The Dark Knight Rises, the final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman saga, opens in cinemas this week.
Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, we re-join Gotham City in the midst of peace and prosperity. Harvey Dent is remembered as a saint and the Batman has not been seen since he ‘murdered’ the heroic DA. However, the peace is soon shattered with the arrival of Bane, a monstrous terrorist leader whose goal is to burn Gotham to the ground. The now retired Bruce Wayne must don the cowl once more and return to the fray to take on Bane and his armies.
But where do we begin with the speculation? Personally I’ve been waiting for this film since I stepped out of the cinema from The Dark Knight four years ago; and I’ve been sharing theories with anyone who will listen ever since.
Now, I’m a little obsessed with Batman and the comics – there’s an almost unending wealth of plotlines that writers Christopher & Jonathan Nolan and David. S Goyer could cherry pick from. So here are some theories I’ve either heard or surmised myself; make of them what you will…
1) Breaking the Bat
Bane’s first appearance in the comics was in a story-arc called Knightfall. Bane was introduced as an enemy both physically and mentally superior to Batman, and is one of the only villains to surmise Batman’s true identity. In Knightfall, Bane breaks several of Batman’s enemies out of Arkham Asylum, unleashing hell over Gotham.
Over the course of several days, Batman wears himself out capturing and returning the rogues and when he finally returns to the bat cave exhausted, Bane launches a vicious attack on our hero, ending with him breaking Batman’s back and throwing him into a distraught city centre.
Anyone who’s seen the trailers for TDKR will recognise a number of these events, namely a whole host of prisoners marching away from a broken wall, snaps of a vicious fist fight between Bane and Batman, and Bane walking away with a broken cowl.
All of these seem to point towards Christian Bale’s Batman being either paralyzed, as in Knightfall, or killed; although the word ‘rises’ in the title could suggest otherwise.
2) Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane and the League of Shadows
Cast your mind back to where the Nolan saga started with Batman Begins: Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, the elusive leader of the League of Shadows who met a grizzly end as Batman refused to save him from the crashing monorail.
Ra’s goal was to fulfil the League of Shadows primary goal of ‘resetting’ a decadent and unjust society by destroying it and allowing it to rebuild. But doesn’t that sound similar to Bane’s quips from the trailer, “I’m Gotham’s reckoning” and “When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die”?
Despite his death in Batman Begins, Neeson is set to reprise his role, as well as a Josh Pence as a younger Ra’s. In the comic’s, Ra’s was an immortal character, who bathed in a pit of supernatural chemicals known as the Lazarus pits to maintain his youth. However, I can’t quite imagine Nolan utilizing such a supernatural story in the more realistic setting he’s tried to achieve, so how Ra’s will be reappearing is anyone’s guess.
As for his link to Bane, Ra’s planned to have Bruce lead his armies on Gotham to bring about the city’s collapse; perhaps Bane will be taking up that role and continuing Ra’s work as he did at one point within the comics.
3) Venom (No, not the symbiote, that’s Marvel!)
Bane’s mask has drawn a lot of speculation since his image was first unveiled. In the comics, Bane wore a Mexican wrestlers mask with integrated pipes feeding a super steroid called ‘Venom’ directly in to his system, giving him superhuman strength and stamina. According to the back of one of the Bane toys related to the new film however, his mask in the movie feeds him a constant painkilling drug as he’s constantly in chronic pain from an old injury.
Linking back to the previous point, if Bane was a member of the League of Shadows, perhaps he was present during Batman Begins when Bruce destroyed their mountaintop mansion.
We’re never shown what happens to many of the members, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that Bane was injured in the explosion. This would also explain how Bane is aware of Batman’s secret identity.
4) Talia Al Ghul?
Another interesting casting note worth mentioning is Joey King as a young Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. In the stories Ra’s intended Talia to marry Bruce and lead follow him to war with the League of Shadows. Despite Batman never joining the League, he and Talia engaged in several relationships, even conceiving a child together, Damian Wayne, who went on the become the 4th Robin. If we’re seeing a young Talia, it seems odd to not see her as a grown woman.
Enter Marion Cotillard’s character, Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises board member and friend to Bruce, who’s trying her very best to bring the now reclusive Bruce back out of his shell… and that’s it. Apparently.
Cotillard has outright denied that she is playing Talia Al Ghul, but this is Christopher Nolan; would he really cast such a high-class actress in what appears to be a minimal, unimportant role? Or instead, could we be being cleverly deceived. Images of Miranda Tate climbing out of one of Bane’s tumblers, and the likeness between Joey King and Marion Cotillard could suggest the latter.
5) John Blake
After his brilliant appearance in Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster Inception, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s casting in TDKR was also an unusual choice. Like Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, John Blake in a completely new character to the Batman universe, leading many fans to speculate on his true purpose.
Could John Blake – the optimistic beat-cop who still holds out hope for the Batman – be more intricate to the plot that he seems? Many have speculated he could in fact be this universe’s answer to Robin, where others have gone so far as to say he’ll take up the mantle of Batman after whatever fate befalls Bruce Wayne.
Of course, Nolan and Bale have once stated that there will never be a Robin character in this trilogy as it detracts from the darkness and solitude of the Batman; with this in mind I’m willing to believe that Blake is simply a replacement for Gordon, who, as we see in the teaser trailer, looks like he’s had better days.
What are your theories and hopes for The Dark Knight Rises? Let us know below…
Watch the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises…