to nothing, that still really bugs me.

I had a  words or two to say about Tom Hardy’s Bane, so check out that article if you missed it.  Mostly I ramble on about how rubbish the fights were in Rises, but there is some other stuff in there too, so take a look.

No Pain No BANE – Tom ‘Hardman’ Hardy

Do you love or hate Bane?  Do you like the comic book, animated, video game or movie version best?  I’d like to hear from you, so leave some comments people!

No Pain No BANE – Tom ‘Hardman’ Hardy B

Bane Dark Knight Rises football stadium two turntables and a microphone
He’s got two turntables and a microphone

Of the three Nolan Batman films, I feel that The Dark Knight Rises is the weakest.

The performances are good, the movie is spectacular in just about every way with meticulous production design, cinematography, an epic score and all the usual bells and whistles.  It’s got emotion, heart and pathos.

Nolan pulls out all the stops and delivers an epic over the top memorable Batman film.

However, Dark Knight Rises also has gaping plot holes too big to jump over even in that magical Tumbler.

Repeated viewings are not so much fun as tedious exercises in looking past the bad to find the good.

Tom Hardy plays Bane, a one-dimensional gimmick villain from the comics that I really can’t stand, but somehow Hardy manages to take a character I could not give a crap about, and not only make him compelling, but actually likable and sympathetic.

When I watched the Dark Knight Rises for the fourth and fifth time, it was to enjoy Tom Hardy’s Bane, as many other elements of the film just don’t work in my opinion, and even fly in the face of what Batman stands for.

But the cinematic Batman is its own mini-universe, and Chris Nolan has license to do whatever he wants.

While the scope of the film effectively ramps up the tension and large scale mayhem from The Dark Knight’s claustrophobic riff on Micheal Mann’s Heat, it seems to come unraveled with plot holes and too many “THAT’s why he did that… really….no, REALLY?” type moments.

The first much anticipated viewing of Dark Knight Rises at the local sticky floored multiplex had me genuinely annoyed that Batman is so easily beaten by Batman, and he made so many bone-headed rookie mistakes in the film.  That was not the comic book Batman we know and love.  But hey, it is a movie adaptation, and they are doing their own thing.

I just don’t have to agree with it.  And yes I did just say Batman beat Batman and not Bane, why?  Well it was a typo, but I reread the sentence and you know what?  Batman DID beat Batman.  He beat himself by being out of condition and ill-prepared for an enemy he knew next to nothing about, idiot!

Bruce Wayne was Batman for like two times in those other movies, then he sat on his ass for around eight years doing nothing, moping about some woman who chose to be with a good guy turned sociopath rather than him.  Cry me a river Bruce.  Great work, way to stay in shape and keep your edge, way to stay true to your vision of your war on crime and avenging the death of your parents, and the whole “never give up” thing, well done mate.

What the heck was Bruce Wayne doing for all that time?  I hope he didn’t just watch television while wearing turtle necks ala Michael Keaton’s Batman.  Did you ever notice that Tim Burton never let you see Bruce Wayne’s neck?  Kind of weird if you ask me.  What was that about, was he planning to turn Batman into a vampire in that cancelled third Burton Batman film? Because I would watch that film.

Bane sewers batman fight

The epic scope of Dark Knight Rises is sometimes criticised as being the type of large scale scenario that is outside of Batman’s abilities. The city being taken over and the imminent threat of a nuclear bomb seems more like the sort of thing Superman could handle without breaking a sweat.

Putting aside the rampant plot holes, the logical inconsistencies and all the things that a very out character Batman does seemingly without reasons

Shifting focus from what I didn’t like, what is there that I did like about Dark Knight Rises?

By about the third viewing, I started to warm up to Tom Hardy’s Bane.  Tom Hardy is a brilliant actor whose career has gone from strength to strength.  I have enjoyed following his various film roles, my favourite films with Hardy being the Nic Cave penned Lawless, followed by Warrior with Joel Edgerton and eternal booze-hound and swear machine that is Nic Nolte.  I like Hardy in just about everything.

He is not quite the chameleon-type of actor like Gary Oldman, but Hardy disappears into any role he sinks his teeth into. Let us be clear, I don’t like Bane.  He is a gimmick character who is rather boring and shallow, so I was not easily won over by Hardy in Dark Knight Rises.

When I first read that Bane was to be a villain in Nolan’s third Bat-film, I felt a cold shiver down my spine not felt since the words Joel Schumacher and Batman were uttered in hushed tones for fear that even mentioning said words would warrant a rather justified public hanging.

Bane is boring and dumb.  I had no belief whatsoever that any film with that character would be a a good film.  But now when I think of the film, Tom Hardy’s Bane is really the only good reason to watch the movie.

Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman all do serviceable jobs, but they are just rehashing what they have already perfected in the previous two films, and at times they just feel redundant in a very busy film.  Alfred and Lucius seem to exist in the Dark Knight Rises just to give exposition and push the plot forward.  Sure you could say the same of the previous two Nolan Bat-films, but here they feel non-essential.

Bane Dark Knight Rises plane scene painful for you
It would be very painful…. FOR YOU

Somehow, Tom Hardy’s Bane becomes the performance to watch in Dark Knight Rises.  He is genuinely un-nerving and scary with his strong man physique juxtaposed with the bizarre choice of an aristocratic Englishman’s voice.

Bane is just creepy enough to be scary.  He is strange enough to be a Bond henchman ala Jaws or Oddjob, but surprisingly much smarter than a henchman, and fans are still debating who the real villain / mastermind was in Dark Knight Rises.  What could have turned out to have been the most unintentionally camp villain in a Nolan Batman film, instead becomes a performance of a very driven, obsessive, intelligent and capable man.

A man not unlike Batman himself.

Whether Bane is the mastermind of the plot to give Batman grey hair at an early age and that whole thing with the Nuclear bomb set to blow Gotham to teeny tiny pieces or actually just a pawn of Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul is never clearly established.

Was Talia the master planner who used Bane?  Did Bane use Talia?  Were both merely pawns of the deceased Ra’s Al Ghul?  All are valid speculations, and Nolan loves to keep fans guessing about the “official” version of events in his films.

Unlike some directors who leave things open ended (which Nolan also has a habit of doing) Nolan always has his official version of events that is not revealed to the fans or press.  But sometimes, even years later he leaks out little morsels, little crumbs to salivating fans eager to promote or debunk the latest Inception or Batman theory.

On a sidenote, I really like Schumacher’s other films such as Tigerland, The Client, A Time to Kill, Falling Down and Phone Booth.  He is a decent director, but any Batfan knows the two Batman films he directed were terrible films on nearly every level.  But Schumacher is not solely to blame, Batman Returns is bizarrely the darkest most messed up of all the Batman films ever made, and yet slides into cheesy camp territory before Schumacher was even a whisper around the water cooler.

Oh wait, you don’t think Returns is all that dark?  Let’s see, for your consideration, in The Dark Knight the Joker puts a pencil in some guys eye, (a criminal) and blows up at empty hospital building.  In Batman Returns two parents try to kill their newborn baby, then Batman sets a guy on fire and leaves him to burn to death.  That is just the first fifteen minutes.  It gets worse.

Getting back on track, the anti-climactic first fight of Batman vs Bane is so one sided that Batman is laughable, but then he had been sitting at home for several years moping and doing nothing.  Perhaps taking a leaf out of Keaton’s Batman and watching a lot of television in turtle necks.

The second fight scene between Batman and Bane packs plenty of punch. While the brief fight with Batman and Bane in amid the crazy crowd under a blanket of fresh snow is just a prelude to Talia and the eventual saving of Gotham City, in this scene the actors actually make contact with one another.

Bane vs Batman  dark knight rises snow tom hardy close up with creepy eyes

Christopher Nolan is a brilliant film maker, he makes blockbuster films, but with brains.  The cinematography and film scores are top notch.  However, one area that is a consistent let down in the Nolan Bat trilogy is the fight choreography, which looks like pre-matrix era american action movies.

Not Batman Forever levels of awfulness, but noticeable enough to anyone who has grown up watching Hong Kong action flicks of the seventies and eighties.  Take the worst Jacky Chan or Jet Li movie from the eighties, and the fights scenes are one hundred times better than anything you will see in the Nolan Batman films.

Why?  Well, the Hong Kong action movies get by on their action, and little to no story.  The genuine martial arts and amazing stunt men (and women) of asian action cinema took the world by storm with the rise of Kung-fu cinema in the seventies, and it took Hollywood decades to catch up. Notably the Wachowski Brothers worked with Yuen Woo Ping on The Matrix.

The Matrix was the first mainstream american Hollywood film to really embrace the superior technical knowledge of asian choreographers that people actually watched.  Once you had watched The Matrix you could not un-watch it.

Seeing John Wayne throwing haymakers in old western films (or any of the generic and boring movie fight scenes that followed in his wake in american cinema) just would never seem the same again.  But take another look at the fight scenes in Batman Forever or Batman and Robin  (made just two years earlier) and see how laughably bad the fights are.  You will cringe if you freeze frame and take a look at the cut-aways and absolute nonsense on display.

Coming back to Dark Knight Rises –  in the first fight between Bane and Batman, they barely touch each.  While the fight has emotional impact, and the sound makes us feel how brutal the beat down for Batman is, freeze framing any part of the fight (or playing it in slow motion) will show the actors are often several feet apart from one another, and it is even noticeable at full speed if you really pay attention.

Bane vs Batman mugshot dark knight rises snow
The much anticipated final round of “Dancing with the Stars”

In asian action movies, by and large there is contact.  Often you have amazing stunt men and women, genuine martial artists, acrobats, athletes and stunt professionals who are not afraid to get roughed up.  By contrast, in Hollywood the studios have to protect their stars, have all sorts of insurance issues to worry about and so actors rarely fight.  Cue the stunt people, they come in an do the hard work, and generally don’t get any credit for risking their necks.

While Hollywood post-Matrix has embraced better fight and stunt choreographers, allowing the open influence of the superior Hong Kong action cinema methods, Dark Knight Rises really drops the ball.  In american action movies (or movies in general) the actors don’t actually hit each other, they stand slighty askew, and the camera makes it look like they are getting hit with clever angles.

But in Dark Knight Rises, you can actually see the wrong angles that show the two actors not hitting each other.  On repeat views, the hardcore brutal fight scene with Bane demolishing the ineffective out of shape Batman, it becomes laughably bad.  Once you notice the bad camera angles and cuts, you can’t un-notice it.  This is really just me nit-picking here, but in future if a Nolan film has a fight scene, I am not saying I want Ninja Turtles and Kung-fu masters flying through the air and doing spin kicks.  Not at all.

Whether showing a martial artist like Batman or an ordinary Joe Billy Bob in a bar room brawl, what needs to be improved is the shot showing the close up action and mid-distance action.  This can be improved simply by bringing on a consultant who already knows not just how to stage fights for the cinema screen, but how to shoot fights for the cinema screen.  Both skills are essential, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.  By and large American cinema has dramatically improved the staging of fight scenes since the old days of ham-fisted Westerns.  American cinema has been a tremendous innovator of action cinema and stunt work.

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When it comes to big-budget big-spectacle action films, America is the world leader.  But when it comes to showing up close and personal fights, whether ring fights, bar fights, or martial arts chop-socky, Hong Kong kicks the rest of the worlds collective ass.  Yet, strangely when it comes to World War II films, American cinema manages to display reasonable combat scenes, usually due to having ex-military experts on consulting duties.

There is place for every type of fight choreography.  A Punisher film should look and feel different from a Batman film, a Batman film should look and feel different from a Captain America film, Crank, Rambo, Commando, Police Story, Kill Bill, Enter the Dragon, Ong Bak, Scott Pilgrim and friends should all look and feel like independent entities with their own unique styles of fights from realistic to cartoonish and anything in between.

Rarely is any sort of combat shown in a realistic manner on screen outside of a military context. Pseudo-military influenced entertainment like James Bond, Bourne and Jack Bauer in 24 while moving closer to fight/combat realism than the typical cartoonish action movies such as Rambo are still far removed from reality, but convincing enough to do the job.

My point is there is an infinite variety of cinematic fight styles and choreography styles, and it is the job of the director, writer and producer to identify what is most relevant to their film, and if they don’t know, find somebody who does know and ask them.

The fight scene in the sewers between Bane and Batman – the two Titans of Gotham – has so many bad camera angles that while “selling” the fight, also make the fight look ridiculous on repeat viewings to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of action cinema and fight choreography.

The fight scenes are passable to a general audience.  But a LOT of that geek audience has been watching action movies most of their lives, and they know the language of cinema, and the language of action.

A significant number of fans like wrestling, comics, UFC, Batman and other cool shit.  They have read Batman comics and watched UFC for a decade, and when Batman fights worse than the lower tier fighters in UFC, well that just looks bad any day of the week.  Batman is supposed to be an expert martial artist, and yet he flails his arms like a little school girl in the first fight with Bane.  The best he can do is cover up like a boxer facing Rocky or Clubber Lang, Bane reigns down one merciless blow after another, and Batman does virtually nothing.  In the second fight at the end of the film, the actors are much closer together.

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In the second encounter, Batman is now the stronger willed fighter back in top form after training and out matches Bane.  Batman is hungry for the win.  Bane is now the one on the receiving end of a beat down courtesy of Batman, who fights a little closer to how we would expect him to, but still manages to look like a bit a jack ass because of the obvious limitations of the costume he is wearing, and the fact that we are (for the most part) watching an actor and not a stunt person.

I don’t know how much of the fight scene is Christian Bale and how much is the stunt double, (and we should not notice with good editing and creative camera angles, or it takes you out of the bloody film) but there is enough Bale in there and the scene has much better camera shots than the first fight between Bane and Batman. The second fight feels much better, it looks better close up and far away.  If you go frame by frame (and I did) there are no glaringly obvious flaws.  Pound for pound it is a better screen fight.  Also if you watch Bane and Batman in slow motion in this scene it looks like they are dancing, in a rather weird and creepy way that makes me want to see it on Youtube with pop music.

Bane / Hardy notably shifts his bodyweight back and forth, pivoting on his feet displaying the kinetic chain of powerful punches good strikers are known for, the picture above shows him pivoting his feet, snapping his hips and whipping his arms into Batman’s body in a flurry of merciless bodyshots.

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Perhaps I am picking on this one element of the film too much, but my background in martial arts, watching action movies all my life, reading way too many Batman comics and expecting more of Christopher Nolan just makes it hard for me not to be hyper-critical.

I really dig The Dark Knight Rises.  It gets a lot right.  It is a phenomenal  spectacle of a film that is brilliant to watch, but it makes some critical errors that are hard for any Bat-Fan to ignore.  Had it been a smaller tighter paced film, perhaps it would have had fewer plot holes and head scratching moments.

But fans and studios demand more in big budget action movie sequels.  And more of everything is what we got.  More action, more explosions. Bigger explosions.  More explody explosions.  Angrier Batmen.  Hotter Women.  More plot.  More… everything.

More is not always better, but we keep asking for it, so it keeps showing up.  We really only have ourselves to blame.  In the case of Batman I want a good story.  I don’t think more is better.  If I watch Jason Statham in Crank then yeah, more is better in that scenario because it is a movie that is vapid, shallow and pointless, and  I love it for what it is.   A hyper-kinetic insane movie of “top-this” ludicrous series of events, set-pieces and lashings of the old ultra-violence turned up to ’11’.

In Dark Knight Rises Tom Hardy effectively becomes the Darth Vader of the nolan Bat-Trilogy.  He has the mask and creepy voice, and we really don’t know what it is that he wants – other than to destroy the life of Batman and break the will of Gotham City.  He is just a really nasty, smart and evil guy you do not want to mess with.  It is not an easy task to act with your face obscured, particularly the mouth.

Tom Hardy gives a mesmerising performance as Bane, effectively using his body language, his voice and he says a lot with his eyes.  Bane is a bad guy, but one we can’t help but feel some sympathy for.  He may be a monster, but his reasons are far more human and relatable than the Joker or Ra’s Al Ghul.

He is perhaps the most humane villain we have seen in a Batman film, despite being a killer and potentially part of a death cult who presumably will be killed along with the citizens of Gotham in the planned nuclear explosion.  He will kill you and beat you mercilessly, but he will also give you a damned good reason for why he did, and you will be hard pressed to disagree with his reasoning.  He would make a great salesman.

In Bane we can see a brutal and ruthless man dedicated to his cause, but also a small and timid boy, a wounded soul not unlike Batman himself, born in tragedy and pain.  The comic book version of Bane, who appears to be like a muscle bound idiot was the creation of Chuck Dixon.  In the first Bane story Vengeance of Bane, (a 64 page one shot that introduces the character as a prelude to the Knightfall storyline) Bane is established as being very smart and very strong.

A self-made man like Batman who studies and perfects his mind and body while in a harsh South American prison run by a corrupt warden.  Born into captivity, prison is the only life he has known.  That he not only survived, but thrived in that environment is a testament to his strength of character and mental resolve.  Like Batman, he too is a creature of will power, strength, intelligence and emotional trauma.

Bane was still basically a gimmick character to “break the bat”.  A big strong bruiser of a man to mess up Batman conceived in the same era as Superman died at the hands of the mindless killing machine Doomsday.  Unlike Doomsday, Bane has as much brains as brawn.  He is more than a simplistic character, yet he is still a throw away gimmick character that I really don’t care for.

Except when Tom Hardy breathes raspy charismatic life into him, then I care about Bane, I feel something for Bane. Without tom Hardy, I don’t think Dark Knight Rises would be worth watching more than one time.  He takes a flawed film and salvages something in it that makes it worth repeat viewing.

I’ll be watching The Dark Knight again every year that I live, but Dark Knight Rises not so much.  And I’ll always remember the time that Nolan and Tom ‘Hardman ‘Hardy made me care about a character who I thought was lame and stupid. Hardy transforms Bane into a very flawed, passionate, dedicated, and horrible human being, who remains deeply human and strangely relatable, like the best villains such as Darth Vader or Dr Doom.

And yeah that mask is not connected to ANYTHING.  Seriously, WTF?

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