No longer do we have to make completely random and ill-structured guesses about the third Batman film based on vague rumours and hints. Now we can make our random and ill-structured guesses with information that’s rock solid!
Of course, today’s the day that we’ve found out official casting on Christopher Nolan’s simmering third Batman film, now titled The Dark Knight Rises. Aside from Christian Bale (and the presumed presence of Michael Caine, who’s ended up even more of a Nolan fixture than Bale has), the only confirmed name we had was Inception and Bronson star Tom Hardy:
(Yes, he also played Picard clone Shinzon in the diabolically awful Star Trek: Nemesis, but I’m willing to forgive and forget). I was happy when I heard about this – Hardy is continuing to impress, and was one of the best things about Inception (managing to make the fact that Eames the Forger really wasn’t much of a role seem completely irrelevant, and being hugely engaging as well). And we didn’t even know who he was playing.
Well, now we do. The guesses flying around the internet said ‘Hugo Strange’ (a psychological lesser-known Batman villain, obsessed with the Dark Knight to the extent of actually wanting to be him), but it turns out Strange is in the new Batman: Arkham City game that’s on its way soon. Instead, and rather surprisingly, he’s playing this character:
Bane – who didn’t feature in any guesses, simply because you don’t instinctively look at Tom Hardy and think “There lies a man who’ll look fantastic in spandex and a Luchadore mask”. He’s a Latin American criminal genius who used to be fuelled by a highly addictive super-strength inducing drug called Venom, and is probably best known for being responsible for crippling Batman during the epic ‘Knightfall’ comic saga back in the mid-Nineties. Since then, he’s had a fairly complex history, and now regularly appears in Gail Simone’s highly acclaimed comic title Secret Six. No, the costume isn’t ideal, and neither is the fact that Bane has actually appeared onscreen before, in the hypnotically awful Batman and Robin in 1997, when he looked like this:
I don’t think we need to start worrying, though – Bane wasn’t the first potential villain that leapt to mind, but dodgy costume aside (and Nolan’s films have happily redesigned costumes and looks – just look at the Joker…) I can see a tweaked version of him fitting into Nolan’s universe. In fact, I’d lay bets that they may be using ‘Knightfall’ as one of their loose starting points (In the same way that Batman Begins played with some aspects of Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight echoed both Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: The Killing Joke without being actual adaptations). It’s a story I enjoyed the hell out of back in 1994 – not without its problems, but it was a damn sight more exciting than any Batman films we’d had recently (especially after the headache-inducing Batman Forever). The setup is that Bane, hungry to take control of Gotham, targets Batman as a ‘fitting adversary’, works out that he’s Bruce Wayne and then sets about systematically destroying his life, culminating in a brutal fight in the Batcave where he breaks Batman’s back. I don’t expect to see any of that directly in the film, but considering that the Nolan version of Batman is already an official fugitive from justice and being directly hunted by police, echoes of ‘Knightfall’ could potentially play very nicely.
We also got the not-very-surprising revelation that Catwoman is in – considering she’s about one of the only remaining members of Batman’s gallery of villains who’d fit smoothly into Nolan’s steely take on the Dark Knight mythos, it really wasn’t a case of if they were going to announce it, but when. Again, it’ll fit the Batman-on-the-run vibe, probably throwing the two of them together on the wrong side of the law. And we’ve got an actress cast:
Anne Hathaway, the one thing that prevented me from trying to claw my own eyes out while having to review the grotesquely horrible live action Shrek wannabe Ella Enchanted (for SFX, many moons ago…). Hathaway is a really good actress – she was one of only a couple of names on the ‘shortlist’ flying around on the internet a while back who I looked at and thought “Yes, that’ll work”. While she has appeared in her fair share of souffle-light chick flicks and she’s not exactly a physical chameleon (Let’s just say – her attempt to look plain in the early scenes of The Devil Wears Prada weren’t going to nab her any Oscars), she’s an extremely good actress, and I’d offer up Rachel Getting Married as proof.
She’s really, really good in the film, carrying off a chain-smoking ex-junkie in a note-perfect and brilliantly emotional turn, and I think there’s the potential for a really interesting take on Catwoman from her. It’s one of those roles that everybody has a view on, and there’ll be tons of debate on her suitability over the next eighteen months until the movie opens, but considering how different and daring and yet utterly true to the character The Dark Knight’s take on the Joker was, I think we can safely rely on Nolan throwing a few curveballs in and not giving us a replay of Michelle Pfieffer in Batman Returns (not that many would complain about that), or a safe, watered down version of Catwoman. And whatever happens, whether Nolan does manage to trump The Dark Knight or not – she’s going to make a much better Catwoman than Halle Berry…