I know the title seems confusing, but hear me out.
As I am a big fan of Batman and Nolan’s Batverse, I have doused myself in the mythology, the hints and clues that Nolan and co. have been tossing about lately and way back when about this final chapter of the Nolan Batman-saga. Also, as I am a journalist, I have received the great honour of screening the movie before hand, tomorrow, on Tuesday 17 July. So after tomorrow (or more likely towards the end of the week since I am on a holiday trip), I shall submit an actual review of the movie along with references to this hypothesis. So what I will be doing here, is to write a hypothesis based on my anticipations of the movie, and the theory of how the movie pans out. Later on, I will reflect upon this in the actual review, to see whether I was right or wrong.
So in essence, this is more like a hypothesis of what the movie is like, rather than a review. So read this with caution, as there will be what I think are spoilers.
In a nutshell, what I expect Nolan to want from this movie is a sort of end game that won’t allow Warner Bros. to continue the Batman movies in the universe that Nolan created, but rather reboot the series after his departure. To achieve this, Nolan is going to do the unthinkable (in superhero movies at least) and break, or even kill, Bruce Wayne. Some of you may wonder why I chose to say kill Bruce Wayne rather than kill the Batman, but I will get to there, eventually. From the get-go, Nolan has strived to cement a legacy for himself with his movies, and particularly with the Batman movies. He made them realistic and dark where everyone else would have made them more comic book-like.
Nolan shares a few similar traits with a former Batman director, Tim Burton. They both can be described, and are widely held as auteurs on their own rights. They both have recurring visual and thematical cues and motifs. Nolan has a recurring theme of struggle with identity/double identity, responsibility, and heritage/legacy along others, but I won’t go into too much detail. Those themes are fairly obvious in the Bat-verse throughout the past movies, and more than likely in the trilogy’s finale: “The Dark Knight Rises – The Legend Ends” – sound like legacy issues, anyone?
I will try and explain this through an analogy to The Prestige: Nolan is known for his plot twists that boggle the mind, like in The Prestige and Memento, and he will more than likely take it to a whole new level in The Dark Knight Rises. He will more than likely go as far as to kill off the titular knight. It is in similar fashion to the twist in The Prestige, where we find that Jackman’s magician, Angier, is in fact cloning himself and killing off the other clones to maintain only one of them alive at any one time to keep his trick a secret. Taking this to TDKR, Nolan can still keep the legacy of the Dark Knight alive even though Bruce Wayne might die, and that is achieved through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake: I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that he has been revealed to possess a similar background to both Bruce Wayne and, surprise surprise, Dick Grayson A.K.A. Robin. Bruce Wayne, a man, can be broken, or to quote Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, “A man is just flesh and blood and can be ignored or destroyed”, but Batman, a symbol, “But as a symbol… as a symbol, I can be incorruptible, everlasting”. Bane might break Bruce the Bat, even kill him, but he cannot break Batman. That is his legacy, which is continued through John Blake taking up the mantle of Batman, in a story similar to Knightfall and Batman Inc. That is when Bruce Wayne has truly given his everything.
Even more credibility fot this theory gives the fact that just recently, Nolan stated that the last scene of the movie was the first one they came up with, long before even the antagonist was picked. That gives weight to the idea that Nolan has indeed from the beginning intended to go out with a bang, at least with his Batman movies. What else could it be then, than passing the torch, but without the risk of having someone muck up the legacy of his films and his film universe, like Schumacher did with the Batman movies after Burton?
There is another analogy to The Prestige: the three Batman movies of Nolan can be looked as his trick with its three stages: First, there is the setup, or the pledge ,where the magician shows the audience something that appears ordinary but is probably not, making use of misdirection. Next is the performance, or the turn ,where the magician makes the ordinary act extraordinary. Lastly, there is the prestige , where the effect of the illusion is produced.
Batman Begins started out as an ordinary superhero origin movie, though it did already make a few chages to the formula (the pledge). The Dark Knight makes the ordinary extraordinary (the turn), thus making The Dark Knight Rises the prestige, which produces the effect. Whether or not Nolan had a plan for the third part before Heath Ledger died is irrelevant, although I do think he had and it changes somewhat considerably due to the aforementioned tragedy, since he always intended for Bruce Wayne to die. The means to this end only changed during the process. In Batman Begins, there were two baddies (Ra’s and Scarecrow) and one of them lived to the sequel (Scarecrow), thus making him, albeit a minor nuissance, a continuation. In The Dark Knight, there were The Joker and Two-Face, and Two-Face died, thus giving The Joker a return ticket for the finale. Alas, The Joker never made his flight due to taking another, making it impossible for an auteur like Nolan to bring him back with another actor. Maybe The Joker was to team up with Bane to break the Bat? Who knows, but I’m fairly certain that The Dark Knight Rises will truly cement Nolan’s Bat trilogy as the greates comic book movie series of all time. Much like Nolan’s prints were cemented outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
The Dark Knight rises, the legend ends.