Two of the most critically acclaimed films of 2012 were The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. Both were the third films in their respective series, TDKR the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman series and Skyfall the third film of the rebooted 007 series, which stars Daniel Craig as James Bond. But that’s not all the two films have in common.
Thematically, both films deal with aging protagonists who have to face and overcome the reality of their failing bodies. Both Bruce Wayne and James Bond have devoted years to stopping criminals both foreign and domestic, and they’ve taken their lumps in the name of justice. Now they’re paying for it with creaky joints and crappy aim.
The films also hearken back to elements from prior films. TDKR focuses on the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul, whose story completely fell by the wayside in The Dark Knight. Batman faces his ultimate test in the form of Ra’s Al Ghul’s heir and a plot to utterly destroy Gotham City. Skyfall, on the other hand, makes multiple references to earlier 007 films (which may or may not have actually occurred in the new continuity), such as “exploding pen” jokes, a vintage Aston Martin and the use of the classic Bond theme in the soundtrack. It’s a loving homage to the classic 007 films and a glorious experience for old fans and new, just as TDKR is a powerful, fitting ending to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. However, the most fascinating parallel between the two films is the nature of the primary villains, Bane and Silva. They have a lot in common.
Although the true criminal mastermind in TDKR is Talia Al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), Bane (Tom Hardy) acts as her figurehead, and, when necessary, her muscle. He is a hulking, ruthless monster, and every time he enters a scene, all eyes are drawn to him. Every time he grasps at the lapels of his coat, the audience leans forward in anticipation of something truly brutal. But Bane’s strength is not what makes him a great villain, although it helps immensely (indeed, part of what makes TDKR exciting is that it finally provides Batman with a villain who can physically dominate him, making for epic slugfests of WWE-level proportions). Bane is extremely charismatic and highly intelligent, which makes him more than a mere bruiser. He waxes poetic and displays subtlety in his actions, and his voice is one of the most hilariously awesome things I’ve ever heard.
Silva (Javier Bardem), like Bane, is a classy kind of villain, although he looks more the part with his white suit and well-combed, platinum-blond hair. He delivers every line with a whimsical smile, which makes him all the more terrifying. He tells horrifying anecdotes about how to effectively deal with rats and plays gay chicken with a tied-up Bond. He conducts an air strike on Bond’s childhood home while blaring Eric Burdon and the Animals. Like Bane, he even has a facial disfigurement (Bane wears a clunky mask that administers painkillers and Silva wears a complex dental prosthesis). He is, in short, the epitome of the Bond villain.
|Sorry, Jaws . . .|
Here’s what makes these villains truly great: they’re hams. They are mustache-twirling, monologue-spouting, epic-scheming madmen who appreciate the finer things in life and inspire terror and other uncomfortable feelings in those around them. Bane is a fine Kretschmar ham, fresh from the deli. He is the delicate, flavorful ham all other lunchmeats aspire to be. Silva is cut from the same ham—shaved off and refined, awaiting a fresh hoagie, a slice of provolone and a kosher dill pickle spear on the side (sorry, I’m hungry). They are fantastic villains brought to life by fantastic actors, and they serve to make both films not just enjoyable but the stuff of legend. The Dark Knight trilogy may be over, but another Batman reboot is imminent with the announcement of a Justice League film in development. Likewise, a caption during the end credits of Skyfall announced that James Bond will return. But it remains to be seen whether or not these films will ever be able to match the hammy perfection of these films’ villains.
|Mmm . . . ham.|