Warning: This article contains so many spoilers that it can literally break the heart of any person who has not yet seen The Dark Knight Rises. Seriously, your very soul may implode on itself. You have been warned… but if you haven’t done it so far, go and watch the film.
The Internet has been in a similar state to Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City since the release of the Batman ‘threequel’ last Friday; a public warzone for the broadcasted opinions of dictators and vigilantes. The highly anticipated sequel to The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger’s epitaph, so far eclipsing Batman Begins that many moviegoers forget that Nolan’s first Bat-flick ever existed) has hit the theatres hard, with a revenue that would make even Bruce Wayne’s jaw drop. But the critics have been about as divided as the two main factions in the film itself, going at each other head on in a clash for authority.
Let’s get something straight: The Dark Knight Rises is not a bad film, in any respect. Sure, it falls short — way short — of The Dark Knight, but that was to be expected. So what is the real cause of the anger of the keyboard warriors over what is, frankly, a great blockbuster?
Well, it raises a couple of interesting questions.
Is John Blake actually Robin?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the boyish charmer of (500) Days of Summer fame, stars as John Blake, a likeable uniformed optimist who turns out to be… Robin. In a ‘oh-but-of-course!’ moment in the last few minutes of the film, Blake’s ‘secret’ (but widely guessed) identity is revealed by a police secretary — “I like your longer name — Robin.”
But wait just a gosh-darn second. Not one of the four incarnations of Robin (yes, four) in the comic books are called John Blake. So is this an original incarnation? A ‘fifth’ Robin that Nolan is toying with developing? On top of that, when Blake stands in front of the Bat-Cave, he has a blue pattern on his jacket that resembles an iconic protagonist of the Batman universe, Nightwing.
What does Nolan want to do with Gordon-Levitt? Is this a teaser for a future film; another blockbuster smash through the gritty streets of Gotham with a new — and frankly more likeable — hero heading the action? Well, probably not. Nolan has made it very clear that he isn’t returning to Gotham any time soon, and Christian Bale is adamant that he will not feature in a film with Robin in it. So is this Nolan handing the baton over to another budding filmmaker? He has been reported to encourage a remake of Batman ‘in due time’, with a different director, so perhaps he is trying to hook someone watching — someone with a back-catalogue of successful, thoughtful films — into carrying on the Batman saga. Maybe with Nightwing. Maybe with Robin.
How could Batman survive a nuclear explosion?
Let’s discuss how he could have lived first. Throughout the film, Lucius (played excellently by acting veteran Morgan Freeman) laments that the Batwing’s autopilot is faulty, and that it desperately needs fixing. After the fateful nuke, and Wayne’s funeral, Lucius discovers from the tech team that Bruce had the autopilot repaired a good six months ago.
“Oh, so it was on autopilot the whole time!” I hear you say. Hold your horses. With five seconds on the counter, we clearly see Batman in the cockpit. So, unless he managed to develop some sort of suit that could protect him from a nuclear blast, he is probably dead.
So then why did Alfred see him in Italy?
Well, let’s cast our minds back to The Dark Knight. Back in 2008, the shocking end to the tale of Harvey Dent told us something, something that came from Alfred himself: “Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough — sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”
Alfred is broken by Bruce Wayne’s death — who is to say that Bruce and Selina, dining at that all-too-convenient position in that all-too-perfect way are not figments of Alfred’s imagination? The visual embodiment of his hope? He wants his faith to be rewarded, so he makes it that way.
The same goes for Lucius — Bruce has left him a token for hope, just as Batman and Gordon leave Harvey Dent in the previous film, the physical symbol covering up the truth; the lie that gives Gotham a future. Except this time, Batman is the lie.
Sounds far-fetched? Just remember that this is the same man who taunted us with the mind-crushingly brilliant ambiguous “spinning top” ending to his 2010 smash Inception. So surely, he could come up with something a little more cryptic than the uneasy happy ending that emerges from the darkest superhero saga of recent times.
Perhaps I am being idealistic. After all, I was one of the avid theorists intrigued by the many mysteries (or plot holes, depending on your outlook) of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, so maybe I am looking into something that just isn’t there.
But maybe, just maybe, this film is a little smarter than we have given it credit for. I believe in Christopher Nolan.