After a week of chatter, the only consensus when it comes to The Dark Knight Rises is that no one wants to stop talking about Christopher Nolan’s final film from Gotham. From unanswered questions to Easter Eggs, it’s like Nolan’s run with The Dark Knight won’t actually be over as long as we keep talking about it. The more hot air we blow, the more likely the franchise will come back to life?
All we can do right now is hope, speculating about a Catwoman spin-off or myriad other possible stories set in Nolan’s Gotham. The most popular cry seems to be for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake to continue the franchise and put on the cowl, but is that just wishful thinking or a possible future film set up by The Dark Knight Rises? Probably a bit of both, so let’s take a shot at what the latter might look like.
SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES AHEAD
First of all, the title. The Dark Knight Rises, or the whole “Dark Knight Trilogy” rather, is very much like The Godfather Saga in that the title doesn’t necessarily have to refer to one person per se as much as one position. Who is the Godfather? Vito or Michael? Who is the Dark Knight? It’s been Bruce Wayne but Nolan has told us right from Begins that it is about being more than just a man. The Batman is immortal. An idea. A mantle waiting to be taken up. And just because Rises refers to the many times that Bruce has risen from the depths, especially his final ascent out of the hellish prison, doesn’t mean it’s not also describing another character’s journey. Nolan’s (and cinematographer Wally Pfister’s) camera during the final sequence, after John Blake spleunks into the Batcave, aren’t coy about making this connection as the film’s final frames, in typical ‘letting the top spin’ fashion, moves in on Blake literally rising. The movement during the final scene cements that we’ve been watching a trilogy about more than just Bruce Wayne, it’s about the creation of a myth or legend, and one that we all want to continue.
I’m not suggesting that Nolan plans to continue the series with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but his film certainly leaves the door open for others to do just that. The Dark Knight Rises is not just the conclusion to the Bruce Wayne saga but also Robin John Blake’s origin story. His narrative leads directly into the cave and putting on a mask. Could he be the next Batman? Sure. And don’t give me the different sizes nonsense (Gordon-Levitt isn’t as big as Bale, but a suit redesign can help suspend disbelief) or the untrained argument (you don’t know the character’s full history and/or haven’t seen the sweet training montage he will undergo in his solo film). The real reason he won’t be the Batman is because Warners will want to save that name for their reboot (or Justice League movie) and won’t have two different caped crusaders titles running concurrently, even though they do it in the comics.
Just because he can’t or won’t be the Bat, doesn’t mean there aren’t other (perhaps better) alternatives, since he is Robin after all. Of course, he can’t be ‘Robin’ because, well, that’s his real name but he could definitely be an amazing Nightwing--the identity taken on by Dick Grayson, formerly known as Robin, in a comics run between 1996 and 2009. Purists may argue he can’t be the superhero because he’s not Dick Grayson, but I’m willing to allow the name change since John Blake is a clever amalgamation of almost all of the former sidekicks in the comics, including Dick, Jason Todd and Tim Drake. Dick was a cop in Blüdhaven, Jason spent some of his orphan years in a boys home, and Tim was able to deduce Batman’s real identity and approached him in a time of need. Hell, if they wanted they can "kill off" John Blake and have him return as Grayson, ensuring that his identity is even more protected. But that seems like an unnecessary step since Nolan’s universe has created its own mythology and fans would probably shut their mouths at the first look of JGL in a Nightwing costume. And if they don’t? Screw ‘em.
As I said before, the likelihood of the Nightwing project moving forward is probably zero, and even less so with Christopher Nolan at the helm, but Warners and DC would be stupid not to capitalize on the buzz. What a great first project for Wally Pfister to direct (I know he’s got his directorial debut slated but imagine if this was what he’d been working on) or even Jonathan Nolan, who co-wrote the last two in the “Dark Knight Trilogy” with his big brother Chris. Ben Affleck ain’t a bad choice either.
Yes, this is all wishful thinking and speculation, but not completely unfounded thanks to both the narrative and aesthetic trajectory of John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan and company lit the match, I’m just hoping the fire rises.
Do you want to see a Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Blake Nightwing (or Batman, or Robin) film? Sound off in the comments.