The good news is that July of 2012 has finally arrived and the widely anticipated release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is only mere days away. The bad news is that this third and final film will bring a prosperous seven-year run of Nolan’s Batman to a close. Yes, this will be Christopher Nolan’s final directorial installment into the Caped Crusader franchise, and the previews make no mistake of conveying the message that with this movie – “The Legend Ends.” Bearing that thought in mind, it begs one to wonder what the possibilities of ending a legend might entail. Thus the question of such a potential culmination arises – will Batman die in The Dark Knight Rises?
First of all, Nolan has stated that his intent is to complete his trilogy with “a unified statement, a real ending, a true conclusion.” What in life is more conclusive than the ultimatum of death? Knowing what we do about Christopher Nolan movies and his penchant for throwing audiences a third act curveball, we certainly should expect nothing less here. However, if this movie does not present the fatal demise of Batman, the marketing campaign would surely have audiences believe that, if nothing else, this storyline will really put its stamp on history – “Every Journey has its End,” “The Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend.”
Many have noted that Nolan’s grounded, realty-centric Batman universe relies on a great deal of content present in different story-lines from the original comic series. It would be a mistake to assume that TDKR will be any different. So, with Batman set to square off against Bane, his toughest adversary yet, we should turn to Bane’s biggest mark on the franchise’s comic history, Batman: Knightfall, for answers.
In the comics, Bane decides he wants to dethrone Batman and position himself as Gotham’s sole king. To do so, in Knightfall, he unleashes a terror storm by freeing and arming Arkham Asylum’s deadliest inmates to exhaust Batman until the point of an easy defeat. This element holds true as the trailer clearly depicts a large group of orange jumpsuit clad inmates marching out of a battered prison.
The trailers tease that TDKR will feature more than one of Batman’s Tumblers. Remember back in Batman Begins (2005) when Lucius Fox first presents Bruce with a desert-camouflaged schemed “batmobile,” and Bruce asks if it comes in black? Well, it seems that Bane and his terrorist crew have managed to commandeer these bridge-jumping military vehicles and put them to use for their own agenda.
The argument could be made that the trailer does not convey enough evidence to make this assumption and the Tumblers might even be fighting on Batman’s behalf. However, the trailer also gives us a tantalizing glimpse at “The Bat,” Batman’s Bat-copter/Bat-jet, as it flies in hot pursuit of these other Tumblers with guns blazing and all. What does that really mean though? Well, in simple logic it goes like this – If Bane has one, that means he knows where to get one. If Bane knows Batman has one, then Bane also knows where Batman got his, and can assume that Batman probably did not steal his from Wayne Enterprises. This leads us to our next point.
In Knightfall, Bane also becomes one of the few villains to uncover the true identity of Batman – Bruce Wayne. In one of the later trailers, we get a glimpse of Bane casually disregarding the cracked remains of Batman’s cowl. Without the mask, Bruce is, well, only Bruce.
Then, knowing the true identity of Batman, Bane gains entrance into the Wayne Manor and the Batcave where he confronts Batman in a hand-to-hand battle and ultimately wins by breaking Batman’s back over his knee.
Perhaps the most telling and important factor, though, that The Dark Knight Rises might actually kill off Batman comes from a different element of the trailers – GPD Officer John Blake.
Supposedly, he is just a run-of-the-mill beat cop on a special assignment from commissioner Gordon, however, his character gets featured quite frequently in most of the trailers. Also, if John Blake is an average John Doe cop, it would seem a strange and distracting choice to have a prominent actor, such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, play the role. Maybe misdirection is what is actually at play, though.
What is everyone’s first thought? Of course, John Blake becomes Batman’s trusty sidekick, Robin. Well, perhaps not. Years ago, Christian Bale stated that if the character Robin ever creeped its way into this trilogy, he would no longer be a part of it. Obviously, this makes the theory of Robin old news, but something that is worth noting are the names of those in the comic books who took up the role of Robin. First was Dick Grayson, then Jason Todd, but the third Robin was Tim Drake. That sounds eerily similar to John Blake, right?
Regardless, we know that Nolan wants to end Batman’s character arc, and probably with a bang. The trailers would have audiences believe that this bang could bring the death of Batman. And, if staying relatively true to the comic Knightfall, Bane will certainly be the bearer of Batman’s demise. Now we face the question – If Batman does die, which “Batman” will it be? Will Christopher Nolan simply unveil the end of the legend known as Batman – a symbol of justice and Gotham’s silent protector? Or, will the entity Bruce Wayne actually perish?
Therein lies the rub. Can you really kill a symbol, or will there always be someone to carry the flag? Perhaps, the end that audiences will come to meet is Bane, in fact, breaking Batman’s back and turning him into a paraplegic, as he does in the comics. Or, maybe in Nolan’s realistic depiction, Bruce Wayne as Batman will find a darker, more permanent close. Either way, the city of Gotham will, no doubt, be looking for someone with enough passion, mental cunning, and physical prowess to take up the reins of justice. Again, staying closely linked to the comics, Bruce Wayne was not the only person to put on the Bat-Suit. In Knightfall, there is even a “changing of the guard” in Bruce Wayne’s absence.
So, who better to take over – in a Nolan-style “leave the audiences wanting more” – than a young, motivated Gotham police officer, who already has the trust and support of Batman’s biggest ally, commissioner Gordon?
The Dark Knight Rises will obliterate box office records everywhere on July 20th, and surely give viewers their money’s worth clocking in at a whopping two hours and forty-four minutes. Do not drink too much soda because you will not want to sacrifice a second of this movie for a bathroom break.