FIRST OFF - NO LIE - SPOILERS FOR The Dark Knight Rises.
DO NOT READ THIS BLOG IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE!!!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Ok, there's this 2-part article over at newsarama.com about where the final moments of The Dark Knight Rises leave us, in terms of the long-term Batman franchise. Yet another example of fanboy supposition and speculation disguised as a legitimate "news" story, because it's on a comic-book news site. Now, let me make this clear...I have no problem with fanboy supposition and speculation. What I have a problem with is that it's presented as a editorial piece by a knowledgeable expert, and it's really just a guy blabbing about what he thinks Warner Brothers should/will do with the Batman Franchise.
What's offensive to me is this: The reason Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" is likely the best live-action interpretation of the Batman we will ever see, not to mention great works of art, is precisely because Nolan approached the entire arc without worrying about how to nurture a continuing franchise. He aimed, at least from The Dark Knight, to END the Batman story he was telling, about the Batman he created for his films.
(This last point is a HUGE reason why Harry Knowles review of the film over on Ain't It Cool News is so utterly stupid. Nolan's Batman has been talking about "when the time comes that I can hang up this cowl" from the first film...incessantly. To act like him actually having done just that as The Dark Knight Rises opens is being willfully ignorant of the themes that Nolan has been laying out...Honestly, I feel like is has more to do with some slight from Warner Brothers, than anything else. Probably because Hollywood has caught up with the fact that AICN isn't the hot-bed of web activity it once was. You're far to easily read, Harry.)
THIS Batman story, Nolan's Batman story, perhaps THE definitive Batman story, is over. Bruce Wayne has left the cowl behind and found love, peace and happiness, and, Like Kevin Smith, I found this deeply moving. There were tears because, here, finally, our hero who had given so much, who had sacrificed for his city and his fellow citizens, who carried the weight for us all, was given the opportunity to have that weight lifted. From the age of 10, Bruce Wayne was carrying more than any person should be asked to, and here, finally, in the end, God, fate, Allah, whoever, let him put that down.
THAT was the most moving thing in the movie, to me. His virtue was rewarded. Yes, Nolan leaves us with the image of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) entering the Batcave, and the idea that the mantle of the Bat will be carried forward. Even pointing out minutes earlier that his birth name was Robin John Blake (nice touch), but here's the real thing that pisses me off....
WHY THE FUCK ISN'T THAT GOOD ENOUGH?!?!?!
Nolan leaves us with a lyrical, satisfying ending that ties in deeply to the character, and the concept of heroism, on thematic and story levels. It's complete. It's powerful. It's moving. And the first goddamn thing the assembled fanboy brigade can do is start whining about "where do we go from here?" Not in a "wow, I love the questions Nolan left me with" way, but in a "where's my next movie" way.
Nolan has always talked about "the many interpretations of Batman," he understands that every creator puts his mark on the character in ways that the next creator may or may not make use of. This is Nolan's take on a complete Batman epic, unencumbered with bullshit like continuity and shared universes. What we, as fans should take from this is really damn simple....
Continuity, more often than not, hinders storytelling, rather than adding to it.
Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was NEVER Supposed to tie into the "regular" DC Comics universe. It was Miller's attempt to tell an iconic story about the end of a hero's life, without having to be tied to 10 other books, or what the character was doing in Justice League of America. THAT'S why the story is great. You can say the same about Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke. The reason these stories are great and live on is because there are no rules, period.
It's only after the fact, when these two stories because so popular, and the fans started clamoring about "how they fit" into the comics they were reading on a monthly basis, that things got fucked up. With various elements from these stories, that weren't supposed to fit in perfectly, being forced into the "regular" books. What DC should've had the balls to do, and I hope Warner Brothers learned the lesson, is say, "they don't. We're looking for someone with a visionary new story to tell about this character, period." I think John Blake taking up the mantle of the Batman, and being the first of a continuing line of defenders of Gotham is fun to turn around in your head, but I don't need, or want, to see a movie about it.
Plus, I don't think Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be interested without Nolan. I know, speaking as an actor, I wouldn't.
Why? Because that was Nolan's story, and Nolan's made quite clear that he is done with Batman and superheroes. (I would advise all of you to quit thinking that Nolan is hands-on with Man of Steel. His own comments make it pretty clear that he was just there to jump-start production as a favor to David Goyer and Warner Brothers) I don't want to see Darren Aronofsky trying to work inside Nolan's version of Gotham City, I want to see what Aronofsky would build from the ground up. I want to see how David Fincher would tell Batman stories, or Joe Carnahan.
And, yes, those three guys, Aronofsky, Fincher or Carnahan, are my dream directors to carry on the franchise. Not the continuity, but the franchise. They encapsulate audacious film-making with deep understanding of the crime genre. What Nolan understood that, say, Tim Burton didn't, is that "superhero" doesn't have to be a genre. Nolan made epic crime films, that happen to have a superhero in the middle of them.
Now, I'll put on my speculative hat....
My best guess is that we won't see Batman in a movie theatre until Warner Brothers gets a Justice League movie off the ground. It will be an all-new Batman, unconnected to any previous film version, and compatible with a unified DC Comics film universe. This isn't the Superman situation, with a lawsuit forcing Warners into having the Man of Steel on screen, or possibly losing the rights. The sad thing is, that's almost guaranteed to generate a much less distinctive and singular interpretation of the character. It will pale next to Nolan's version. Best case scenario, in my mind, is somebody reads a ton of Grant Morrison's JLA run, and casts Batman as the know-it-all/smartest-guy-in-the-room that was so much fun in those stories.
Frankly, I'm asking the fanbase to just stop. Stop trying to do to these films what you've done to the comics, with the incessant need to know how everything fits together. You've reduced the big two (Marvel and DC) comic companies to shoving out books as pacifiers between the big crossovers that "really matter," but never amount to anything. Every single one of those events promise "sweeping change," and it usually amounts to somebody getting a new costume.
Nolan gave you sweeping change. Nolan gave you an ending, a deeply compelling, emotional end to the adventures of HIS Batman. Accept it as the gift it is, and demand that the next version be as well thought out and lovingly crafted.