Permission to Die
A word of fair warning to you all: I'm going to talk about the recent trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. If you don't want to hear that or are worried about spoilers, now is the time to depart.
With that out of the way, let's start with the character that is (so far) arguably at the hear of the Dark Knight Rises stuff we've seen so far: Bane. I think it's safe to say that Bane is a controversial character. It's hard to say that he's popular, but there's no question that he's unpopular in a lot of ways. Having been created in the 1990's, Bane is lacking a lot of the pedigree you get from long term Batman villains like Two-Face or the Joker.
But being chosen as the main villain of Rises shows that despite his contemporary creation, Bane has cemented himself as an important part of the modern Batman mythos. Whether you like it or not, Bane has taken over a position that has been filled with numerous characters over the years in comics: the role of the anti-Batman.
It's easy to forget that that's what Bane was meant to be in the very beginning. Too often Bane has been employed as a simple, brutish thug (due in large part to his extreme musculature and luchadore look). But when Bane was first introduced he was more than simply a physical match for Batman: he was his intellectual equal as well.
Batman has had no shortage of intellectual adversaries. In fact, you can make the argument that most of Batman's villains are designed largely to test his mental and psychological strength. And there have been a few physical adversaries as well (Killer Croc being the most notable example).
But Bane was created as someone who could take on Batman in both the physical and mental arenas and succeed. In this sense, he's one in a long line of anti-Batmans. Even his origin is a dark, twisted mirror image of Batman's own. And Rises seems to be playing this up.
We get a glimpse of what is (presumably) the prison where Bane was raised (assuming, of course, that his origin hasn't been radically tweaked). But the most telling is the image of the camo tumbler: it's safe to assume that Bane has his own -- dare I say it? -- Banemobile.
In The Dark Knight we had a villain who "just wanted to see the world burn" in the form of the Joker. Bane unquestionably wants to see Gotham in ashes. But it seems that he doesn't want to do so purely to do so. Bane is driven. It's obvious that he has an agenda and perhaps even one that many people in this "Occupy Wall Street" world might find appealing.
This is all speculation, of course. And I'm admittedly running on speculation here. But I think we're going to see a Gotham City that on the surface is doing well: crime is down and people (at least the people at the top) are prospering.
But beneath the surface the city continues to rot. And if Bane is half the strategist he is in the comics he will exploit that for his own purposes.
I've wondered quite a bit why Nolan and co. decided to change Bane's look from his classic comic look. I think it's because of what I'd alluded to earlier. That look makes Bane seem like just another thug in a long line of thugs. And while it's effective for the pages of the comics, this current mask lets us see his eyes. And while his voice may be difficult to understand, his message is clear. I don't know yet what it means, but July 20 can't come soon enough.