So. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. A tale of loss, darkness, fear and redemption - and, of course, Batman - it's quickly (and deservedly) become one of the most beloved and iconic film series' of all time.
It's also, though, the source of a whole lot of fan debate, especially over whether one installment or another is the best, or the most important. A large part of that debate centers on The Dark Knight Rises - the final film of the trilogy - and whether or not it provided a satisfactory end to the series.
Now, though, a fan theory has emerged, fresh from the mind of Redditor ciociosanvstar - and it might just redefine the whole damn movie.
Bane Was on Batman's Side All Along
Now, that's not to say that Batman knew anything about it, though. Instead, the theory goes, Bane believed in Batman, just like Gotham did in Harvey Dent - and all of his actions in the movie are dedicated not to punishment, or to destruction, but to restoring Gotham's faith in the Batman.
Sound a little far-fetched? Well - just take a look at how it plays out...
Bane Believes in Batman
As ciociosanvstar puts it:
"Bane is, in many ways, a bizarro sort of Batman. He is extremely intelligent, he's iron willed, he's physically powerful, and he's got a justice agenda of his own that got him kicked out of the League of Shadows."
Though he comes from a very different background to our hero, the apparent villain shares one other key trait with Bruce Wayne: He believes in Batman, and in his ability to - as a symbol - inspire those around him, and throughout Gotham.
In the eight years in between the events of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, though, Batman has disappeared, and is seen by most as a murderous vigilante. The crime rate is down, and the city seems peaceful.
Under the surface, though, the same problems still exist, just in hiding. As Selina Kyle argues:
"There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."
Bane Has a Plan
And that plan, so the theory goes, is this:
1) Convince Batman that Gotham needs him.
2) Convince Batman that he is far more powerful as a symbol than as the man behind the mask.
3) Convince Gotham that it needs Batman.
And, in so doing, finally give Gotham the chance to be free of crime.
How that plan is implemented, though, is where the theory gets really interesting.
Bane Needs to Convince Batman that Gotham Needs Him
Which he does in intensely dramatic fashion - by conquering the whole city, no less, and isolating it from the police. After which, Batman has no choice but to face his responsibilities to his city, and to come out of retirement.
That, though, isn't enough. First...
Bane Needs to Convince Batman That He Isn't Immortal
Hence the whole 'breaking Batman's back' thing. Bane needs to prove to the man beneath the mask that he is fallible, and could die. By doing so, he forces Bruce Wayne to see that while he himself may be breakable, what he represents as Batman doesn't have to be. As a symbol, Batman can be more than just one man.
So, he leaves Bruce to recover in the pit, and in so doing challenges him to rise up - not as the vengeful Bruce Wayne, but as Gotham's champion, Batman.
Bane Needs to Convince Gotham that it Needs Batman
Which has partly been achieved by Bane conquering the whole city - but it's also the key reason why Bane chooses to read out Commissioner Gordon's letter, revealing the truth about Harvey Dent and Two-Face (and that Batman is innocent). As ciociosanvstar suggests:
"He shows Gotham that Dent is a false face of justice, and that Batman really is the hero. Bane didn't have to do things this way. He knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. He could have told Gotham, but he keeps Bruce's secret and allows Batman to truly rise."
It's why he says to the people of Gotham:
"Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please."
Namely, so that when the city is plunged into chaos, they see that they need not only a protector, but a moral figurehead, too.
The Crucial Fourth Part of the Plan
That, though, still leaves out a key part of the movie - The League of Shadows.
Who, the twist ending reveals, Bane has been working with the whole time.
Unless, of course, he was in fact manipulating them all along - forcing them into one final, doomed assault that would end with their destruction. The resulting lack of an evil organization dedicated to Gotham's destruction would leave Gotham free to improve itself under the shadow of Batman's inspiration, without needing any of the actual superheroism.
What About the Ending, Though?
Or, rather, that whole bit where Bane is about to shoot Batman in the head.
Y'know, this one:
Now, the question then is this: Why would Bane actually try to kill Batman if his intention was to set him up as an icon all along?
Well, there are - it seems to me - four different ways that the theory could still hold. After all, Bane seems surprisingly reluctant to kill Batman in that there clip. So, it's possible that:
1) Bane didn't intend to kill Batman at all - and simply didn't factor in Catwoman's intervention. We just missed out on his big speech, since she shoots him.
2) Bane feels he needs to test Batman at every hurdle, and if he's forced to kill him to maintain this, then he will.
3) Bane had intended to set Batman up as a Harvey Dent-style figure, who is an icon precisely because he's dead (after all, he couldn't have known that Bruce Wayne was dreaming of moving to Italy with Selina Kyle).
4) Bane had intended to kill the original Batman, and to take his place as the hero.
Now, if any of those were correct, then Bane would also presumably have had a plan to avoid the final scenes of the movie by providing a way to defeat Talia al Ghul - explaining why she already left before he tries to 'kill' Batman.
All of which means...
Bane is Secretly a Hero
If, admittedly, kind of a murderous, destructive one - but one whose ultimate goal is achieved, even if he does seem pretty dead.
It also solves a few key problems people have raised with the film - from the fact that Batman's escape from the pit would actually have been way easier than he made it look (presumably Bane set it up to be, and Bruce was just being stubborn about it), to the fact that the twist ending relegates the movie's main villain to sidekick status behind Marion Cotillard's Talia.
Plus, it ties the whole movie in with the epic, chaotic scheming of The Dark Knight - and arguably makes Bane a comparably epic villain to The Joker.
And, after all, Bane pretty much tells us, early in the movie, that he's not really the bad guy. As he says to John Daggett, after being accused of being evil...
"I'm necessary evil."
And that, in his grand logic, is a whole different thing...
The big question, though? What do you guys think?
Was Bane secretly pulling the strings in The Dark Knight Rises?