What do you remember about the older Batman movies, before Chris Nolan came and took the reins, effectively rebooting the whole franchise and making Batman a dark character that, at least on some level, can be taken seriously? Nipples, crotches, rubber suits, Schwarzenegger and neon colours? Joel Schumacher single-handedly pretty much butchered the series after what Burton had did for the character in Batman and Batman Returns (although Batman Forever’s casting and plot-wise isn’t half bad).
If you flex your memory a bit more you might remember Bane, too. You know, that big, bulky, occasionally greenish bulk-of-a-man that hung around Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy from time to time? Now, you probably have heard as well that Nolan has cast Inception-star Tom Hardy to play the part of Bane in the Bat-trilogy’s final part, The Dark Knight Rises. ‘’How on Earth is that man going to pull off playing a brute like that,’’ you may say, and rightly so if you think that’s what Nolan’s going to do. But here’s the twist: Bane’s origins and character in the comics are not what they are in that film. He is a brilliant mind and strategist with knowledge of several languages, refined martial artist and equipped with a body honed to near-perfection during the time spent incarcerated since childhood to which Venom, a compound enhancing him to superhuman proportions and strength, is added. Bane is also the only villain in the whole Bat-verse to literally best the bat by breaking his back in the ‘Knightfall’ story arc.
Hardy as Bane; not most people’s first choice to play a towering hulk, standing at 5ft 9’’, and according to Hardy himself in an interview on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man, bulking up to 189-196lbs of mass as Bane, a combination of fat and muscle. Thinking of the proportions Hardy would hardly seem a menace to Christian Bale’s beefed up Batman. To top it off, Hardy is hardly a menacing looking fellow either, with pretty features and boyish charm that enchanted audiences in Inception. The gut reaction of many people on the Internet seemed to be of disappointment and confusion, some saying Nolan is desperately trying to fill the gap left by the demise of Ledger who portrayed The Joker in The Dark Knight. A poll conducted online addresses these issues, many commentators worrying about Hardy’s looks. ‘’He looks too pretty to cast as Bane, though I imagine he will have his mask on most of the time so maybe that won’t matter. Unless they do a fantastic job on make up or CGI then he just won’t look right as he seems too small. This is meant to be someone who has the strength to pick Batman up and snap him. Can’t comment on his acting though,’’ Nigel Payne said. Mitchell Slater thinks along the same lines, commenting ‘’ I like Tom Hardy, though I don’t think he’s fit for bane, but hey, with enough CGI I reckon he’ll look the part.’’ CGI-enhancements and prosthetics were mentioned several times in the comments, all agreeing that he looks too pretty to be a true threat. ’’With the right effects anyone would,’’ said James Barnard, with Raven Brookes adding ‘’a baby-faced Bane. With the right prosthetics/makeup and other such effects, it could work’’.
However, anyone acquainted with Nolan’s way of making movies would be aware that he abhors CGI trickery and avoids it as much as possible, a prime example of which would be the impressive flipping of a semi in The Dark Knight. Hardy has also played, unbeknownst to many, a menacing and brutish character before, the infamous Charlie Bronson in the movie Bronson. Hardly was nigh-unrecognisable sporting a waxed moustache. shaved head and a body like a heavyweight boxer rather than the slight physique he’s usually seen in. According to IMDb’s trivia page for the movie Hardy bulked up by doing 2500 press-ups a day for five weeks, an impressive workload to put into preparation for a role, and in keeping with the real Bronson’s physique which he’s built mostly in solitary confinement in prison with limited space.
Most people acknowledge his talent as an actor, like Lin Smith in her comment ‘’ he showed his potential for menace in Bronson, and he’s clearly capable of bulking up. Can’t wait to see what he does with it.’’ Paul Elliot, Hollywood cinema lecturer at University of Worcester, agrees on this, commenting ‘’Hardy’s roles in the past have been largely focused around a fractured, intense individual and so I assume he would be ideal for the role of Bane. Hardy, as he showed in Bronson, has a great physical presence which will be utilised for his role in The Dark Knight Rises’’. Not everyone, however, is convinced of Nolan’s casting, like Nigel Payne already commented. Mikel Koven, cult cinema lecturer at University of Worcester, also has his doubts about Hardy, saying ‘’I looked up Tom Hardy on IMDb, just to see who he was. I’ve seen a couple films he’s been in but he’s apparently quite unmemorable in any of them’’.
So what can we expect from Hardy as Bane then? Nolan’s take on the Bat has been fairly grounded in reality, creating a contemporary and psychologically dark world around Batman, so it is hard to say whether Bane will actually be Venom-enhanced in The Dark Knight Rises. My speculations, like so many other commentators’, would be that Bane will keep his origins as a felon jailed for a long period, possibly with a thing for bats like in the comics, which explains Bane’s fascination with Batman. Maybe he will actually take on Batman toe-to-toe after exhausting him psychologically as he did in Knightfall? However, rest assured that Hardy is more than capable of portraying a convincing threat to Batman, and in a realistic setting. Nolan has proved to be great at casting, which famously was questioned when Ledger was cast as The Joker of which many had similar doubts as now with Hardy, and which culminated in his ensemble cast of Inception. To actually see this one we will have to wait patiently until the announced launch in July 2012 (although a first picture has been since released of Hardy in a mask. Mysterious…).