“Bruce. Why do we fall down?”
Bruce Wayne spends the majority of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Saga flat on his back. After his parents’ death in Batman Begins, he tries to pull himself back up—to channel his pain and anger into something useful, to become a beacon of hope for those less fortunate than himself. But his violent, self-destructive lifestyle drags him back into the abyss again and again: in The Dark Knight, the Joker crushes his dreams of a peaceful, happy, normal life; in The Dark Knight Rises, the sadistic Bane casts him into a literal pit from which no man can escape. And every time he falls, he crawls back to the cape and cowl, reopening the same old wounds once more.
The early scenes of The Dark Knight Rises find Bruce at his lowest point. In the eight years since the events of The Dark Knight, his scars—both physical and psychological—have reduced him to a hollow shell of his former self. He lives as a recluse, aimlessly wandering the vast halls of Wayne Manor, hobbling on a cane—a reminder of his greatest failures. He could seek medical treatment, but chooses not to; he embraces the pain, needs it. He claims that he’s “retired” The Batman, but the ache that inspired the symbol lingers, unresolved—as Alfred repeatedly points out, he refuses to move on.
He’s not the only one: after suffering a lifetime of torture and despair in a cold, dark, hellish prison, Bane—who depends on a steady diet of anesthetic gas to ease his chronic, crippling pain—turns his rage and hatred against the helpless citizens of Gotham. Despite his brute strength and cunning intellect, Bane is thoroughly broken in mind, body, and spirit—a warped reflection of the Caped Crusader. Bruce’s battle with this fanatical terrorist will force him to rethink his father’s sage advice… and learn what it really means to pick himself up.
[Originally written July 23, 2012.]