It's a fact, proven time and again at the box office: You can't have a good superhero movie without a great villain at the heart of it. And nobody has as many cool villains as Batman; with characters like The Joker, The Riddler and The Penguin available, Christopher Nolan pretty much had his pick of the litter when it came time to create "The Dark Knight Rises."
Yet despite all the much bigger names, Nolan decided to go with a relatively obscure villain from the comics, Bane. So what's so great about Bane that made him the pick over his more famous peers? And what other dastardly foes can you expect to see in "The Dark Knight Rises?" Here's everything you need to know about the dark side of Gotham, thanks to our guide to the villains of "The Dark Knight Rises."
By now everyone has become pretty familiar with the look and, um, unique sound of Bane, who is portrayed by Nolan's "Inception" star Tom Hardy. But there's a lot more to Bane than just a cool vest, a big breather and an unintelligible growl. First appearing in the comics back in 1993, Bane was created as basically a villainous version of Batman himself: Driven to avenge the death of his father at the hands of an evil government, Bane dedicated himself to become the ultimate revolutionary warrior, spending years training his body and honing his mind in single-minded pursuit of his goals.
Where Bruce Wayne's idealism led him to protect Gotham, however, Bane's idealism leads him to try and tear down political institutions he deems corrupt. And instead of a bevy of high-tech gadgets, Bane gains his edge by inhaling a powerful drug through his mask, one that gives him inhuman stamina and deadens pain.
Just how all of this pans out is something you'll have to watch "The Dark Knight Rises" to discover. But considering Bane is most famous among comic book fans for defeating Batman — breaking his back in the process — let's just say that not every story has a happy ending.
Of course, things aren't all beef, growls and steroids. On the plus side of the ledger, "The Dark Knight Rises" also features Anne Hathaway as one of Batman's most famous foes, Catwoman. Not that we would call her a villain, really; she's more like Batman's number one frenemy, sometimes acting as a foe, sometimes as an ally, sometimes as a love interest... and sometimes all three at the same time.
Forget what you think you know about Catwoman from her previous on-screen appearance in "Batman Returns" and "Catwoman," though (seriously, please, forget about "Catwoman"). Judging by the trailers, it's clear than Nolan has ditched many of the goofier trappings attached to the character over the years (you know, resurrected by the power of cats... or whatever) and returned her to her original comic book roots as a world-class jewel thief. She's a cat burglar, get it? Still, just because she no longer has a connection to the Egyptian cat god or something doesn't mean she should be under-estimated by Batman — or by Bane, for that matter.
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Ra's al Ghul
Okay, so remember what we said earlier about Bane basically being an idealistic terrorist bent on violently destroying corrupt institutions? Well, chances are that probably sounded pretty familiar to fans of Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, considering it was also the modus operandi for the sinister Ra's al Ghul in 2005's "Batman Begins."
And that's no coincidence. In the comics, Bane was recruited by Ra's al Ghul to become his heir apparent. Which explains why Bane is targeting both Batman and Gotham in "The Dark Knight Rises" — and also explains why Liam Neeson is back for a cameo in this film as well. Has Ra's al Ghul used his famous Lazarus Pit to return from the dead? or is this one of those flashback type scenarios? Either way, we know one thing for sure: More Liam Neeson is always a good thing.
It's pretty obvious by now that Nolan has spent a lot of time studying the comics and it's also apparent that his main inspiration is the seminal 1986 series "The Dark Knight Returns." And while Bane didn't have anything to do with that story, judging by the trailers, it seems as though Nolan has taken a little piece of "The Dark Knight Returns" and put it to good use in the form of Bane's legion of henchmen.
In "The Dark Knight Returns," you see, Batman has been driven underground, hunted as a criminal and turned into an urban myth. Sound familiar? Two rival gangs end up warring for the streets of the city, one inspired by the Joker and one inspired by Batman himself — something that can be clearly seen in the trailers for "The Dark Knight Rises" in the form of the graffiti artists rebelliously painting Batman logos everywhere.
But since The Joker is (sadly) nowhere to be seen this time around, that means the role of the Joker gang has instead been transferred to Bane's henchmen. Look for them to be less of the kind of mindless thug you usually get out of henchmen and more along the lines of revolutionary zealots, true believing terrorists fighting for Bane's cause. Because unfortunately for Batman and the people of Gotham, there actually is strength in numbers.
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Speaking of returning villains, what would a Nolan Batman movie be without an appearance by Cillian Murphy's deranged psychiatrist, The Scarecrow? After all, The Scarecrow has the unique honor of being the only villain to appear in both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," so it's only fitting that Murphy return for one final go-round. His role in this story is still being kept under wraps, but since Murphy is clearly a favorite of Nolan (he also co-starred in "Inception"), we have a feeling that no matter how brief it may be, it's still going to be a juicy one.
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