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Not Everything, Not Yet: Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises and the Prospect of Finality

Read our in-depth review of the film here.

It’s a funny thing watching The Dark Knight Rises trailer that was released earlier in the week. It seems that a lot of people had the same response that I did. Colleagues in work, friends and family members, all looked at the trailer for the third in Nolan’s trilogy that began with Batman Begins and seemed to have the same observation. “I think he might kill Batman,” a lot of people remarked on viewing the teaser for the film. Given how safe most major studio productions are, especially those that are part of a cash-cow franchise, it’s amazing that the possibility even exists at all, hovering faintly over the film.

Broken bat…

I should confess that I have no secret knowledge of the film, save what I have seen in trailers or occasionally stumbled across on news sites. I don’t know how Nolan will end his trilogy, and that is very exciting. After all, how many major motion pictures can have truly surprising endings? I mean, I knew that none of the marque heroes in The Avengers were going to bite the dust before the movie finished, regardless of how the movie might have attempted to set up a heroic sacrifice. It is, after all, quite difficult to have Tony Stark appear in Iron Man III if you’ve killed him off. Similarly, most viewers know that Battleship won’t end with the extinction of mankind, or that Daniel Craig won’t die in Skyfall.

Those are the rules of the franchise films, and the big budget blockbusters, after all. You need to be able to keep churning them out. Sure, an older character like Obi-Wan Kenobi might pass away, but even a child watching Return of the Jedi knows that Luke Skywalker will prevail. That’s not a bad thing, to be fair. The best directors can sweep us up in the emotional rollercoaster of the film, and maybe make us forget it for a few minutes of high-tension peril, or charm us so that we don’t really care. Still, there are traditionally rules to such films, and we generally know that most big-budget films will adhere to those rules.

If you make yourself more than just a man…

I don’t know what will happen at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. I don’t know if it ends with Bruce continuing to be Batman for as long as he can, or if he gives everything to defeat Bane and dies in the attempt. I don’t know if he fights alone or inspires an army of followers, one of whom might take up the mantle so that the “idea” of Batman might outlive the flesh of Bruce Wayne. It is, of course, highly unlikely that The Dark Knight Rises will end on a completely depressing note – there will be a decisive victory, I expect, but I honestly don’t know the cost.

Even if the movie does end with all the cast safe and sound, with the status quo restored, I think Nolan and Warner Brothers do deserve some credit for creating that faint seed of doubt. I’m not the only person who thinks that Bruce Wayne might die, and I’m sure that many other people have many other ideas about a definitive ending for Bruce. There’s a wonderful air of uncertainty about it. And, to be fair, Warner Brothers deserve a massive amount of credit for fostering and encouraging that uncertainty.

Spoilers are the Bane of my existence…

Knowing that Nolan and Bale will depart the franchise after this film, Warners could easily have strong-armed the director into leaving the door open for another director to take up the reigns. They could have intended to craft a fourth film in the series, coasting off the success of Nolan’s vision, only without their director or star. Perhaps they realised that this would be unfair to anybody succeeding Nolan, or perhaps they merely looked at Batman Forever and thought better of it. Either way, I have to admit that I respect the decision, because it creates the impression that The Dark Knight Rises will stand as an “end” to this story, something that comic book characters are rarely allowed.

Instead, in a pragmatic and honest move, the company has preemptively announced a “reboot.” Now, normally I’d dislike that idea. I still don’t think we need another Batman origin. However, I think it’s a smart decision in this case because it allows us to appreciate Nolan’s work as a trilogy. Sam Raimi didn’t have that luxury working on Spider-Man III, for example, departing Spider-Man IV in pre-production. So there was never a chance to “end” his story. However, Nolan has the chance to close the loop, to tie up his loose ends and to throw the toys out of the pram.

The knight is always darkest…

Like Batman himself, this film provides Nolan with the opportunity to give the audience “everything”, to afford us the closure that we so rarely get from a studio system fixated on the notion of turning every release into a successful franchise. In a way, it seems somewhat appropriate that Batman should be the character to do so. After all, he helped redefine superhero comics when Frank Miller dared to propose an end for the character in The Dark Knight Returns.

I have absolutely no idea what the ending of my most anticipated movie of the year is. It’s a rare thing in mainstream cinema, and it might seem like a small thing. However, I think it’s a great thing.

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8 Responses

  1. The movie will end with Bruce marrying Selina Kyle with an epilogue showing their young daughter playing with Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara in a set-up for a future “Birds of Prey” spin-off.

    • Nah, it abruptly ends at the lowest point, when Gordon suddenly says, “Screw this, they never have to put up with this nonsense in Metropolis!” and then ties directly into the Man of Steel.

  2. I agree. Though the thought of a reboot with another director and cast isn’t particularly exciting at this point, the possibility that Bruce might bite the dust and that this is a definite ‘end’ to the trilogy, makes this a more appealing comic book movie than any I have ever seen. I for one do hope they kill the Bat.

    • Yep, I’m not too excited about the reboot, but the freedom it gives Nolan.

      I would be disappointed if Bruce’s quest ends in failure, but I could see Bruce dying or retiring and Batman living on.

  3. I had the same impression too, and it really would be great if they kill him….

    • Glad to hear I’m not alone. I think it would really knock the audience for a loop, and the idea that he could (regardless of whether he does) makes it that much mroe interesting.

  4. The thing is, the trailer didn’t just hint vaguely at the possibility of Batman’s death. It practically was the theme of the trailer. “Is he dead?”, “Why didn’t you just… kill me?”, “You’ve given these people everything… Not yet”, etc. I honestly think Bruce Wayne will not die by the end of the movie. The movie may leave it ambiguous like Inception, or “Batman” will die while Bruce Wayne lives on with Miranda Tate or something. Or, Batman lives on (as a legend), but Bruce Wayne dies. I think the last possibility is the least likely, but that’s just my gut instinct.

    • Yep. I freely concede I have no idea what will happen. I suspect that Bruce will not be Batman by the end of it. That’s as far as I really think I have a read on it. He could be dead, crippled, or fine. He could be with Selina or Miranda, or he could be alone. There could be somebody else in a Batman suit, another vigilante, or Batman could be made redundant. I don’t know – and I think that makes it infinitely more interesting.

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