13 January 2013

Because it's Ripe for Parody: The Character of Bane

It seems as if we've lately had a second rush of articles featuring The Dark Knight Rises (2012). By this point it's completed its theatrical run and everyone got a copy of it on Blu Ray for Christmas and has watched it forty times. Some of you may have even gotten the entire Nolan Trilogy. At this point we've settled our feelings and half of us seem to detest the final entry that could never live up to The Dark Knight (2008) while others appreciate the grandiose exit and bow on the part of Chris and Christian. At any rate, it's time to talk about the muscle head himself, Bane.

Like Heath Ledger's Joker before him, Bane is the most captivating part of his Batman film, for good or ill. His presence was most effective in IMAX where his voice was clear, loud, and shook deeper and stronger than any other sound in the film. Outside of that clarity, though, his voice tends to get muffled or misinterpreted, which is ripe for easy parody. We're not really concerned with that though, because 1) despite the haters, his voice isn't all that incomprehensible, and 2) if it's an easy joke to make we might as well avoid it and strive for something a little deeper.

So let's focus on two major Bane parodies as of late that work really well. They are helped by the proliferation of DVD materials and plenty of opportunity to re-edit, find sets, and play around. Both derive their humour from placing Bane in unfamiliar situations, thereby accentuating the fact that he's really a pretty weird dude. That is where the major humour comes from - not from his voice itself, but from what that voice is saying as a reflection of his intense character juxtaposed in more banal situations. Such an attempt emphasizes the absurdity of the existence of Bane himself. In the first parody, Bane, as played by Chris Kattan somehow (and he has such dedication to the role) finds a job as a telemarketer post-TDKR, courtesy of Funny or Die. This forces his personality to adapt to a mediocre life in Gotham where his skills of fighting in the dark and killing nuclear physicists help him no longer. Take a gander:

Yes, that is THAT Chris Kattan. Mango himself. He's apparently back from Bollywood and is now doing Funny or Die videos. He strangely pulls off Bane, or at least a Bane who hasn't worked out in a while. It's kind of strange, because Kattan has the exact opposite body that Bane has. This hasn't really convinced me that Kattan is worth paying attention to at all, because his career after A Night at the Roxbury (1998) has seemed to go in the opposite direction of co-star Will Ferrell's. I'm sorry, Chris, I give no love to Corky Romano. But that's not the point here, the point is really a postmodern interpretation of Bane - applying identical vocal mannerisms to mundane office situations while simultaneously subtracting him of all power and intimidation by lifting him out of his comic book movie surroundings results in a damn funny three minutes.

The second parody, the Auralnauts Outtakes Edit focuses on Bane's quest to introduce healthier eating habits to Gotham, which is beyond hysterical. It works through an overdub of Bane's voice while retaining some of the other characters' dialogue, but in some cases everything is switched. It is also a clever edit by playing around in some places, such as giving him a reaction to the "You suck, Bane!" and pausing on Batman's face while he blares "Pump the Jam" in the Batpod. Such a moment in the film is meant to elicit deep introspection on the character of Batman fulfilling his inital goal of becoming a symbol for Gotham. Instead, a clever music choice totally changes the moment into insane patheticism, and one that will stay with me the next time I watch TDKR for real. Here is the whole thing:

Both of these work because Nolan so carefully crafted the mysteriousness of the Bane character. Like the Joker, he seemingly appears out of no where with no other purpose than to be who he is. It's what Bruce Wayne is forcing himself to be, and who he'd like to be in his own world (he gets the greatest conflict of this in Batman Begins [2005] where Alfie repeatedly chastises him for ignoring his father's legacy and "Bruce Wayne's friends" over Batman) Separating the identity between man and costume is an integral theme to any superhero work (mostly). Both Bane and the Joker have no use for this, which again, makes them perfectly dangerous enemies for Bruce.

There's this disconnect between Bane and the real world, which works great in the film. Part of a major criticism of TDKR seems to be how Bane can suddenly find out so much about Bruce Wayne, where his R&D is, and how he can show up halfway across the world to taunt Bruce in prison. Likewise we may question how Bruce was able to travel back to Gotham and make a big fiery bat signal so quickly and with great timing. These aren't problems though - they further the myth of both characters and heightens their mystery and the extent of their abilities.

But back to that disconnect - Bane's actions and motivations are so crazily out there that placing him in mundane situations such as trying to ask out a girl at the office or discussing fiber with a client become hilarious. It's humour by way of showing how intense and melodramatic the guy is. The Dark Knight Rises is worth another look, Bane being the major reason why.

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