In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman's first encounter with Bane goes rather badly.

In short, Batman gets utterly destroyed, and does no apparent damage to Bane.

Later, they meet again, and Batman manages to hold his own, and even come out ahead until Talia intervenes. Bane's skills have deteriorated so thoroughly that he spends a good second or two punching a pillar where Batman used to be.

Batman still doesn't look good, but he gets the job done.

Is the disparity between these two performances from Batman entirely the result of the fact that he broke Bane's mask in the second fight, or is there something else going on here?

  • 33
    Bad writing... It's just because Bane is considered to be an overpowering force and try to replicate that idea from comic to movie, but what people fail to realize is that Batman being confronted by Bane before hand was running with no sleep, pressing himself, falling sick, and mentally stressed. Bane largely got lucky when you really look at how the envents transpired in the comics... and ever since Bane hasn't posed a real challenge. The reason in the movie could be said to be similar and have to do with motivation, but I chalk it up to just bad writing on multiple fronts. – Durakken Jul 19 '16 at 2:16
  • 32
    Not going to post this as an answer because it's purely speculative, but perhaps Bats died after the first fight, and the rest is some kind of surreal vigilante afterlife in which he escapes from a deep hole in the ground, somehow travels across the ocean all the way back to Gotham (despite being in bad shape and having no money), then proceeds to make giant flaming bat symbols on bridges (somehow), then recaptures Gotham and beats the unbeatable bad guy to a pulp, gets the girl, and lives happily ever after. – Praxis Jul 19 '16 at 4:44
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    The effort on the firey bat symbol is clearly justified - He's the street artist Gotham deserves, but not the one they need right now. – DariM Jul 19 '16 at 5:05
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    In the first fight Bane had the advantage of faring better in the shadows than even Batman, which gave him the upper hand. In the second it was broad daylight so Bane lost this advantage. One of Batman's punches dislodged the vials pumping anaesthetic on the front of Bane's mask, which sent him into a furious, pain-induced rage. That's why he punched the pillar. He completely lost control, which gave the Batman the time he needed to gain the upper hand. I believe Batman knew to hit the mask after hearing the stories of Bane in the prison. Knowledge is power, my friends. – DisturbedNeo Jul 19 '16 at 9:55
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    Isn't it because Batman had a montage between the two fights? – Ellesedil Jul 19 '16 at 22:35

The first fight is an ambush set up by Bane. He set the time, and the place. He knows things about Batman that Batman did not think he knew - that he is Bruce Wayne for example, off the bat (I would say that pun is unintentional, but I'd be lying). Batman is mentally thrown off. His tricks don't work:

Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated... but we are initiated, aren't we Bruce? Members of the League of Shadows!

Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but BLINDING!

There's also the discussion with Alfred that occurs earlier in the movie:

Bruce Wayne: If this man is everything that you say he is, then this city needs me.
Alfred: This city needs Bruce Wayne, your resources, your knowledge. It doesn't need your body, or your life. That time has passed.
Bruce Wayne: You're afraid that if I go back out there I'll fail.
Alfred: No. I'm afraid that you want to.

The Batman in the second fight turns up at Gotham, and Bane is completely blindsided - "I broke you". This time he's not thinking clearly, and as the fight goes on, Batman manages to trigger his rage. That punching the pillar scene isn't a loss of "skill"; it's a disoriented, extremely violent ball of rage punching with extreme strength as Batman is focused on staying out of the way of those fists. Bane's also distracted elsewhere - the vehicle with the nuke is the important part of his plan, and there's a strong sense that he means to be consumed by the nuke as well.

Batman has changed also - previously, even if he wasn't suicidal, his entire thing was about not fearing death. He has now learned a lesson about using his own fear to empower himself.

And so, the tables have turned.

  • 18
    I like this answer! – KyloRen Jul 19 '16 at 3:21
  • 3
    Or this. – Praxis Jul 19 '16 at 4:46
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    +1, but wasn't Batman looking for Bane when Bane ambushed him? How can you be surprised to find the guy you're looking for in the place someone told you to look? :) – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jul 19 '16 at 22:37
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    He was there to find Bane, find out about his operation, maybe fight on his own terms etc. He wasn't expecting to be betrayed, and then turn around and fight Bane in an arena so that Bane could show off. Bane had the metaphorical high ground, and as we all know, once you have the high ground It's Over Anakin. – DariM Jul 19 '16 at 22:59
  • Also Batman hadn't been working out much since he was in seclusion. His timing was clearly off as well. After re-setting his spine (obviously a Hollywood injury), he had some time and certainly had the internal "fire" to get back to his best shape before returning to Gotham. One of the few things you can do well in prison is get in shape. – TylerH Jul 21 '16 at 5:33

In his first fight with Bane, 1) Batman subconsciously wants to die, and 2) Bane is more motivated.

Others have noted some of the tactical reasons why Batman lost the first fight and won the second. That's definitely part of it, but I'm going to argue for a more fundamental reason.

At the beginning of the film, Gotham is at a point where it apparently does not need Batman (the Dent Act led to the end of organized crime in that city). That is what Bruce wanted, since if he could stop being Batman he could pursue a relationship with the woman he loves, Rachel. With Rachel's death, he no longer has a reason to not be Batman, but Gotham also does not need Batman (at least it appears this way at the beginning of the film).

Given those things, Bruce no longer has a sense of purpose, which is evidenced by his reclusiveness and neglect of Wayne Enterprises.

Bane's emergence seems to give Bruce a reason to be Batman again, but he doesn't have an "exit plan," as his did before.

WAYNE: Rachel died knowing we'd decided to be together. That was my life beyond this cave and I can't just move on. She didn't. She couldn't.

Alfred also worries about this:

WAYNE: That's what you're afraid of - that if I go back out there I'll fail.

ALFRED: No. I'm afraid that you want to.

So, my theory is that Bruce subconsciously wants to die. I don't think that he wants Bane specifically to kill him, but he's okay with being killed as Batman in one way or another. Bane even notes this:

BANE: You don't fear death. You welcome it. Your punishment is to be more severe.

After Bruce loses to Bane and is in prison, he is annoyed by the fact that he wasn't killed. He asks Bane:

WAYNE: Why didn't you just kill me?

He even asks the other prisoners to kill him:

PRISONER: He asks if you would pay us to let you die. I told him you have nothing.

WAYNE: Do it for the pleasure.

At this point in the film he really wishes he would have just been killed in his fight with Bane.

So that explains the first part of the question.

As to the second part...

Batman wins the second fight because 1) he learns to fear death, 2) his desire to save Gotham as Batman is rekindled, 3) "falling" and "rising again" made him stronger.

In prison, the TV images of what's occurring in Gotham motivate Bruce to recover from his injuries and train. He's noticeably more driven than before. He sees Ra's al Ghul in a hallucination, who taunts him about his failure to save Gotham. This gives him additional motivation and purpose:

PRISONER: Why build yourself?

WAYNE: I'm not meant to die in here.

The film makes it clear that Bruce needs to learn to fear death. Batman can't make the "jump" without fear. With the safety rope, he doesn't have the appropriate fear of death. Without it, he does have the right amount of fear, which motivates him to make the jump.

WAYNE: I do fear death. I fear dying in here while my city burns with no one there to save it.

Presumably this fear of death, his anger over what Bane did to Gotham, and his training let Bruce beat Bane the second time around.

  • 3
    Yes, you got it. That's the theme: the fear of death/the fear of losing. In the first battle, there are no apparent stakes beyond maybe Bruce being killed, and he doesn't care if he's killed. In the second battle, it's literally for the fate of the entire city. "You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak." – Dave Cousineau Jul 19 '16 at 19:25
  • (I only wish they had done a better job with the editing around his successful jump. The way they did it, it didn't look like he gave it any more effort than before, or felt any more fear than before; he just happens to make it for some reason. They even could have made him think about the jump a lot more carefully, and see something that he otherwise would have missed.) – Dave Cousineau Jul 19 '16 at 19:26
  • (Also, thinking about it a bit more, I just now notice how in the beginning of the film, the badguys are shown to be fearless of death with the minion willingly dying to be found in the wreckage. Bane and his accomplice are also both willing to die for their cause, and plan to as part of their plan. I feel like the script could probably have used some polishing to make this theme come across a little better than it did.) – Dave Cousineau Jul 19 '16 at 19:33
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    @Sahuagin I thought the jump was simply a fact of the rope dragging him down. Ropes are heavy, and they have lots of inertia. Discarding the rope, he didn't need any more effort - he just wasn't pulled back by the rope. Your symbolic interpretation sounds pretty good for the movie as a whole, but I interpreted this scene as a completely physical issue, not mental. – Luaan Jul 19 '16 at 19:59
  • @Luaan no, the point was that without the rope, you couldn't make a haphazard attempt at jumping. you had to make your jump count, or you die. you have to put every last drop of effort you can muster into that one jump, and if you still fail, that's the end. learning this is what allowed him to defeat bane: to give every last drop of effort he had, knowing that failing is not an option. – Dave Cousineau Jul 19 '16 at 20:05

A big influence on the Nolan trilogy is The Dark Knight Returns and this battle looks highly influenced by Batman's fights with the mutant leader.

The mutant leader has similar physical attributes to Bane, he's younger, stronger, fitter, and has a driven savagery:

Mutant leader fights Batman

and indeed Batman comes off rather badly after their first fight:

Mutant leader kick Batman's butt

Later Batman rematches with the mutant leader, having taken stock of the situation.

He realizes:

My mistake was to try to match his savagery

He had tried to fight the mutant leader (as he did with Bane) as a straight one-on-one, where Bane had the advantage of youth, strength and drive.

This time though Batman uses his experience, and his skills, as we can see in the question above neatly avoiding Bane's attacks, wearing him down.

Eventually having worn him down he can take him on straight, to a win this time Batman beats mutant leader

Of course in the Dark Knight Rises, Miranda intercedes, but you get the idea.

  • 3
    You've got the key source-material right, but you're missing a crucial connection between your answer and BenOsborne's: the entire first act (and much of the remainder) of The Dark Knight Returns (starting from the very first page) is explicitly about Bruce Wayne's search for "a good death." This confirms the idea that in The Dark Knight Rises, part of the reason Batman loses the first fight with Bane is that he's ready to die. – Kyle Strand Jul 19 '16 at 21:11

Your question:

Is the disparity between these two performances from Batman entirely the result of the fact that he broke Bane's mask in the second fight, or is there something else going on here?

has the answer:

Indeed, it is breaking the mask because Bane was vastly superior. Your video of the second fight is highly misleading because it is already near the end of the fight.

Bane: "So you came back to die within your city". Batman: "No. I came back to stop you".

Bane attacks with straight punch slightly from above.
Batman blocks the punch down with both hands and counterattacks with moving both arms up. No reaction from Bane.
Bane connects with a strong left hook.
Bane continues with a vicious right punch, Batman staggers.
Bane lands another punch with the left hand, Batman staggers back.

cut scene

Bane punches Batman strongly with the left hand.
Bane punches Batman in the midsection with an uppercut.
Bane punches Batman again in the midsection, Batman goes back.
Bane punches Batman's head with the left, Batman must roll with the punch.
Bane punches Batman's head with the right and really throw Batman back.
Bane takes a run and kicks Batman in the midsection, Batman stumbles on the stairs and goes up.
Batman awaits Bane and attacks with a strong left.
Bane blocks it and counters with a strong right into Batman's side.
Bane continues with a left swing to Batman's head and connects.
Bane punches with the right, Batman blocks with arms up.
Both are going into clinching, Batman tries to pinch Bane with the right arm and tries to hit him with the left.

Bane catches the left arm and both are going into a contest of strength which goes on for some time.

Until now Bane has hit Batman 11 times, Batman has only achieved one hit and it did not show any effect so far. Bane is vastly superior.

Now the key scene: Batman is able to break the fist lock by moving the arm down and finally connects with a surprise punch right into Bane's mask.

Bane is surprised and for a moment stunned.
Batman lands a second strong hit on Bane's mask with the left hand.
Batman uses his chance and connect with a third hit to Bane's mask.
Batman connects with the left elbow, Bane goes down. Batman holds Bane's head in a arm lock with the left arm.
Bane punches Batman with his head into the upper torso.
Batman goes back, Bane moves an idiot in his path out of the way.
Bane attacks with a weak left, Batman blocks and lands two terrific blows with the left and the right, the mask audibly snaps.
Bane holds a moment and the first time his look says: "Oh crap!"
Batman tries to go into the clinch, Bane throws him back and frantically tries to fix the mask.
Batman attacks and Bane hits him with an outward punch with the right, throwing Batman back.
Bane attacks Batman with the right, Batman blocks it.

Now Bane realizes that he needs to go to full attack and dishes out uncontrolled, vicious punches to put Batman down. This is the scene in the shown video.

It is now evident that the control and the agility of Bane had suffered greatly, he attacks 6 times and Batman easily dodges the blows and hits Bane again with two powerful blows on the mask.
Bane attacks and misses two times, Batman diverts the third blow, attacks with the right, Bane blocks, Batman puts Bane's defense down.
Again Batman hits Bane two times on his mask and kicks him into the hall.

Bane is defeated.

So the story is: yes, only the lucky hit on the mask put Bane on the defensive, before that he acted exactly like the first time: as unstoppable juggernaut.


Talia obviously knew Batman was going to meet Bane that night (their first fight): she and Bane were partners and in communication with each other, and an important part of their plan would be to eliminate Batman as a threat, so she would be aware of the trap Bane was setting. It's probably not coincidental that she chose that time to seduce Bruce; she was trying to deplete him of as much energy as she could so he'd be exhausted later when fighting Bane. (This is in addition to all the factors mentioned in the other answers.)


Another factor is simply because he feared the bat. When he saw the bat logo burned on the bridge, he was terrified of the man he dealt with.

  • 3
    Bane doesn't strike me as the easily intimidated sort. – Valorum Jul 2 '18 at 16:27
  • Could you edit in some evidence to support your case? – TheLethalCarrot Jul 2 '18 at 16:27

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