What Bruce Wayne lacks in superpowers, he makes up for in psychological warfare. A genius tactician, his guise of Batman is a masterclass in intimidation, deception and illusion. The Dark Knight is much more than a skilled combatant — he's also a master of the construction of fear by striking panic in his opponents.
Yet there is one definitive moment in Batman's onscreen history where all of those tactics look measly, where his usually reliable repertoire of smoke bombs and Batarangs has the same impact as a bead of sweat in the Pacific Ocean. That moment occurs in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), when Batman fights Bane.
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There are physical reasons why Batman's usual tactics are so ineffectual. Nolan's third instalment in the Dark Knight trilogy depicted a jaded and formerly retired Bruce Wayne who was struggling with injury (he needs mechanical support on his leg to stand, let alone fight). But the real reason this scene stands out is due to a deliberate filming technique.
The Framing Of The Battles Of Batman
A Reddit theory picked up on the contrast between the Bane fight, and the typical conflict across the rest of the Dark Knight trilogy. Generally, the scenes are quickly cut together, disorientating and hard to follow. Although some have criticized this approach, the theory suggests that throughout Nolan's trilogy, the fight scenes are depicted from the point of view of the villain, and not Batman himself.
It may've went under the radar for many fans, but this was confirmed by Christopher Nolan in a making of feature on Batman Begins (2005). During an interview, Nolan confirmed he felt it was important that battles with The Batman were shown from the criminals' perspective. He said:
"We spent a lot of time determining exactly how much of Batman to show, how much of his fighting to show. I had always looked to a representation of Batman that would be more from the criminals point of view. You would see less of him. You'd see him as more frightening. There'd be more suspense as to what he was doing and where he was. That meant seeing less of him and cutting fight scenes very fast so Batman is seen as blindly quick and aggressive, and almost animal like in the way he takes on criminals."
Throughout the trilogy, with many henchmen, the above devices were used. However, the difference with Bane is that he too is highly trained by the League of Shadows, is comfortable in the dark and doesn't fear Batman in the way most do. That's reflected by the deviation from subtly to showing the build up to the battle. Bane is shot from below, making him look commanding. The shots are edited slowly, so the viewer can see clearly what is going on.
The biggest indication that the scene is depicted from Bane's point of view comes after Batman throws his ineffectual (and frankly ridiculous looking) smoke bomb. Tom Hardy's Bane responds:
"Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated... but we are initiated, aren't we Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows."
The extra layer to the fight scenes makes one of the few criticized aspects a clever cinematic device. Although the MCU transformed superhero movies from 2008 onwards, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy rejuvenated the genre, providing a series of movies that were wide reaching, critically acclaimed and even Oscar worthy. It even made the small sum of $2.4bn at the box office.
The DCEU Taking A Different Direction
Despite being left with a big cape and cowl to fill, many praised Ben Affleck portrayal of Batman in this year's Batman v Superman, in particular the brutal fights scenes. In comparison to Bale's combat in the Dark Knight trilogy, Snyder uses a jarring soundtrack to create suspense and shows much more of Batman than Nolan does. While there are elements of stealth, the editing is generally longer shot and easier to decipher.
Applying Nolan's technique to the DCEU is interesting. In BvS, the biggest difference — which caused some controversy — is that Affleck's incarnation isn't hesitant to kill. This is reflected in the editing style: Although initially disorientating, Batman relies more on brute force than subterfuge.
Furthermore, elements of Nolan's technique have been adopted and enhanced in Suicide Squad. The dynamic of DC's antihero offering essentially rendered Batman the villain, and this different perspective is something director David Ayer was conscious of. In an interview with Collider, he said:
"If you look at what Bruce Wayne has done in creating the Batman persona, his idea was to terrorize criminals. It's sort of psychological warfare against criminals. This wraith that comes in the night and attacks and pulls criminals from society. For the first time, we're seeing Batman from the point of view of the criminals and he's freaking scary."
It'll be interesting to see the direction Batman takes following on from Suicide Squad, when he returns in next year's Justice League. The added input of the supernatural may make it difficult for Wayne to rely on his tried and tested technique of intimidation, but where there's a will, there's a way — the proof is in the battle.
Which fight scene was the best?