The anticipation for "The Dark Knight Rises," the third Batman film from director Christopher Nolan, seems to be growing every day. Any film that has to follow on the heels of a movie like 2008's "The Dark Knight" has a great deal to live up to. Much like what was done with "The Dark Knight," official material related to the production has been released gradually in controlled doses.
The latest piece of information is "a new poster" that shows the villain Bane walking away from a broken Batman cowl on the ground and bares the tag line "The Legend Ends." This is fueling some speculation that Batman may die in this film.
Both Nolan and Christian Bale have stated repeatedly that this is the last in a trilogy and neither of them will be back to make any more Batman films. It's easy enough for a director or an actor to say that, but with a franchise this successful, the studio will always want more.
The only way to keep that from happening is to bring the story to a definitive conclusion. And what could be more definitive than the death of Bruce Wayne?
Some online writers, such as Cracked.com's Cody Johnston, have come up with very elaborate theories that point to the death of Bruce Wayne as an inevitability. The short version of the theory is that Bruce Wayne will die but the mantel of Batman will be taken up by another, possibly the newly introduced character being played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. It's true that Wayne himself seems to hint at such a possibility in "Batman Begins," saying that as a man he can die but the idea that he embodies can live on.
There are some holes in the theory, though. First, most proponents seem to imply that Nolan has had a very detailed master plan for a trilogy from the beginning, everything leading up to Bruce Wayne's demise. The problem is that Nolan was more or less a director for hire on "Batman Begins," working off of David Goyer's script.
It's true that Nolan would become more involved in developing the story for the next two films, but the idea that it's some master plan he's had from the start seems like a stretch. The way "The Dark Knight" ended very much felt like the Joker was intended to return, but Heath Ledger's death made that impossible and necessitated a new villain. The kind of adjustments that had to be made seem to be at odds with the "master plan" theory.
That being said, if there's a villain to kill Bruce Wayne, Bane is a solid fit. While Bane didn't kill Wayne in the comic books, he did break his back and take him out of commission. This made it necessary for another person to wear the mantel of Batman for a time. There have actually been a few men besides Bruce Wayne who have been Batman in the comics, though at present none of them have been introduced in the film series.
At this point it would almost seem too obvious for Nolan to kill Batman. It almost feels like too many things are pointing that way, and it may all just be misdirection and a way of keeping fans debating among themselves. Fans will have to wait until July 20, 2012, to find out the truth.
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- Christopher Nolan
- Bruce Wayne