We'll preface this by stating the obvious: Chris Nolan's Batman franchise is, without a doubt, one of the biggest, most daring and talked about superhero franchises in history. It's also one of the most interesting to analyze and over-analyze.
This said, *please bear in mind that this piece contains major spoilers that you will want to avoid if you haven't seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet. Proceed at your own risk.*
“The Dark Knight Rises,” the conclusion to Nolan's Batman, brings on board a trio of older Nolan collaborators: Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie cop John Blake.
Halfway in the movie, it becomes pretty clear which is the identity that Nolan has chosen for Blake: by all means and purposes, he is Robin to Christian Bale's Batman.
This seems to be confirmed (but never stated out loud, as Nolan isn't in the habit of doing that) in the third act, when Blake ditches his job as a cop and finds his way (with some help from Bruce Wayne) to the Batcave. And yes, his real name, the one he never uses, is
We're left to understand that this is the beginning of Robin, Batman's most trusted sidekick ever.
Could that really be the case? Forbes
has a very interesting take on that, suggesting that Nolan is actually setting up the Blake character for something bigger: he will be Batman himself.
Those who have already seen the movie (who are also the only ones who must be reading this, given the stern warning above) will have noticed that, throughout its entire run, Blake is the one who stands by Batman and doesn't lose faith in him even when everyone else does.
He also knows his real identity and even questions him on his decision to go into hiding for 8 whole years, leaving Gotham to its own devices.
When Wayne decides it's time for Batman to return, it's Blake who helps him whenever he's given the chance, because Alfred has left.
In other words, he might not go by the name of Robin, but Blake is
Robin in the film. When it ends, he is already transforming into Batman.
“A major theme in the story is 'Who was Batman? He was just Batman, the person under the mask doesn’t matter, because ANYBODY can be Batman!' We hear this several times, and it speaks back to the longstanding concept in the Nolan trilogy that a symbol is eternal and cannot be killed or destroyed, and that is what Batman became – an eternal symbol for Gotham, a symbol that would be anybody,” Forbes writes.
In other words, with Bruce gone and making a deliberate decision never to return to Gotham, it would make sense for him to help another man continue the legend and protect Gotham.
“What is the very last shot in the film? It’s Blake, stepping forward in the batcave as the big platform comes up out of the water to lift him into the air toward the Batman equipment that we can see in the distance. The platform lifts Blake out of sight, turning the screen black. And what comes next? The title: The Dark Knight RISES,” the publication further argues.
Nolan fans know already – but we'll say it again either way – that this is one director / screenwriter who never leaves anything to chance. If something appears to mean something more than the eye can see, it must surely do.
“It has one final meaning, symbolized extremely clearly in the final shot of the film when we see John Blake step forward and that platform RISING to lift him to claim the legacy of Batman that Bruce has passed on to him. The Dark Knight will rise again, with someone else taking up the mantle to keep the symbol alive,” Forbes says.
In other words, even though Nolan won't return for another Batman movie, he's been very generous towards whoever will have the courage to pick up where he left, by handing him the superhero alive and well – and, for that matter, shiny new, out of the box, without the luggage he kept piling on his shoulders.
Of course, that won't make treading in Nolan's steps any easier.