There is a world of difference between Bane’s appearances in The Dark Knight Rises and Batman & Robin, with Hardy’s Bane getting a lot more right.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy got a lot of things right, but The Dark Knight Rises was under a lot of pressure to redeem Bane after the Batman & Robin adaptation failed him. Though it is often seen as the worst in the pre-DCEU trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is still one of the best Batman movies overall, thanks in no small part to an exceptional performance by Tom Hardy as Bane. Despite certain flaws, The Dark Knight Rises succeeded in its redemption of the iconic DC villain – the first to “break the bat.”
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The merits of Nolan’s Bane become especially vivid when held up in comparison with Schumacher’s version. Batman & Robin was lambasted when it was released in 1997 and remains one of the worst superhero movies ever made, with Bane being reduced to little more than a mindless thug under the direct sway of Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. This was an inexcusable injustice to the character from the comics, with just a few accurate features like his size and Venom dependence remaining. The Dark Knight Rises‘ Bane, however, went so much further.
The Dark Knight Rises Shows The Full Extent Of How Threatening Bane Can Truly Be
Though Batman & Robin‘s Bane was admittedly terrifying thanks to Robert Swenson’s hulking form, this was the extent of his characterization. Bane was simply a pawn for Poison Ivy to sick on enemies she couldn’t subdue with her beguiling powers, reducing him to little more than a bulwark for the otherwise physically adept Batman and Robin to struggle against in a fistfight – even if he embodied the classic tank-like villain that the slightest show of agility could run rings around. Beyond that, Bane was the kind of brainless enemy that simple, quick thinking could outmaneuver.
Hardy’s Bane, of course, was just as imposing as Swenson’s. Yet from his opening scene to his fateful first fight with Batman, Bane from The Dark Knight Rises was a chillingly fearsome presence throughout. The clumsy fighting style of Swenson’s Bane is trounced by the comparative dexterity of Hardy’s Bane, whose hulking frame was anything but a hindrance in keeping up with Batman’s prowess. This, of course, was compounded by the iconic scene that saw him defeat Batman in a brawl when no other villain could. Yet the true extent of his villainy was decidedly more cerebral.
The Dark Knight Rises Proves Bane Is As Smart As He Is Strong
The most heinous sin committed against Bane in Batman & Robin was robbing him of the keen intelligence that is just as much a part of his identity in the comics as his physical prowess. Yet this is immediately avoided in the first few moments of The Dark Knight Rises, in which Bane’s brilliant mind is laid bare, only for that brilliance to persist throughout. This culminates in Bane bringing the entire city of Gotham to heel, plunging it into an almost willful anarchy as he pulls the strings as a de facto leader.
This is where Bane comes into his own in a capacity that even measures up to Heath Ledger’s seminal depiction of Joker. Given that Bane was also able to best Batman in a tussle, this arguably made him even more threatening than the clown prince of crime. Either way, the gulf between Bane’s intelligence in The Dark Knight Rises and Batman & Robin is the most stark example of his superiority.
The Dark Knight Rises Undid Batman & Robin’s Bane Mistakes (But Made Its Own, Too)
By turning Bane into a master strategist, giving him the power to articulate his thoughts, and having him not just measure up to Batman’s hand-to-hand combat abilities, but defeat him, The Dark Knight Rises finally did justice to Bane. In fact, to anyone who isn’t aware of Bane’s comic book origins, the character was almost unrecognizable compared to the Batman & Robin iteration (were it not for a few physical similarities). Yet that is not to say that Hardy’s Bane was perfect.
One of the main criticisms leveled against The Dark Knight Rises was the twist ending that rendered Bane a pawn, after all. Being Talia Al-Ghul’s “protector” while helping to carry out her designs took away from the independent intelligence of the villain. The movie also retconned much of Bane’s compelling origin story in the comics, including deeper similarities to Batman beyond their affinity for darkness, as well as his Latin American roots. Even still, it’s safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises was responsible for the most compelling Bane adaptation yet.