I may be overreading the language of finality in the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, but it sure does look like Chris Nolan is leading up to having Bane break Batman’s back and leave him a paraplegic, doesn’t it?
If Nolan does go there, I don’t think he deserves infinite credit — he would, after all, just be replicating the original storyline — but he’d be smarter than past interpreters of Bane. And I think it would be of a piece with Nolan’s extreme skepticism about the long-term viability of the whole superhero project. Ra’s al Ghul isn’t an entirely unsympathetic character in Batman Begins — he’s right that Gotham keeps breeding new and major governance and corruption problems, and neither his genocidal solution nor Batman’s proposal of constant struggle seems terribly appealing. In The Dark Knight, that ongoing struggle isn’t viable unless Batman makes certain ethical compromises that cost him allies — and even then, goodness from unexpected sources helps save the day. And maybe The Dark Knight Rises will be about the fact that no matter how much cool technology you buy, or no matter how far you venture into your own personal heart of darkness, if your strategy for fighting evil is to put yourself between your city and the people who threaten it, you become the target, and someone will come along who can break you. If you just have to flip Harvey Dent, if you just have to put Commissioner Gordon in the hospital, if you just have to put Batman in a wheelchair, that’s a fairly easy goal to concentrate a lot of super-villainous energy towards solving.
As a side note, I’m fascinated by the role that paraplegia’s playing in a bunch of our big action movies. Whether it’s Jake Sully escaping into an alternative body after he lost the use of his legs in the Marines in Avatar, the badly-aimed bullet that hits Charles Xavier at the deeply moving end to X-Men: First Class, and now this, we’ve got an lot of heroes with disabilities. While Sully gets a do-over, and Xavier seems to accept the limitations to his abilities — I think it’s useful that we see Sully do things like moving in and out of his wheelchair, where Charles is never presented as physically awkward, even though he’s limited — I wonder if Batman will rage against what’s happened to him. People with disabilities shouldn’t be required to be saintly to be represented on screen.