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Before we begin-- yes, I know we're in all likelihood done with Christopher Nolan's Gotham. There can be all the hints in the world about a standalone Catwoman movie, and all the speculation you want about what the end of The Dark Knight Rises might be setting up, but facts are facts. Nolan has said over and over again he's done with the Bat, and along with Batman comes all the characters that are part of his world-- Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, John Blake, and Gotham itself.
But imagine, for a moment, that Christopher Nolan's immense power as a director extends to him being able to alter the laws of Hollywood nature--- that is, to dig back into the world of Batman without actually telling another Batman story, and while letting Warner Bros. move on with whatever reboot or Justice League plans they have. What if, after spending 3 movies building up Gotham as a mercurial and complex and fascinating fictional American city, Nolan was allowed to keep telling stories there-- and he actually did?
The possibilities within the world of Gotham wouldn't be quite as limitless as, say, Inception. But beyond that, pretty much anything could work, and Nolan could continue to explore the themes that have defined his work-- obsession with the past, the slippery nature of right and wrong, men who try to rebuild the world to be a better place-- within the city that he himself has created to his exact specifications. In The Dark Knight Rises Gotham comes across more vibrantly than in any of the previous films, full of angry middle-class people, pampered rich people, skyscrapers and balls and row houses and football games, with a skyline that screamed "New York" but actual streets that could be anywhere. Nolan is well on his way to making Gotham the most original fictional American city since The Simpsons' Springfield-- are we really going to let him stop now?
OK, yes, we probably are. But I still wanted to float my wild idea anyway, imagining a future in which-- maybe before he takes on his gargantuan next project-- Nolan tackles a small-scale, nourish film in the vein of Memento or Insomnia, set in the familiar world of Gotham but taking place entirely without Batman. Maybe it's set in the 8 years between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises? Maybe it's, somehow, that Catwoman prequel story Anne Hathaway might be up for? There are a lot of possibilities, especially if we're pretending the rights won't be an issue, and for Nolan to fling himself back into a world he knows well while telling a new story seems like a perfect way to transition out of his lengthy Batman era. It's even a move that's been done in the comics-- witness the Gotham Central comic series, focusing on Commissioner Gordon and his Major Crimes Unit. There's plenty of stuff going down in Gotham that doesn't need Batman to get involved, and a down and dirty crime story like that is something Nolan perfected early in his career; why not give it a shot once again on this giant canvas?
Let me know in the comments if you think my wishful thinking is insane, or if you'd like to join the speculative game of what we wish could be. Nolan, for sure, is done with Batman-- but I can't help hoping that Gotham isn't quite done with him.