Warner Bros. sent the fan world into frenzy yesterday with the announcement that Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy will play Catwoman and Bane in Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

While fans had long-expected Catwoman to make an appearance in Batman 3, the addition of Bane was more surprising. The masked bruiser was always an option, but the majority of the speculation up to now had revolved around the character of Dr. Hugo Strange. Now that we know Bane is the primary villain, what does that mean for the plot of The Dark Knight Rises?

Although Bane is a widely known figure to comic book readers, the majority of casual Batman fans may only know the character from his absolutely horrendous appearance as a pumped-up Poison Ivy pawn in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. In this article, we will offer some better background on “the Man who Broke the Bat” and some speculation as to what Christopher Nolan’s “new interpretation” of the character might look like.

Who is Bane?

In brief, Bane is one bad mother. Created in 1993 by the team of Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan, the comic book version of Bane was quite literally born into a life of crime. Raised in a prison from a young age as punishment for his father’s crimes, Bane quickly learned to fight to survive, killing his first man at the tender age of eight years old. He also showed a tremendous aptitude for learning, becoming a verifiable genius in addition to being a muscle-bound brawler.

Realizing what a unique specimen they had on their hands, prison officials decided to test a dangerous super-steroid on Bane called Venom. Although it nearly killed him, the Venom serum worked, giving Bane enhanced strength and agility. In retrospect, giving a super strong genius even more power was probably not the best decision. Bane eventually broke out of the prison and moved to Gotham City to square off with Batman in the classic “Knightfall” storyline.

At the beginning of the “Knightfall” story arc, Bane organizes the mass breakout of Arkham Asylum. Why? He did it to test Bruce Wayne both emotionally and physically. After months of grueling work bringing down the various psychos tearing apart the city (during which time Bane figured out Batman’s true identity by observation alone), Batman finally faced off one-on-one against Bane. The result was not so good for the Caped Crusdader.

As promised, Bane “broke” the Batman – quite literally snapping his spine in half (and giving us one of the best splash pages in comic book history). He then took his place as the king of Gotham’s underworld, at least for a little while, before being defeated by the new Batman, Jean-Paul Valley (a.k.a. Azrael).

Bane in the Nolanverse

Now that we’re firmly caught up on the comic book version of Bane, we can start to think about what Bane might look like in The Dark Knight Rises. As he has demonstrated with his previous Batman films, Christopher Nolan likes to keep things firmly based in reality. That’s one of the things that has made his Batman movies so good (for some). Is it realistic that a billionaire playboy goes out at night to fight crime as a masked vigilante? Of course not. But in Nolan’s movies, you believe that it’s at least possible, which makes the story and characters that much more engaging.

Given Nolan’s penchant for realism, a steroid-enhance super-genius like Bane doesn’t seem like he would fit. Of course, by those same standards, a psychopathic clown with nerve gas that makes people die laughing also seems far-fetched. As we all saw, however, Nolan (aided greatly by an Oscar-winning performance from Heath Ledger) managed to make the Joker not only a believable threat, but also one that fit perfectly within his vision of Gotham City.

Using Nolan’s version of the Joker as a template for Batman villains, there are a couple of good ways to bring Bane to the big screen.

Continue to possible versions of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

The Bane/Hugo Strange Hybrid

When Warner Bros. announced that Bane would be a primary villain in The Dark Knight Rises, many fans were disappointed that they wouldn’t see Tom Hardy playing Dr. Hugo Strange. When you think about it though, there are quite a few similarities between Bane and Strange.

For instance, both Bane and Hugo Strange are obsessed with Batman’s true identity. Bane wants to know because it’s critical to his mission. In order to “break” the Batman, he must know everything about him. For his part, Hugo Strange is obsessed with Batman because, well, he’s crazy. In the “Prey” storyline, which was at one point rumored to be the basis for The Dark Knight Rises script, Strange even takes to dressing like Batman and talking to himself.

It’s possible that Nolan will use Bane’s pursuit of Batman’s true identity as an important plot point in the film. In The Dark Knight, the Joker tells Batman, “You’ve changed things. Forever.” and he was talking about the nature of crime in Gotham City.  From now on, criminals won’t just want to rob and steal, they will want Batman. Bane is the perfect character to represent the evolution of crime in Gotham. Like Batman, he wears a mask and is a “freak” to conventional criminals, but his passion to break Batman makes him a far more formidable threat. A Bane/Strange hybrid would make for a great brains/brawn double threat, and the character’s exploration of Batman’s psyche – essentially asking “Who is the Batman? – would be a great thematic arch to end Nolan’s trilogy on, establishing once and for all who this hero is and what he means to Gotham City.

The Bane/Black Mask Hybrid

Another possible villain before the Bane announcement was the crime boss Black Mask. In the comic books, Black Mask is sort of the antithesis of Batman. Like Bruce Wayne, he was born to a life of wealth and privilege, but, unlike Bruce, he had terrible parents who didn’t love him. So, naturally, he murdered them. (Did we mention Black Mask is a bit of a psychopath?)

Anyway, Black Mask worked as a potential Nolan Batman villain because he was more realistic (no superpowers) and he advanced the themes from The Dark Knight (a masked criminal taking control of the city). For all practical purposes, Black Mask and Bane could function in a Nolan film in the exact same way. What makes Bane more interesting (assuming Nolan doesn’t cast aside the Venom steroid), is that he actually presents a physical threat to Batman, something that has been in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and really, just about every Batman film ever released.

As an incoming crime lord, Bane serves a valuable plot function. He fills the criminal power vacuum left by the Joker, brings the remaining gangs under his control, and launches an all-out war against Batman. Combined with the ongoing police investigation against him, Bane’s presence as a crime boss in Gotham could be enough to drive Bruce Wayne to the brink (recalling the Knightfall story we discussed at the beginning of the article) by having The Dark Knight facing danger on all fronts.

Bane’s Look and Other Details

Seeing that there are at least two plausible plot scenarios that would work for The Dark Knight Rises (and I’m sure whatever story the brothers Nolan have cooked up is better than what I’ve proposed), let’s move on to some of the other Bane details that have come up. First off, there’s the look.

Even without Venom, Bane is a mountain of a man. In the comic books he practically dwarfs Batman. On the big screen, it’s unlikely that he’ll look anything like his comic counterpart, but you can bet that Tom Hardy will bulk up significantly for the role. As demonstrated by his impressive work in Bronson, Hardy has the potential for major muscles. Of course some fans will never be satisfied, no matter how big an actor gets. I’m sure there are still people out there who think Chris Hemsworth is too small to play Thor and Hemsworth is roughly the size of a barn right now…

Hardy as Bronson

A more interesting question (other than Hardy’s ability to put on muscle mass) is what Bane’s costume will look like. Surely it won’t be the wrestling-style outfit he wears in the comics, and I somehow doubt that Bane will have thick tubes popping out of his neck and shoulders, but it’s important that Nolan gets it right. Bane can’t just be a big, mean-looking thug. For the first time, Batman is facing a legitimate supervillain – and so Bane has to actually look like one.

For a possible glimpse at what Hardy’s Bane could look like (keeping in mind the more realistic universe Nolan has created), check out artist Robert Schilling‘s fan-design below:

Bane’s Gang

One other minor detail, which may not even factor into the movie, is Bane’s gang. In the comic books, Bane’s gang consists of three guys: Trogg, Bird, and Zombie. They’re named after 1960s rock bands, which is fairly ridiculous when you think about it. If they end up in the movie, I hope that they keep those names. Realistically, though, it’s unlikely that the main bad guy will have any noteworthy goons. They might get a line here or there, but I’m not sure we’ll see Bird patrolling the rooftops with his trained hawk. (Sad, I know.) However, as suggested by our Sr. Editor Kofi Outlaw, should Bane’s gang factor into the film, actor Pete Greene (Redfoot from Usual Suspects) would be a good choice to play either Bird or Zombie. But I digress…

Bane's Gang (L to R): Zombie, Trogg and Bird.

Those are my thoughts on Bane in Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe. If you think I’m crazy, let me know in the comments. I haven’t spent much time considering how Catwoman’s character might cross paths with Bane – though in the “Baman: Prey” storyline Catwoman is big factor in the Hugo Strange storyline, so there are definitely possibilities for the two characters to fit into the story cohesively.  If you have thoughts on that, I’d love to hear those as well.

The Dark Knight Rises in theaters on July 20, 2012.