For those three sad and lonely people who are yet to see The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), this article is chock-full of spoilers, from beginning to end.
Bane (Tom Hardy)’s arc in TDKR is probably the most interesting of the principal characters. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) goes from palace-dwelling hermit to warrior to crippled jailbird to super-warrior and yes, it’s all very exciting, but nothing completely unexpected. Everybody in the auditorium knew that Bane broke Batman’s back, and that Batman escaped the prison regardless, so there were no real surprises in his story.
Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) did some sexy jumping around and allowed Batman to occasionally receive a taste of his own medicine, but her narrative was similarly predictable – will she help or hinder Batman? Will she do both? Oh, she sort of does both, and they end up in a café in France.
Bane, on the other hand, has a much more interesting story. In the beginning he seems like a completely 2D character – we know nothing of his background, or why he wears his mask, or how he got so big, or where he got his rather snazzy coat from. All we know is that he is big, and mean, and pissed off about something.
When Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) reveals herself to be Talia al-Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and the true architect of Bane’s occupation of Gotham City, the audience’s perceptions of Bane switch completely. It’s a truly shocking moment that turns a good film into a great film – the twist changes Bane from psychotic dictator, a man with a personal army of insane freaks willing to do anything or go anywhere for him, into a protector; a misguided hero (relatively speaking) who, with total devotion, takes over an entire city and holds it in the palm of his giant hand, ready to be crushed at her say-so.
It’s not that Bane has no say in his own actions, or that Tate has tricked him; more that she is manipulating him into acting in a way that he thinks will make her interested in him. It’s a twisted love story, and one with disturbing undertones (as a young adult, Bane rescued the then-pre-pubescent Tate from the inmates of the Pit, beginning their relationship), and a storyline that a lesser film-maker than Christopher Nolan would have had difficulty adding to an already packed film. In Nolan’s hands, it works perfectly.
If only poor Bane had grown up on the right side of the tracks, it wouldn’t be difficult to see him as a hero equal with Batman. It’s the same devotion that Bane shows to Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul as that which Batman shows to the city of Gotham, and it is ultimately his undoing.