The Dark Knight Rises comes out soon, and any geek worth his retainer figures the villain Bane will break Bruce Wayne's back so that Joseph Gordon-Levitt can assume the bat-mantle.
Spoiler alert: Maybe!
But the question isn't whether or not Christian Bale will end up in a wheelchair; it's how does paralyzation factor into Batman's goals? Because, you see, there are three inviolable rules in comic books:
What we perceive as a defeat is just Batman reverting to a less preferable form of victory. So whether he gets crippled or dies, you can be sure it's just the Dark Knight's way of getting the upper hand.
The film's trailer shows Bane whipping Gotham into alternating states of terror and rebellion. What it doesn't show are the five attributes that make Batman undefeatable.
So here's that now, because we love you.
Whoa whoa whoa -- what's this "going" business?
Who is Batman, really? Is Bruce Wayne just Batman playing dumb, or is Batman Bruce Wayne unleashing crazy? The answer: grapefruit orchestra blitz! That's right: both crazier and dumber than you guessed.
We can all agree that Bruce Wayne isn't simply pretending to be disturbed. We just can't tell if Batman is the expression of his illness or the therapy for dealing with it. Until now.
Despite the debate whether Batman is the personality-shelf where Bruce Wayne stores the crazy-plates, one thing is certain: Batman has his own absolutely crazy Batmanlier persona that he saves for the really bad trauma like dad not loving him or losing sex privileges to a supermodel.
I'm going to tell you right now; Warner Bros. owns everything
This is why the Internet loves you, Batman.
All you need to know about the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is that writer Grant Morrison made Batman into a lunatic hobo-clown guided by a spirit animal who looks like a thalidomide baby. Instead of sorely offending geeks to the point that we won't even acknowledge that bats are real animals, he penned one of the best stories Batman's ever face-stomped his way through.
There are only two possible explanations: Grant Morrison is even crazier than Batman, which we've already established is like being wetter than water ...
... OR BATMAN NEVER LOSES, and Morrison is a genius who had faith in that. He chucked Bats into the most humiliating situation possible, and the Caped Crusader found a way out of it that made him stronger. That's Batman's superpower. If you ever manage to wound the Bat, he'll bleed into your eyes and poison you, because no one shares Bruce Wayne's blood type of Vengeance-positive.
What This Means for the Movie:
Crazy cannot be defeated, it can only be diverted.
Bane has a plan to upheave Gotham. But you know who else had plans? The Waynes, Ra's Al Ghul and Harvey Dent. All of those people are dead now. You know who didn't make plans? The Joker, because he was crazy. And he survived.
It is lunacy, my friends, that settles the day in Gotham City. Sure, Bane is brilliant and powerful, but he made one mistake: He brought logic to a crazy-fight.
What was his plan if there wasn't a Moon Scorpion handy?
That's not to say Batman doesn't take charge of every situation, but he's more about the tactics than the strategy. That's why the controller configuration for Batman: Arkham City boiled down to "Break that guy's bones" and "Don't break that guy's bones yet." The only talent necessary to become Batman is to determine whether a thug needs pain, and the criterion for that is "Is he standing where Batman can see him?"
Why, he breaks his own spine for fun on weekends!
As we've established, Gotham is where plans go to die (and get stitched back together in hideous mockeries of their aspirations). That's why some people say the Joker's a perfect foil for Batman -- he's the embodiment of chaos. This view overlooks the fact that Batman is, too.
Batman wears the night as a costume and makes himself the patron saint of unknown terrors. He isn't about order; he's about control, which is much more protean. He became an avatar of the same unpredictability that ruined his life. Both hero and villain agree that life is horrifying and brutal, but the Joker wants everyone to see that there's nothing to be done for it, so you might as well laugh -- and, in fact, you might not be able to stop laughing well past the point of coughing up blood.
The Dark Knight, by contrast, knows that a diverse skill set readies a man for any situation. And in a city where the parks department poisons white swans, he's right. That's why he carries a tool in his utility belt for every predicament from shark attack to Nicki Minaj concert.
Pictured: A Nicki Minaj concert.
The Joker is a perfect foil, but only because he wants Batman to see the futility of fighting the inevitable. Like most great comedians, he offers a perfect critique of how screwed we all are, but no solutions beyond "Y'gotta laugh, right?" And Batman, like many offended audiences, keeps interrupting the act to tell him he sucks.
DC, where are my New 52 Adventures of Planetary?
Batman fought transdimensional, metafictional archeologists ... and had just the spray for that.
What This Means for the Movie:
Bane's idea for fighting an adaptive vengeance-monster is to change its environment. What are you going to do, incite Gothamites to riot? That's like trying to catch a tiger by slaughtering cows at it.
The man could find a bloody fight in a prayerbook.
Maybe Bane's plan is to raze Gotham itself. Great! Less time that Batman has to waste pretending to be Bruce Wayne. Break his back? Bruce will phone you from a hospital bed made of beautiful women and charm you into punching yourself to death.
(Oh, and good luck overthrowing the social order 20 years after any sense of order was gunned down in Crime Alley.)
What Bane fails to understand is that every moment Batman is force-feeding criminals their own spines, he's doing what he loves, and once there are no more criminals, he's getting what he wants. In any scenario, he's at least breaking even (and femurs).
"But hey, at least he won't kill you," says the rhetorical guy who lives at the end of a section in every Cracked list and never gets tired of being wrong ...
This is like a hurricane arming itself with a tornado.
You know how crooks fear Batman because they don't know he won't kill them? That's because up until the '50s he racked a body count so high that dictators consider it a little excessive. His early adventures all end with him "accidentally" tripping a crook into a vat of acid, and if that failed, he just shot them in the face for the good of society -- a classic tactic of affluent people when the underclass disturb the social order.
... you know, just like Bane intends to do.
I know you think Batman hates guns, but that's Approved by the Comics Code Authority Batman. Original Flavor only left enough gangsters alive to whisper his legend to horrified policemen. Guess which one movie Batman more closely resembles? Most of Nolan's scenes of Batman vs. mobsters are shot exactly like slasher films. Vowing never to pick up a gun doesn't stop a guy who can think of creative ways to kill you with a fierce stare.
Seriously, guys, all of this is DC
My stars, but that boy has a talent.
What This Means for the Movie:
But he doesn't do it anymore, right? Sure, except for all of the time, including when he doesn't feel like fighting. Man, monster, malevolent deity: Batman finds a justification to kill them all. Speaking of death by staring contest, here he is smiling as he assassinates God.
Batman dueled God, and God was a little too slow.
Did you see what just happened? The two most common ways of calling something fast are "in the blink of an eye" and "at the speed of light," and Batman outdrew both of them. That is not the gunplay of a man out of practice. The new metaphor for speed just became "half a Batman." And let's also note that he wielded a pistol against a god's eyebeams so the duel would be fair.
So don't think Batman won't kill you if it suits him. Bane will put up a good effort, but in the end he'll get waxed like a Brazilian surfboard. He'd better pray Tom Hardy turns in an Oscar-winning performance, because the only thing that saved Heath Ledger's Joker was charisma. Don't pretend Batman can outdraw a beam of light but can't save Two-Face from falling off a ledge. The truth is, he just didn't care to.
In fact, there's not much Batman does care about ...
Batman cares as little for nature as he does for the impropriety of disrobing with teenagers.
Batman is, at his core, a traumatized orphan: two descriptors never followed by "... and that's why he's adapting so well, socially." He surrounds himself with women he barely pretends to like at fundraisers he doesn't even pretend to manage. He does pretend to get drunk so other people will think he parties hard, but the only folks who do that are well-behaved tweens.
Say, wasn't Bruce a well-behaved tween when his life was ripped asunder?
These are not the secrets of a man with a healthy social network. If Bruce Wayne were on Facebook, he'd have 75 friends, and 55 of them would be utter strangers sending relentless FarmVille invites.
The only things he cares about are kicking ass and family ... and he's all out of family. Everything else is peripheral. Even when Nolan's Batman saves a life, it's a woman he plans to sleep with, or a rampaging murderer like the Joker, or that twerp Joffrey.
All of Westeros' problems can be blamed on Batman.
It's clear that the sanctity of human life is not Batman's prime motivation, which is researching new places to bend the human body. Sure, there was that time he rescued a couple boatloads of people, but he was also trying to salvage his reputation ... so that he could resume beating people with impunity.
The end result of this total withdrawal is that he's obligated to no one. Here's his idea of a coy exchange:
Your palpable disdain has been registered, Mr. Wayne.
Our hero didn't even have the good manners to think up a convincing lie. He just laughs off the man's worry for his well-being. "Gunshot wound? Which one? I'm always doing crazy stuff to myself. Maybe someday you'll know more, but for now, I have what I need from you." It's a lot like that girl I cared about who used to say juuuuust enough to let you know she was a cutter, then act like it was none of your business when you tried to help.
Although come to think of it, I've never seen Susan and Batman in the same filthy alley.
Ah, never mind. There they are.
What This Means for the Movie:
There's a great advantage in disinterest. It's why an athlete can be great in practice, and then choke at bat.(Though it's also because he's a football player with no idea what he's doing in a baseball stadium, but that's circumstantial, and shouldn't impact this metaphor.) Ask any live performer: Caring enough to get psyched up is a hair's breadth away from caring enough to get psyched out.
Bane invests all his energy in rewriting Gotham, whereas at the start of the film, Batman cares so little that he's retired. The only thing that can hope to defeat Batman is more Batman, or in this case, Batman's apathy. With nothing to lose and nothing to gain, he's in a perpetual zen state, whereas Bane's stacking decent odds on a choke.
Bane, are you sure Batman didn't lure you to the city and make you think all this terrorism was your idea so that he'd have the green light to batter you around?
DC, you kooky fun-factory, don't ever change
He'll solve a crime even if it ruins his chances with a dame.
You cannot stop Batman. Entire planets have tried. When Batman crosses railroad tracks, the warning lights are for the train's safety. The four fundamental interactions in physics are gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and Batman getting what he wants. In fact, the Large Hadron Collider was a waste of money, because scientists could have just as easily observed a Higgs boson particle every time Batman's balls clap against his knee.
What This Means for the Movie:
We have confidence that Christopher Nolan intends to break the Bat and show that, one way or another, a Dark Knight will always rise to defend Gotham. But as we've seen, Batman is fueled by adversity. The world's greatest detective will figure out who directed the hit on his parents, decided to murder his true love, helped the Joker devastate Gotham and pointed Bane to paralyze him. What's Nolan going to do when -- inevitably -- Bruce Wayne comes after him?
Oh, you're laughing, of course. Batman can't hurt Christopher Nolan; he's just a fictional character. Hang it all, haven't you been listening?
This is a real panel that a real editor really approved.
He's the goddamn Batman. He changes personalities more often than clothes. He can resolve any challenge without taking his hands off his belt. He kills whenever he feels like it. He does not care, and he does not stop. What, among all those traits, makes you think he'll let not being real delay him for one second from taking vengeance? If you strike him down, he'll only come back with more dimensions.
And I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Brendan McGinley tweetles on the Twooter. When voting for who played the best Batman, he stuck to his belief that Craig Ferguson kicks more ass than the Dark Knight.
For more from Adam, check out 7 Comic Characters Who Outlasted the Trends That Made Them and 5 Ways the '90s Made Us Strong .
Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.