Of all of the rumors that have been circling Christopher Nolan's upcoming film, The Dark Knight Rises, one thing remains consistent: this will be his last Batman movie. In an interview with MTV back in February, Nolan indicated pretty clearly that 'The Dark Knight Rises' will be the end of the trilogy. "We're very much excited about really finishing a trilogy and giving a conclusion to our story. And that's what we're doing." While brief, these few words are incredibly telling; they reinforce that beyond the surface of all the action and adventure, Nolan's Batman films are tied together seamlessly by a single theme and that The Dark Knight Rises will close the chapter on it.
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If this is to be the finale to his Batman movies, why call it 'The Dark Knight Rises'? Using the word "rise" is indicative of the beginning of something —and essentially, it should. If I had to guess, The Dark Knight Rises will act as a culmination of the lessons learned in both previous Nolan Batman films by Bruce Wayne- and that it is in this film that Batman will finally rise as a vigilante hero and come into his own.
The story of Nolan's Batman is gradual. Batman was born in Batman Begins; the first film. Haunted by the violent murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne finds redemption and validation in serving justice through vigilantism, dressing as Batman and eliminating corruption and mob control (by the Falcone family) in Gotham after enduring years of training in ninjutsu by Ra's al Ghul. It is in this film that Batman/Bruce Wayne's ideals are challenged by Ra's al Ghul, who's draconian ideology and desire to destroy the world to perfect it creates a rift between the two characters.
In the second Batman film, The Dark Knight, we once more witness Bruce's struggle —however this time it is predominantly internal. The second Batman film served to challenge Bruce as Batman as well as his idea of heroism. This concept was particularly prevalent in the interactions between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. Bruce wants what Harvey has, and in a way sees him (at least at one point) as a symbol of true heroism. The difference between Bruce and Harvey is that Harvey does not have to hide who he is. Harvey can step out as himself, a hero, in the light while Bruce must remain in the shadows. Harvey is recognized as a symbol of heroism, and to a certain extent (at least until the end of the film), Bruce resents him for that. This film is as much about Bruce's inner conflict as it is about the idea that the existence of Batman is not necessarily a good thing. In an interview with the New York Times in 2008, following the production and release of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan cited that an underlying theme in his Batman films is the idea that the existence of Batman is what brings about the lunatics of Gotham.
The idea that Gotham's lunatics exist because Batman exists is something that has long been reinforced in the comics; and one that was first introduced in Frank Miller's Batman: Year One —a book that heavily influenced the script for Batman Begins. By the end of the film, Bruce takes the blame for Two-Face's crimes in order to protect Harvey Dent's name —a symbol of martyrdom and heroism. In this scene, Bruce accepts that Batman must remain in the dark and that he does not fall into the mold of what society considers to be a true hero. This idea is fully realized in the last scene of the film where Commissioner Gordon watches Batman run from police and he says, "Because he's [Batman] the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight. ."
As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman’s presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, attracts lunacy. When you’re dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead? That’s what makes the character so dark, because he expresses a vengeful desire.
So, what will The Dark Knight Rises bring? While it is difficult to speculate what lessons Bruce Wayne/Batman will learn in the final installment of Nolan's series, we can still guess at what the relationships between the new characters Nolan plans to introduce will be. If you ask me, the best way to complete the film is to go back to the very beginning- Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows- a casting that had been recently confirmed. The possibility of the inclusion of Talia al Ghul, Ra's daughter (actress Marion Cotillard) would bridge the connection between Batman, his past, and Ra's al Ghul. While the casting confirmation speculates that actor Josh Pence will play a young Ra's al Ghul; whose to say that Nolan won't integrate Ra's use of the Lazarus Pit's in his next film?
Additionally, the reveal of Catwoman (being played by actress Anne Hathaway) in the upcoming movie may be linked to the Falcone family, much like she was in The Long Halloween, a series Nolan previously used as a reference for Batman Begins. In the Knightfall series, Bane (who will be played by Tom Hardy) looked to Catwoman for help, so there may be a connection there. Reinforcing a struggle over the control of Gotham City between the Falcone family and the "lunatics" that now exist in Gotham because of Batman would bridge the series together.
In the past, Christopher Nolan has indicated how difficult it is to duplicate the success of a film (The Dark Knight is one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time), but that he would not make a movie for the sake of making a movie. "I wouldn't want to do one if it weren't going to be as good as the first or second. That's not respectful to the fans," he told the USA Today in an interview. One thing is for sure, whatever happens in the upcoming film, Christopher Nolan has his fans in mind.
What would you like to see in 'The Dark Knight Rises'? What did you love about the last two Batman films, and how do you want to see Nolan bridge the trilogy together?