“The Dark Knight Rises” and then gets his back broken over Bane’s huge knee

Bane: “I’d kill for anything. I’d kill to silence a grating voice, to darken the light in eyes that dared look at me.”

Batman: “You may well be the single greatest source of madness and evil I’ve ever faced.”

Bane: “Easily.”

The bad guy in the new Batman movie, out this summer, is Bane. Quite famously (among comic book nerds like Younger Phil and his little buddies), Bane once broke Batman’s spine. How’d he do it? Like this:

Brutal.

Now, I don’t think there’s any way this happens in the movie. For one, “The Dark Knight Rises” is apparently the last installment of a trilogy, and paralyzing Batman would be a lousy ending to this series of brilliant, beloved superhero movies. For another, Bane in the movie won’t be able to make himself as big as Bane in the comics. The actual act of actor Tom Hardy (who plays Bane) lifting Christian Bale (Batman) over his head and then bringing him down on his thigh like Jose Canseco breaking a bat after striking out would look ridiculous.

A shot from the new movie, out July 20

But there’s something we can take from the comic series (“Knightfall”) that saw Batman literally broken and launched Bane into the pantheon of awesome comic-book bad guys.

Batman is sick when Bane unleashes his evil plan to Break the Bat. Sick with, like, the flu. So Bane uses heavy fire power to break all the lunatics out of Arkham Asylum (Joker; the Riddler; the Mad Hatter; the Ventriloquist, whose sock puppets shoot police officers). Bane arms the freed bad guys immediately, then keeps tabs on the Dark Knight as he goes from one villain to another, fighting until said villain is defeated and can be returned to a pen.

Over the course of these crazy few days and nights, Batman gets swallowed by a fire, feels the “wet snap” of one of his ribs breaking, is drugged by Scarecrow and hallucinates the vicious murder – actually committed earlier by the Joker – of Robin. Batman complains of “passing blood for weeks.” He’s so sick that he can’t fight without quickly becoming exhausted, which throws off his timing. He gets attacked by a panther.

And Bane watches the whole time, waiting for the perfect moment: “When he’s ready to be broken, I will know it.”

It’s kind of fascinating to watch Batman struggle so terribly, and I imagine that’s what we’re in for in the movie. If “The Dark Knight,” the last Batman movie, was about the psychology of order – where the Joker so often ruminates on fear turning to chaos, then blows up a hospital and tries to get an entire boat of civilians to kill a different boat filled with law-breaking prisoners – “The Dark Knight Rises” could (should?) be more about physicality. It’s one thing to outwit a mentally deranged madman; it’s another to physically fight a hulking, powerful madman.

“God help me,” Batman says as he continues tracking the Arkham escapees, “I know them.” Bruce Wayne says this because he, like the psychos he’s chasing, puts on a costume and dashes about Gotham City’s alleys and rooftops. Wayne knows this is a strange thing for a person to do, and it explains why his one rule is that he will not kill anyone. (Heath Ledger’s great Joker knows this and takes full advantage.) If Batman is going to let his issues with the death of his parents (revenge) motivate his strange night hobby, he must do something to separate himself from the psychos. He can’t kill.

But restraint and morality and who knows what else all go out the window when you’ve been burned and beat up and your head hurts and a panther is attacking. Bane wants to break Batman (for awesome reasons I won’t get into here, in case it’s part of the movie), but to do that he has to exhaust Bruce Wayne, the man, until he’s so physically tired that he can’t put up a fight as he’s being lifted over Bane’s head and cracked over his knee. It’s a sad, stirring thing to see in the comic books. It will probably be even harsher in the movie.

I don’t think Batman gets paralyzed in “The Dark Knight Rises,” but he is in for a world of pain. Check out the killer poster:

And this is the new trailer that’s running with “The Avengers,” apparently. (As a quick aside, I still think I’m a little more pumped up for “Prometheus” than “Batman 3,” just because “Prometheus” is an original sci-fi movie from Ridley Scott and looks totally incredible. The sterling reviews so far for “The Avengers” suggest we’re in store for a really good summer of blockbusters.)

[UPDATE: For a conflicted review of “Dark Knight Rises” click here (for part one) and here (part two).]

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