With less than a month away from its premiere, saying I’m merely excited would be a gross understatement. In fact, I’m so excited that not only have I already bought my tickets more than a month in advance, I’ve also reserved my seat and popcorn for the event! However, let’s talk theories. Spoiler Alert! Obviously, everything that follows is at best an educated guess. Spanning across Christopher Nolan’s Batman Universe are many themes that have ultimately lead up to the final film in this trilogy. Nevertheless, let’s first delve into the man who created this universe: Christopher Nolan. Without a doubt, Christopher Nolan is easily one of this generation’s most appraised directors with works such as Momento, The Prestige, the Batman series, and most recently, Inception. Nolan’s works is a star example of success not only in the box office but in the story telling field as well. Drawing inspirations from those before him, whether it is the late/great Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Frank Miller, or Knightfall, Nolan has succeeded in creating a Batman Universe tailored in his own name.
That being said, let’s begin with the theories.
1. The Bat is Broken
This one should really come as a no brainer. Any fan of the Batman series knows that Bane breaks Batman’s back in Knightfall, but as I’ve said before, this is Nolan’s retelling of the story. What I mean by that is I don’t believe Christian Bale will have his back broken in the movie. After all, if he somehow manages to live, he’d be paralyzed for the rest of his life. In the comics, Bruce Wayne is miraculously healed through magical properties, which have so far been absent in this universe and is therefore unlikely to make a late entry. I believe after a traumatizing defeat at the hands of Bane, Bruce Wayne will be captured and placed into a prison. Nolan has always taken bits and pieces of Batman lore and woven them in his own fashion. Knightfall takes course over a period of six months, in which Batman is defeated, replaced, and must return to save Gotham once more. Therefore, it is likely Bruce will remain a prisoner for approximately six months leaving Gotham at the whims of Bane’s mercy. Also, it would take the allotted time for such injuries to heal not only physically but also mentally.
Each of Nolan’s titles has played some aspect in the theme established by his universe. Batman Begins is the most obvious of the three. It is the origin story of the character first introduced before he can become the man he is destined to begin. The Dark Knight is much more significant and acts as one of Nolan’s main motifs throughout the trilogy (but I will get to that in a bit). The Dark Knight is a title that is given to Batman to represent his ironic opposition to that of Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent. Finally, there is Rises. It’s been eight years since the climatic ending of the Dark Knight. Bruce is much older and is no longer as spry or cheery. In fact, he’s tired—tired of long nights, tired of pushing his body past its limits, and tired of running from the police. Rises therefore is both a metaphorical and literal aspect of Batman’s story. While in prison, Bruce asks what the prisoners are chanting, to which he is replied with: Rise. The prison he is in lies at the bottom of a gorge and the only way is up. Throughout the trailers, Christian Bale is seen rising from the depths below towards his freedom. This is a trial for him not only as a physical challenge but a challenge of his psyche.
In fact, he’s tired—tired of long nights, tired of pushing his body past its limits, and tired of running from the police. Rises therefore is both a metaphorical and literal aspect of Batman’s story.
Again from Knightfall, the term Broken Bat was coined to mean the death of Batman, but leaving Bruce Wayne alive—and it is an idea that is seen throughout Batman lore. For example, Batman R.I.P. investigates the psyche of the Dark Knight. When Bruce Wayne’s mind is compromised, it regresses (if you will) into a manifestation in which only Batman exists. It is later revealed that Bruce Wayne, in his attempt to train all aspects of his body and mind, divided his subconscious into two entities: Bruce Wayne and Batman. While Rises does not dig far into the aspect, the ideology of Batman’s fall is represented by his imprisonment and his climb out of hell embodies his return to take back the mantle as well as the cowl.
3. Will Joker make some sort of cameo?
It feels strange if not absurd that Batman’s final adversary in this trilogy wouldn’t be the Joker but obvious circumstances have changed the possibility. Still, remnants of the past films have also popped into the following films. For example, Scarecrow’s character made a quick cameo in the beginning of The Dark Knight and if the rumors are true and Bruce Wayne’s new love interest is real Talia Al Ghul, then another reflection of the pilot film’s character will appear. So then would it be possible for a sinister Joker appearance in the new film? Most likely what will occur is a reference to the Joker made during a conversation between Alfred and Bruce. It has been 8 years, and to think Joker had no ploy during the Bat’s roughest years is hard to believe.
And finally, the last but biggest conspiracy theory behind Rises.
4. Batman Will Die
Nolan has always vaguely pointed in the right direction and he is a man about circles. What I mean is everything ends where they began.
It sounds insane. After all, Batman has only died once in the comics and really he was transported to the caveman period (I’m not counting Batman R.I.P. as I don’t believe it is canon). However, like I’ve said plenty of times before, this is Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman and he can do whatever he wants. Two examples: both Two Face as well as the Joker received their disfigurement as a result of an accident involving acid. Where the former received burn marks as opposed to acid burn, Joker’s infamous skin mutation is actually a choice in wardrobe. In fact, he’s even seen without his ghostly white skin in The Dark Knight. Introspective look at the past films and its themes compared with the trailers bring up interesting points. Christopher Nolan, throughout his films, has always pointed in the broad direction where his trilogy was heading. In the first film just before Wayne Manor is set on fire, Bruce, in an attempt to save all the guests from Ra’s al Ghul, calls everyone in the party, “Two Faced”, a foreshadowing of Harvey Dent’s coming. Again, in the second film, in a conversation between Bruce and Lucius Fox, Bruce asks whether the suit could protect him from dogs, to which he is replied, it should work on cats. Whether or not this was a finger point to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is unknown, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.
So, getting back to the point. Nolan has always vaguely pointed in the right direction and he is a man about circles. What I mean is everything ends where they began. This theme is seen in both The Prestige and Inception where characters are drawn back to the initial event that began their inner conflict. Whether it was a magic box tied with death or the vestiges of lost minds in a land known simply as Limbo, Nolan likes to return to the same point. In Bruce Wayne’s story, Death is the event that spurs him to become a crime fighter and death is likely where it will end with Batman sacrificing his life for citizens of Gotham. This is further perpetuated by Nolan’s theme throughout his films. In a quote from Batman Begins, Ra tells Bruce: “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal… you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend!” In the first film, Bruce Wayne started as a man and started becoming a symbol of Justice. The theme leaks into the beginning of the second film as the viewers watch criminals as well as the mafia are too afraid to do anything at night—which in turn instigates the Joker into action. By this time, Bruce has become more than a symbol, he’s beginning to become a legend; however, there are ties that hold him back.
Nolan cleverly creates a romantic triangle while simultaneously making the events a win all or lose all situation.
He’s still a man. His love interest, Rachel Dawes, is the one thing holding him back—the one thing from preventing him from being solely Batman and no longer Bruce Wayne. In the first two films, Rachel tells Bruce his real face is the cowl of Batman and later expresses a time where he can no longer live without being the caped crusader. Bruce then claims Harvey Dent, Batman’s opposite is the key to not only Gotham’s need, but also his absolution. Nolan cleverly creates a romantic triangle while simultaneously making the events a win all or lose all situation. In the end, he stops Joker but loses his one tie to humanity and his one chance to retire the cowl. Fast forward eight years and Bruce is different. He’s no longer the flamboyant boy billionaire. His life is completely devoted to being Batman. Again, a reference to Ra’s quote: even if Batman dies he will forever live as a legend to the people of Gotham. The trailers even play with the notion of Bruce’s death. Catwoman tells Bruce that he’s already given Gotham everything, to which he states: “No, not everything.” This further plays into Gordon Joseph-Levitt’s character as the cop who is inspired by Batman’s actions. Though, it is unlikely he will play some sort of role involving a cape, in the aftermath of Batman’s demise. He is likely to carry on Batman’s mission.