There’s a secret comic book based villain in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy ender The Dark Knight Rises. Not Talia al Ghul, revealed to be Bane’s partner in rampantly destructive crime, but the masked man’s second in command, Barsad. Played by Josh Stewart, he appears throughout the film working with Bane, eventually killed by Officer Foley while escorting Talia in the climactic confrontation between his minions and Gotham’s police force.
Named after John Barsad, a character in Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, the few scenes of note he appears in are forcing the army to keep citizens in Gotham, setting up the opening plane attack and most importantly, for this article at least, accurately sniping police officers near the films beginning. That scene proves so important because I submit to you that he isn’t just a random henchman; he is Nolan’s version of fan favourite Bat-villain Deadshot.
The professional alias of Flyod Lawton, Deadshot is a gun for hire who often claims to never miss, originally appearing in the early fifties masquerading as a crime fighter to gain control of the Gotham underworld, made iconic thanks to his wrist mounted guns. Over the years he’s become one of the most popular of Batman’s rivals and is now a big part of the wider DC universe as a nemesis to the Justice League.
I must admit, having never read any of the comic books (I’m only aware of Deadshot’s existence thanks to the seminal Arkham City), he strikes as a step down from some of the major players we’ve seen in the films before. But, not being a massive fan of Batman before working on Batman Begins, Nolan has always been more interested in what tells a good story as opposed to fan service.
Throughout the trilogy, Nolan has imbued his world with villains from the comics. Aside from the main antagonists of each film (two apiece; Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow, Joker and Two Face, Bane and Talia al Ghul), there’s been various interpretations of other comic villains. Aside from the numerous mafia bosses (Tom Wilkinson’s Carmine Falcone and Eric Roberts Sal Maroni), the most notable have been Victor Zsasz, a psychotic killer who marks each kill with a tally on his own skin, or the imaginative merging of League of Shadows leader Ra’s al Ghul and Batman’s mentor Henri Deckard into one character, both in Begins.
Technically, Deadshot has officially appeared in Nolan’s universe before. Gotham Knight marketed itself as a bridging of the events between Begins and The Dark Knight, showing how Gotham goes from dark and crime ridden to a brighter and more modern city. However, as it’s radically different Scarecrow design (more akin to the comics than Cillian Murphy’s interpretation) attests to, this is far from the case – it’s a cash in, named to ride The Dark Knight’s imminent success – making Deadshot’s appearance unrelated to the film trilogy.
Which brings us to Josh Stewart as Barsad, of whom we know very little of his personality or origins. He is clearly Bane’s most trusted lieutenant, always standing with him and given the most camera time out of all the goons. But most important is the aforementioned sniping scene. When Selina Kyle sells Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and Gordon goes down into the sewers, Barsad takes out multiple cops. Always rifle in hand and wearing a vest full of ammunition, each element of his character is how you could feasibly imagine a realistic version of Deadshot. It’s too minor a part to gauge how faithful an adaptation of the original character it may be, but it seems to capture the essence of the marksman.
Obviously, his naming could make this theory seem a bit less probable, but given that he is never named in the film, it is possible this was a late in the day change, with his new title chosen due to its links one of the film’s source materials. I say it’s likely in an earlier stage of the film that he was going to be a more defined character and play a larger part in the plot. Early in the film’s development, there were even rumours Deadshot would be one of the primary antagonists (along with the Black Mask). It’s not clear how true those rumours were, but from the evidence it looks like he was meant to play a much larger role in the plot.
That was the case, at least, until one of Jonathan Nolan’s main influences on the film came into play. Selina Kyle was a late addition to the story, with Christopher initially unsure how to make Catwoman work within his world. Originally The Dark Knight Rises would feature Deadshot in a larger role than a typical henchman, but once Kyle’s anti-hero was added, running time constraints and the already numerous antagonists led to the focus on him being dropped. It is perfectly likely that, given the way Stewart looks and acts, that the decision to reduce his screen time didn’t come until after shooting finished.
So, let’s add Deadshot to the legions of classic Batman characters that Nolan has brought to life on the cinema screen. It may not be a particularly eye catching or memorable inclusion, but that comes from length constraints and the vast quantity of ideas that The Dark Knight Rises juggles. His inclusion stands as an interesting Easter egg that also works as a view into the creative process behind the film.
It’s worth noting that while I’m not the first person to bring this up, there’s been a startlingly minimal response to this possible inclusion. In a film full of well defined characters and breath taking spectacle, it’s easy for one minor character to be ignored. What do you think? Is Barsad actually Nolan’s interpretation of Deadshot? Or have I spent way too long looking into this brilliant trilogy ender, seeing depth that isn’t there? Have your say in the comments below.
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