07 August 2011

"The Dark Knight Rises" First Looks

Like any other Bat-fan, I've been waiting for our first looks at The Dark Knight Rises.  Since we live in the age of Photoshop, there have been fan made doctored photos online since The Dark Knight opened, offering speculations about which characters would be included, casting choices and even possible titles.  In the last couple of weeks, Warner Bros. have begun releasing official photos (and a teaser trailer) so I thought it was okay to take a moment and survey what we have been allowed to see and know to date.

Tom Hardy as Bane
The first released photo gives us a look at Tom Hardy as Bane.  Early reaction was that he looks like an S&M-themed wrestler, though in fairness...that's how Bane has always been described.

The Dark Knight Rises Teaser Poster
Then came the teaser poster.  We're looking upward at crumbling buildings, the Bat-logo looming over us.  It suggests a Gotham City falling apart and desperate for a champion.  That's what I first thought, and I can probably find dated evidence I said so before the teaser trailer was released.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman
Catwoman on the Batpod?  Is she that bold a thief, or is there an alliance between Bat and Cat?  Fans are irked at the absence of cat ears, but 1) we don't know there isn't a cowl of some kind that just isn't shown here and 2) I think the costume is fine without it, really.  Her hair style reminds me of Julie Newmar's appearance as Catwoman--and no matter what you think of the 1966 TV series, that's a good thing.

Rumors, Speculation and Possible Spoilers

The teaser trailer has many fans convinced that Bane will break the Batman, or at least, Bruce Wayne and that Bruce will give way to a successor under the cowl by movie's end--ostensibly, John Blake, the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  IMDb also lists Liam Neeson as reprising his role as Ra's al Ghul, with Josh Pence playing Young Ra's al Ghul and Joey King playing Young Talia al Ghul.  There's no adult Talia in the credits, but it's suspected that Marion Cotillard is playing her despite being credited as playing "Miranda Tate."  If Ra's and Talia figure into the story then it may turn out that Ra's's Lazarus Pit will be used to restore Bruce, rather than see him find a successor.  (The Lazarus Pit is a pool of special water/chemicals/ooze/whatever that can resurrect a person and has kept Ra's alive for centuries, but each time he comes back, he's less stable.)

Comic Book History of the Characters

Batman, Bane and Ra's have been tightly linked with one another in comics for several years.  Ra's long held out hope that Batman would succeed him as head of the League of Assassins.  Bruce got as far as falling in love with Ra's's daughter, Talia, with whom he had a son, Damian Wayne (the latest Robin), and has had alliances at times with Ra's, but has always rejected the idea of succeeding him.  After "Knightfall" (the story in which a Venom-fueled Bane defeated Bruce Wayne and broke his back), Bane eventually got off Venom and even teamed up with Batman to fight a Venom distributor.  Ra's tired of waiting for Bruce and tapped Bane as his heir apparent, but that didn't pan out and Bane took it as his personal mission to track down and destroy all of the Lazarus Pits across the world.  For a time, it was also speculated that Thomas Wayne was the father of both Bruce Wayne and Bane, but that didn't prove true.

Theories about the source material for the screen story has already affected back issue prices for Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15.  For further reading about stories that combine key elements, here are some suggestions:
  • Batman: Birth of the Demon - graphic novel; origin story of Ra's al Ghul
  • Batman: Son of the Demon - graphic novel; Batman and Talia marry and she becomes pregnant - mostly disavowed by mainstream continuity until a few years ago when Damian Wayne was introduced as the product of that story
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 - First appearance of Venom, a super-steroid to which Bruce Wayne becomes addicted; collected in Batman: Venom trade paperback
  • Batman: Vengeance of Bane - First appearance of Bane
  • Batman: Knightfall - 19-part crossover story collected in two trade paperback volumes that tells how Bane released all the patients at Arkham Asylum to overwhelm Batman and then, at his weakest, Bane fights him and breaks his back
  • Batman: Vengeance of Bane II - The Redemption - Following "Knightfall," Bane rehabs and gets off Venom
  • Batman: Bane of the Demon #1-4 - Bane falls in with Ra's al Ghul by way of Talia
  • Batman: Legacy - 12-part crossover in which Ra's and Bane team up to release a plague, collected in a trade paperback
  • Batman: Bane - One-shot follow-up to Legacy showcasing 
Catwoman figures into some of these crossover stories, and here's her first meeting with Bane (which takes place after the back-breaking fight between Batman and Bane):
Batman #498
Naturally, there's no reason anyone who just wants to see The Dark Knight Rises needs to ever read or even know any of this.  The film is not beholden to anything that has been published in comics, so even reading these tales of how these characters have all intertwined with one another is no guarantee that you'll have any more insight into the film than you have without reading them.  For those who may be interested to begin exploring the realm of Batman comic books, though, these are all good places to start.  Batman's sales have been good, so he's largely unaffected by DC Comics's "The New 52" relaunch, meaning that, for the most part, these stories should all still be respected as having happened in the new comics.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see my spotlight series on "The New 52."