One of the things I enjoy most about The Dark Knight Rises is the parallel track of lives that Batman and Bane lived to get to their respective stations in life. If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know that character tracks like that fascinate me.
Since Rises functions as a thematic direct sequel to Batman Begins, it’s important to think past all of the fun with the Joker and back to what made Batman who he is (at least in Nolan’s take on the character). Bruce Wayne had lost his way in trying to craft himself as the avatar of justice and it was the League of Shadows that took him in to help him complete the journey.
Batman rejects their methods, believes them destroyed, and so on.
When we meet Bane all those years later in Rises, we realize he’s everything Batman was supposed to be for the League of Shadows; despite his devotion he is the son who was rejected by Ra’s al Ghul, and Batman was his replacement.
Bane has no secret name because he is fully consumed by the cause. Batman has need for the secret because he has a reason beyond the cause.
Bane is Batman’s Belloq. It would take only a nudge to knock Batman out of the light and turn him into Bane. Where the Joker was Batman’s opposite, Bane is Batman’s complement.
Variations on a Theme
They both want a better world, cleansed from its evil. Batman is the one who questions the methods though. Both were taught that to build anew you must burn down. That is what Batman rejects. He believes that the new world can be built without destroying the old.
Bane inspires through fear; Batman inspires through will and hope. In the fight in the sewer, you wonder if the members of the League of Shadows that they would follow Batman just as easily as they have followed Bane because fear does not buy real allegiance.
Bane, like Darth Vader, kills men for incompetence. This is the life they have known. Perhaps if they were offered a better option in how to save the world, they would take it.
But alas, Bane maintains control. His focus on destroying the man who took his destiny from him gives him the will to succeed, at least for a time.
Bane’s obsession with Batman is so rich in this context! In fact, it’s what makes his actions sensible when he decides not to kill Batman when he can.
He would rather keep him alive because, since Ra’s is dead, he wants to prove his worth to the one who’s left. Batman is Daddy by Proxy in this circumstance, and Bane is doing to him everything he wishes he could do to the late al Ghul. He breaks him, he humiliates him and he keeps him alive so that he can watch his dreams die.
In fact, it’s conceivable that he will drive Batman mad and make him into what the League always wanted. The thing that he’s fought against becoming ever since he “adopted the darkness.”
As Bane says himself, it’s a fate worse than death.
Additional Variations and Notes
In this interpretation the real head of the League is probably using this ultimate leverage to drive him. I think you could make an argument that they remain obsessed with Gotham–which, mind you, Batman has gone to great lengths to change from the horrible pit it was–because it is an added motivator for Bane.
When you add in the fact that Batman is given consummation with Bane’s great love, this has to be maddening to him. It’s a reminder of everything he wanted to be, or could have been, but will never have no matter what he accomplishes.
So what do you think? I enjoy this read on the characters but wonder if there is another interpretation you saw that adds to your own enjoyment.
Comment away if you will!