Meet Batman's New Super-Foe

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 20 2011 10:24 AM

Meet Batman's New Super-Foe

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Photograph of Tom Hardy by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Warner Bros. Pictures announced yesterday that Oscar-nominated actress Anne Hathaway will co-star opposite Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's much-anticipated Dark Knight sequel, The Dark Knight Rises. The big news for Batfans, however, is that after months of feverish speculation, Rises has finally announced its villains: Hathaway as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), and Inception's Tom Hardy as Bane. Wait—Tom Hardy as who?

Bane, in a nutshell, is a brawn-and-brains double threat with an unhealthy addiction to a "super-steroid" called Venom. While his backstory varies, he was first imagined—in the 1993 comic "Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1"—as an autodidact who escapes from a Central American prison after involuntary medical experiments turn him into a Herculean freak. His other addiction, besides Venom: breaking backs. Bane's most notorious feat is snapping Batman's spine—leaving the Caped Crusader in a wheelchair—in the 1993 comics series Knightfall , and he's gone on to break several other backs since, including that of Batman's fellow DC superhero Judomaster in the bestselling 2005 story arc Infinite Crisis. (This 7-issue series includes Bane's moving cri de coeur, "I finally know who I am. I am Bane. I break people.") In the 2008 Travellers Tales videogame Lego Batman, Bane can defeat the favorite son of Gotham by breaking him into his component pieces—a move known as the " Atomic Backbreaker."

Bane has actually made an appearance in the Batman films before. In the infamously rubber-nippled Batman & Robin, director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman reduced Bane to a brain-drained meathead henchman (played by Jeep Swenson). While Hardy, the English actor, is nostranger to building up bulk, in Nolan's less fantastical, more psychologically-terrorized Gotham Bane seems as likely to fight with his signature smarts as with his juiced-up biceps.

As for Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, fans shouldn't worry about the Devil Wears Prada actress: The future femme fatale has proven herself more than capable of communicating the requisite allure and hostility. And at the very least, she has to be better than Halle Berry.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.