Well, we’re starting to come up on a new set of releases in theaters so I’m going to try to wrap up my series on The Dark Knight Rises before too many of those roll around. I was going to write an installment on Batman himself, but I feel like the character has been so analyzed already that it makes a bit more sense to skip to the conclusive segment and work some observations of Bruce Wayne’s past, present and future i wherever I can. For my last Dark Knight Rises themed review, I will take a look at the ending of the film, making my own predictions for how the series will move forward without Nolan in the director’s chair. As this is an analysis of the ENDING of the film, I’d hope that SPOILER ALERT goes without saying.
First the Bait…
To kick things off, I’m assuming that most of you are aware of the curious way in which Nolan decided to end his Swan Song for his retirement from the series. Right as it becomes clear that there is no other way to save his beloved city, we first see Batman hitch Bane’s Nuclear Bomb to the Bat and fly away off into the distance to explode over the water and out of range from the people of Gotham. Before he does this though, he reveals his identity as Bruce Wayne to Commissioner Gordon in the same manner as he revealed his identity to Rachel in Batman Begins; through a callback to a shared experience followed by a sudden departure (The “It’s not what I do that defines me” line with Rachel and the reference to Gordon’s comforting of a young Bruce following the death of his parents). After the blast, the residents of Gotham finally recognize their savior, constructing a statue in the City Court House in the likeness of their nameless guardian angel. Those who knew his true identity mourn the man behind the mask, yet take some small comfort in the posthumous charities of his will. We have come to expect this fate for our hero, and there are many who would’ve preferred that movie would’ve ended here without further ado. However…
Then The Switch!
That is not the ending which Nolan opts to give his legend. First he gives us a spark of that notion that everything is not as it seems with Lucius’ discovery that the autopilot systems of the bat were not still in-operational as Bruce had claimed before his final flight, but fully
functional thanks to the handiwork of Mr. Wayne himself. Seeing as the functionality of the autopilot was the one thing “forcing Batman’s hand” in the apparent necessity of his self-sacrifice, we begin to see what is coming next and are not disappointed. The final proof of Batman’s survival comes next in a scene which many have criticized as being a bit less than subtle, in which Alfred returns to the cafe in Italy which he had previously described to Bruce before his departure from Wayne Manor as a way of communicating his frustrations over the fact that Bruce had not been able to leave Gotham and Batman behind and pursue his own personal happiness. As he looks up, rather than the strangers he is usually disappointed by he sees Bruce sitting at a table across from him accompanied by Selina Kyle. Just as Alfred described previously, the two nod in each other’s direction and part ways. While this move may have disappointed some people, it wasn’t nearly as confusing or frustratingly tantalizing as the final scenes of the film in which we are essentially teased with John Blake’s true name and the possibility of his continuation of the Dark Knight Legend.
While I’ve had mixed feelings about several aspects of the way in which Nolan chose to leave the series, the fact that it has given me so much to think is something I absolutely give the ending of The Dark Knight Rises credit for. However, the things I had to think about after my first viewing were very different than what I had to think about following my second viewing, so I thought it might be helpful to separate these musings as such.
First Viewing: As I said in my first review, I left the theater feeling incredibly satisfied with the film and that feeling of fulfillment was in no small part due to how Nolan handled the ending of the film. I definitely can understand why a lot of people would have preferred that he had ended the film with much more of a note of finality, I feel like the
ending marked more of the Death of the Dark Knight and the rebirth of Bruce Wayne. The idea of rebirth really makes it feel like Nolan was closing the chapter on Batman’s story while simultaneously allowing the audience to have the satisfaction of seeing Bruce being given a second chance at a new life away from the shadows of his past. I also felt that the mechanisms behind his surprising survival were perfectly adequate in that it made sense that Bruce would have fixed the Autopilot system and that making everyone think he was dead served as the only way for him to truly start over again. All of that aside though, I was at first a bit annoyed by the introduction of John Blake as a possible successor, as it all felt rather unnecessary and out of the blue as if Nolan threw it in at the last minute to satisfy the producer’s lust for more sequel money.
Second Viewing: Now that I was able to look beyond the emotional back and forth of Batman’s true fate, I started looking at a few things differently. For starters, the second time through I got a major Good Will Hunting vibe from the scenes involving
Alfred and the Cafe. To elaborate, in Goodwill hunting there is a scene halfway through the movie in which Ben Afleck’s character says to Matt Damon that the best part of his day is “the 10 seconds from when I pull up to the curb and I get to your door, and I’m hoping you won’t be there”, much in the way that Alfred said that he never wanted Bruce to return home, saying “I always knew that there was nothing for you here except pain and tragedy.” The similarity didn’t diminish the effect of the scenes for me, but now that I’ve seen the similarity between the two plot devices it is hard to unsee.
What the Future Has In Store
Finally, the dust has settled in Gotham and I have been left with a huge amount of uncertainty regarding the franchise’s future, as well as nearly the same amount of internal conflict regarding whether or not I want to see another Batman film made in the near future. After the huge contribution the his three Batman films have made to the Superhero genre as well as Modern Cinema itself, I firmly believe that it would be a disgrace for Warner Brothers to pursue any sort of continuation of the series under the helm of anyone else than Christopher Nolan. The idea of the studio moving forward with a continuation of needless, money grubbing re-reboot is foul enough so that no amount of my own overwhelming hunger for more Batman will be enough to get me to forgive Warner Brothers for such a blatant lack of respect to the legacy of the first three films.
That being said though, here is my suggestion for a way in which Nolan can keep his promise of not directing another Batman movie while still giving audiences more of the same series we’ve been graced with over the past seven years. For my suggestion you have to look no farther than Man of Steel, the upcoming Superman Reboot directed by Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300) yet produced by Christopher Nolan and his studio, Syncopy. The influence of film makers as producers ranges from mild shaping to surrogate directing, and I truly believe that, if Nolan pursues a relationship with his studio’s productions that injects enough of his film making finesse to make it feel like a true Nolan film, we could certainly be blessed with another up-to-par Batman film under that
relationship. After all, The Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as George Lucas’ best work if not the greatest science fiction film of all time, yet he didn’t even direct it. Instead he took the role of writer, yet most people think of The Empire Strikes Back as a George Lucas film and not an Irvin Kershner film (The director, and the fact that I had to explain that to you proves my point). This system of essentially hiring a “Ghost Director” just might be the franchise’s saving grace, but time will tell whether or not a Nolan Produced film can come anywhere close to equalling a Nolan Directed film.
Bottom Line: If Man of Steel soars as high as its Kryptonian superhero, we should all cross our fingers that Nolan gives the same treatment to a new era of Batman movies.