My new theory on The Dark Knight Rises

There’s been a lot of speculation on The Dark Knight Rises. While it comes out this weekend in the States, here in Japan we’ll have to wait until next week to see it. I’m not too disappointed about that, because generally Japan tends to get movies a lot later than the rest of the world (we’ve still got another month before The Avengers comes out in theaters here, and yes, I’m still pissed about that). Ever since we started hearing about this movie, rumors were flying about what “The Legend Ends” tagline really means. The commonly-accepted theory (I’m not sure who first came up with it, but I first read about it on Cracked) is that Bruce Wayne will die but Batman will live on, potentially in the form of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, taking up the mantle.

One of the major hints to this is in Batman Begins when both Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul and Bruce talk about how a man can be destroyed, but a symbol — a legend — can live on. And in the trailers, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) tells Batman (Christian Bale) that he’s given them everything. Batman responds with, “not everything, not yet.” That certainly lends credence to the theory.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m suspicious about this theory. It makes a whole lot of sense. In fact, it makes too much sense. It makes so much sense that it’s almost obvious. And Christopher Nolan is a crafty bastard.

What if, instead of dying, Batman rises with some help? As in, the form of a partner? Now here’s where people will chime in and say that Nolan specifically said Robin won’t appear because he doesn’t feel Robin is compatible with the world he’s created. And Bale has said if Robin appears, then Bale won’t be in that film.

Notice some clever wordplay here, though. Bale and Nolan have said that Robin won’t appear. Robin is just an identity, and one that’s been adopted by numerous characters in the history of DC Comics. Dick Grayson was the first and most-famous. Jason Todd was his successor, who was killed by the Joker. Then came Tim Drake, who was later succeeded by his girlfriend, Stephanie Brown. And Batman’s son, Damian Wayne, is the current Robin. In Frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, a girl named Carrie Kelly became Robin in a future where Batman comes out of retirement.

So Robin won’t appear, and here’s what leads me to my current theory. While Dick is famously known as Robin, that was only his first costumed identity. He’s also taken up the Batman mantle a few times (both in continuity stories and in alternate universe tales). But Dick has another identity — those who are familiar either with the Batman comics or The New Batman Adventures or the current Young Justice cartoons know that Dick Grayson eventually adopts the costumed identity of Nightwing.

Check out this image from The Dark Knight Rises trailer, when Blake draws a symbol in chalk:

In the trailer, this shot is accompanied by a clip where a kid asks Blake if Batman will come back and Blake says, “I don’t know.” Now, it seems at first glance that this is nothing more than a simplified version of Batman’s famous insignia.

But then I recently noticed this:

That’s Dick in his Nightwing identity. Pay close attention to the symbol on his chest. Now compare it to the above symbol from The Dark Knight Rises. The two seem pretty similar, don’t they?

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and Bruce has stopped being Batman. Maybe when Bane first appears, there is no Batman — and that leads Blake to adopting a costumed identity of his own, inspired by Batman. Perhaps “John Blake” is just a false identity Dick has assumed for reasons as-yet unknown. Maybe Dick is initially a plant by the League of Shadows (we know there will be connections to Batman Begins in this film) and that’s where the John Blake identity comes in. Maybe he sets the stage for Bane’s initial strike and, horrified at how he’s been misled, turns on Bane and the League and becomes Nightwing. He takes on Bane, gets defeated, and his defeat leads Bruce to picking up the Batman mantle again — the Dark Knight Rises once more. And this time around, he’s got back-up.

That’s just one theory. I could be way off-base, though.

NOTE: If you have seen the movie, please do me a favor and do not confirm nor deny any of this post! I want to find out for myself whether or not my theory proves accurate and as I said, I won’t get a chance to watch the movie until at least next weekend. As I mentioned in my review of The Avengers, I already had the mid-credits reveal spoiled by some asshole and I don’t want that to happen again. Once I’ve seen the movie, I will post my own review, which will discuss my theory once again.


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