Meet the New Bat-Guys


The following contains spoilers for various movies about Batman.

In terms of the often rocky relationship between so-called fanboys and the filmmakers who turn the objects of their fandom into movies, Christopher Nolan quite simply gets away with murder.

So eager was the geek community to purge its consciousness of the lesser third and fourth Batman films with Batman Begins – and so grateful are they for his shoving the genre toward respectability with The Dark Knight – that it’s ready and willing to forgive him for transgressions of adaptation that one imagines would be met with howls of rage were they to be the work of any filmmaker not named Christopher Nolan.

The Joker wears makeup instead of just looking like that? Ra’s al Guhl isn’t really immortal? Two-Face only shows up at the end, and then dies right away!? And let’s not forget the open secret that Warner/DC’s various nudgings toward comic-style inter-property continuity – from George Miller’s Justice League movie to the planned presence of a young Bruce Wayne on Smallville – have thus far all failed to materialize because of Nolan’s insistence on keeping his Batman a stand-alone enterprise.

Given the way fans of such characters tend to react to both change and missed opportunities, you really have to wonder if there’s a breaking point. Is there a point at which Nolan and company’s penchant for a stripped-down mythology, radical revisionism and a narrowly-focused, sci fi/fantasy-free Gotham City will finally cause fandom’s biggest free pass to get revoked, sending Nolan tumbling down from his perch as the God-King Who (Almost) Got Batman To The Oscars to become another mere mortal filmmaker?

We may be about to find out.

In case you missed it, Warner Bros. has revealed the two new villains and the actors who’ll embody them in Nolan’s upcoming 3rd-and-final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Anne Hathaway is Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, while Tom Hardy is Bane. Yup, there’s your lineup: Catwoman and Bane.

They’re both pretty surprising choices (in Bane’s case it’s an outright WTF) but neither one seems inherently unworkable. Still, if you’d have asked me yesterday for a shortlist of characters I’d never have expected to see turn up in this series, they’d both have been on it. My reasons would’ve been varied, but there’s one thing they’d have in common: They both represent, in rather unavoidable ways, material that Christopher Nolan has openly shied away from both in his general filmography and his Batman movies in particular. In other words, they could both go wrong in at least two ways: A.) Proper realization turns out to be outside Nolan’s grasp, or B.) Integrating them into Nolan’s vision of the mythos requires changes that fans just won’t cotton to.

Of course, there’s also option C.) Nolan really is that good, sticks the landing, and everyone goes home happy. We shall see. I’m optimistic, so for now let’s just call this an intellectual exercise. Here’s some background on both characters, where they come from, why it’s an unexpected choice and how it could go. Enjoy!

Recommended Videos




Like most characters originating in the Golden Age (pre-WWII) of comics, Catwoman’s origin story is kind of a jumbled mess. The basics have stayed the same (real name Selina Kyle, sexy cat-themed outfit, cat-burglar, ha ha get it?) but everything else is pretty much a guessing game. She’s notable for having been “too sexy” to survive the comics censorship of the 50s and early 60s, returning only after the character’s revival on the Adam West Batman TV series made her too popular not to publish. (Other major characters rescued from obscurity by that series include Riddler, Penguin and Mr. Freeze – a fact that some fans like to forget because it doesn’t fit with the silly “that show killed Batman!” narrative that’s been pushed on us since the grim n’ gritty era began.)

Since 1987, her canonical origin has been that she’s a former prostitute – mostly because the origin was written by Fallen Creator poster boy Frank Miller, who remains largely unaware that there are jobs for women other than prostitute – and the outfit started out as some sort of repurposed S&M/fetish gear. Loathe as I am to give Miller credit for the way he approaches female characters, that makes a certain amount of sense, but don’t be surprised if it’s found to be too “hard” for a PG-13 summer movie.

Why She’s a Surprise

Okay, on one level she’s not. She’s well-established as the Batman villainess, and she’s on the shortlist of supporting characters you simply need right up there with Joker, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred (I’d put Robin there, too, but that’s another column.)

But on another level, yeah, color me surprised. Nolan etc. haven’t been known for going the obvious route on these things. After all, they opened with Ra’s al Guhl and Scarecrow, so it stands to reason that “you gotta have Catwoman!” was something they’d plausibly shrug off. There’s also the matter of the character’s tainted history – does Warner Bros. want to risk reminding everyone of a character most-recently associated with Halle Berry’s epic act of career suicide?

And then there’s the question of how, if at all, she fits into the Nolan-ized Gotham City, at least what we know of it thus far. This current crop of Batman films demand realism and real-world explanations for all the odd goings-on by directorial fiat – the standard handwave of “it’s a superhero movie; crooks dress like animals here” doesn’t pass muster with the Brothers Nolan, which is problematic because “it’s a superhero book” is pretty much the only reason why Selina Kyle is “Catwoman” instead of “Girl Thief in a Ski Mask.”

Then there’s the more base question. Catwoman, as a character, is built around one thing: sexuality. And sexuality – aggressive female sexuality in particular – is almost completely absent from Nolan’s oeuvre, and when it is there it’s usually a hindrance or an annoyance. His recurring theme tends to be no-nonsense masculine professionalism undone by chaotic feminine influence (see: Inception). It’s not necessarily a critique, merely an observation. Compared to blockbuster-level guys whose work is more erotically charged (think Zack Snyder or James Cameron) or at least romantically attuned (Spielberg, Fincher, etc.) Christopher Nolan might be the most sexless major filmmaker in Hollywood. What does he want – and what would he do – with a character that’s all about libido?

Can It Work?

Anne Hathaway. Rubber catsuit. Yeah, that can work. That can work just fine.

Could It Go Wrong?

Rubber catsuit? Whoa, cowboy, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “I’m dressed as a kitty… just because” doesn’t really seem to fit director Nolan’s carefully constructed ultra-real vision, so who says they’ll bother with it? The big press release only called her “Selina Kyle,” not “Catwoman,” after all. I wouldn’t be surprised at all for the Nolan-ized Catwoman to simply be “Selina Kyle: Lady Criminal Who Maybe Owns Some Cats.”

Would that be epic fail in and of itself? Not necessarily, no. But would cheating fandom out of the sight of one of its all-time most-adored fetish idols in the IMAX-projected flesh be the sort of breaking point that could turn them on the once criticism-proof Nolan? Yeah, I think it could. Let’s be blunt here: Catwoman isn’t beloved for her sparkling personality, and no one at DeviantArt is currently blistering their mouse -fingers photoshopping Anne Hathaway into some some generic sweats-and-knit-cap burglar ensemble.




His real name unknown, Bane was initially pitched as an evil version of Doc Savage – the famous pulp hero who conquered evil by being a master of multiple intellectual and physical disciplines. Born and raised in a brutal South American prison, he’s a self-educated genius and self-taught master-combatant who was subsequently the subject of an experiment to test “Venom” – a chemical super-steroid that allows him to transform into a Hulk-like muscle-bound behemoth. You may or may not already have seen versions of him in the various Batman cartoons and the infamous Batman & Robin movie. He wears a face-concealing mask reminiscent of a Luchador, and is generally assumed to be of Latin American descent.

In the 90s, comics fell in love with gimmicky “event” crossovers built around killing or mortally wounding major characters. Knightfall was Batman’s turn on the ride, and for some reason it was newbie Bane who did the deed rather than, say, Joker. This is, literally, the only interesting or noteworthy thing about Bane. See also: Doomsday, another unremarkable character only remembered because he was created to “kill” Superman.

Why He’s a Surprise

Bane sucks. If I was going to write a book about how and why the superhero genre fell completely in the toilet in the 1990s, Bane would be on the cover. That this will be (one of?) the big heavies that Christian Bale’s version of Batman will end his run fighting is nothing short of baffling – the sort of thing that the “Must Trust Nolan” mantra exists for. I couldn’t be more, well, gobsmacked by superhero movie news if you were to tell me that Verne Troyer was playing Luke Cage.

Looking at it objectively, on the other hand … it’s still completely out of left field. Team Nolan is supposed to have previously vetoed characters like Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy for being too far into the realm of the fantastic, but an ogre-sized brute with chemical tubes sticking out of his neck gets in? Does. Not. Compute. And let’s not start on the “why is he wearing the mask” thing.

Sure, they could simplify him into just being really, really strong (Tom Hardy has packed on the muscle before) but in that case what’s he actually going to do? I don’t care how much you work out, Nolan’s Batman is wearing an exoskeleton that lets him rip cars open – killer biceps ain’t gonna save you. So we’re possibly looking at a top-to-bottom, in-name-only reimagining, in which case why bother? Unless…

Can It Work?

Bane is important among Batman foes for one reason: He broke Batman’s back, coming as close as anyone other than Darkseid – a literal god – has come to actually killing him. That’s it. There’s no other reason anyone gives a damn.

So let me just say this: If The Dark Knight Rises were to actually end with Bruce Wayne crippled or even dead – story over, no spinoff, no continuation, Batman loses because that’s the only logical conclusion of a gritty realism approach to a costumed vigilante – Christopher Nolan will have proven himself to have biggest, brassiest balls of anyone who ever made a superhero movie, and I would be thrilled to sit in an opening-night theater and watch the audience be blown through the back of their chairs.

Yeah … that’s probably not gonna happen. Y’know what else might be fun? If Batman got taken out at the start of the movie, and the whole plot is Gotham going to hell until everyone realizes how much they needed Batman so it’s all forgiven when he turns up again at the end. (hence, “Rises.”)

Could It Go Wrong?

A popular, yet empty, relic of the worst excesses of the 90s comic scene as the toplining heavy in the third installment of a previously airtight superhero franchise? Nah, that’s never backfired …

The Escapist is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article About the Amazing Spider-Man, I Told You So
Read Article Historical Blindness?
Read Article Fantastic?
Related Content
Read Article About the Amazing Spider-Man, I Told You So
Read Article Historical Blindness?
Read Article Fantastic?
Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.