Nate Breaks Down Christopher Nolan’s Batman Finale, The Dark Knight Rises

It’s no surprise that The Dark Knight Rises has become one of the biggest and most talked about movies this summer. It seems as if I can’t login to any social network site or enter any social setting without hearing/seeing it mentioned. With such a hefty movie and being that it’s the end of a series, there’s no surprise that there is so much to talk about. I’ve been in many heated arguments about how I feel about certain aspects of the film and the top argument I always have is about the ending.

I was lucky enough to watch the film two more times this past weekend, bringing my grand total to three. And after a lot of thought, I’ve finally gathered what I think of this ending.

After seeing the film opening night, I was certain I knew exactly how the film ended and considered myself an expert on all things The Dark Knight Rises. Looking back now, I can say that was far from the truth. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe there isn’t only one right answer. If you look at some of writer/director Christopher Nolan’s other movies, you can see that he has had endings just like this in the past. At the end of Memento, the viewers are left to decide for themselves if what they have just been told is a lie or if they need to change everything they thought they knew about the protagonist of the story. And the most famous example is of course is 2010’s Inception where there is still great debate on what the last shot of the spinning top truly means to the rest of the film.

To sum it up, Nolan likes to let viewers interpret his movies any way they see fit, and The Dark Knight Rises is no different. I am going to list some of the popular theories I’ve heard and give my two cents on how they hold up.

*Warning: from here on out there are major spoilers.*

1. The Dark Knight Falls

I didn’t know that this was a theory until recently, but apparently a lot of people think that Bruce Wayne actually stays in The Bat during the nuclear explosion and dies. The theory is that Alfred is at the café and is once again fantasizing about seeing the man he’s cared about his whole life out of Gotham. This theory seems a little too farfetched for me. The only thing I can really give to back it up is that there are many cuts to Batman still in The Bat moments before the explosion. But I would say that is just a clever way to make the viewer saddened by the supposed death of the hero before they are shown him alive again shortly after. And besides, why would Alfred fantasize seeing Bruce with Selina Kyle, a thief that Alfred had only encountered once in his life?

2. The Legend Continues

I’ve read way too many Facebook statuses that sound like this: “I seriously can’t wait for the 4th Batman movie!” Here is an actual comment I received on a status I posted about the film after opening night:

I can’t even call this one a theory. It’s simply ignorance. If people couldn’t figure out what “The Legend Ends” means, they could have at least done a simple Google search to see that this is indeed Nolan’s last Batman film and that the only thing left for Hollywood to do now is reboot the whole series.

3. The Boy Wonder

Here is where most of the real debate starts: the significance of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) at the end of the film. Moments before viewers see Blake find the Batcave via coordinates given to him in Bruce Wayne’s will, they hear that his birth name is Robin. This came as a shock to most people since Nolan promised he’d never put Robin in any of his films. There are two theories I’ve heard that involve Robin. The first is that Bruce Wayne returns from “the grave” and joins Robin to fight crime together. This seems fishy to me since it seems that Wayne wanted to fake his own death to stay away from Gotham. The second theory is that Blake will fight crime on his own as Robin or Nightwing. This theory seems much more plausible but still not 100% believable. I don’t have much evidence against this one but I do have more evidence that point to the next theory being more correct.

4. Batman Returns

The final theory I’ve heard, and the one that I’m most fond of, is that Blake suits up as Batman himself and continues the legacy. There are many reasons I think this is more believable than him being Robin. For starters, we see that somebody (presumably Wayne) installed a new Bat Signal for Commissioner Gordon. We can also see Blake’s transformation take place throughout the film: Batman gives him some advice about wearing masks, we see him dissatisfied with using guns, and of course his eventual resignation from the police force. Beyond this, Bruce Wayne mentions numerous times during the film that Batman can be anyone and that the symbol is more important than the identity. Finally, I’m going to have to get cheesy on you and lay down some symbolism. The film is called The Dark Knight Rises and the last shot of the film is Blake rising up on a platform in the Batcave. Coincidence? My vote is no.

So obviously, I’m a little bias when it comes to these theories. But that’s not to say that any of them are wrong. These are just details that I picked up on when watching the film. Other people could have seen things in a completely different light, which would nullify or support each theory. So who cares about what I think! I want to hear about what you think! What happened at the end of The Dark Knight Rises? Are you happy with how it ended? What would you do differently?

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