Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy exists largely in its own universe, but its final installment, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, contains a quick nod to one of Batman’s larger-than-life villains. Nolan is known for grounding the characters in his Batman films, stripping away the cartoonish flair of the 1960s television show and the sexual, color-infused palette of the Joel Schumacher films. This left little room for the more garish members of the rogues gallery in The Dark Knight Rises, which is why audiences never saw a Nolan interpretation of Poison Ivy or Clayface.
Though he was more interested in a humanized Gotham, Nolan was never above a reference to the larger Batman canon. Deep-cut villain Victor Zsasz had a one-shot appearance in Batman Begins, and just before Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake is given the keys to the Batcave in The Dark Knight Rises, his legal name is revealed to be Robin. That same film also contains a throwaway line that touches on the existence of a villain that wouldn’t be seen in live action form until 2016’s Suicide Squad.
After police commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) is injured in the sewers of Gotham, Blake shows up at Bruce Wayne’s mansion to plead for help. He knows that Wayne (Christian Bale) was once the city’s silent protector, and he believes it’s time for Batman to return. This wasn’t his first plan, though. Before confronting Wayne, he told his commanding officers about the trouble in Gotham’s sewers. Their response, according to Blake: “They asked me if he saw any giant alligators.”
This glib remark from the higher-ups in Gotham’s police department is a clear reference to Killer Croc, who was first introduced in Batman comics in the early 1980s. Killer Croc was born Waylon Jones, who lives with a skin condition that gives him a scaly, reptilian appearance. In some interpretations, Croc is further mutated into an animalistic predator, while in others – such as Suicide Squad – he is portrayed as a victim of prejudice and injustice. He almost always possesses super strength, which aides him in his cannibalistic diet.
Obviously, this monstrous of a character would have a tough time fitting into Nolan’s Dark Knight universe. If Croc had been introduced into this iteration of Gotham, he would have likely undergone a major reinterpretation, perhaps in line with his appearance in Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker graphic novel, which is not recognized canon. The Dark Knight Rises did something similar with Tom Hardy’s Bane, who has little in common with his comic books roots. Still, it’s nice to know that Nolan, who is often criticized for taking the fun out of Batman, is mindful of the more bizarre touchstones of the caped crusader’s history.
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