Batman cannot die. Bruce Wayne laid that in clear language while riding on his jet with Alfred in "Batman Begins." "As a man, I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored I can be destroyed, but as a symbol — as a symbol — I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting."
That view was never considered a radical change in Christopher Nolan's revisionist take on the Caped Crusader. That's always been Batman's mindset.
Comic book logic, however, refuses to let any major character truly, permanently die, and the light air of previous film versions would never have taken the character that far and risk ending a successful film franchise. But ending a series is precisely what Nolan intends to do with "The Dark Knight Rises."
In the latest issue of Empire, the series' creators (Nolan included) discuss giving their story a definitive ending. And though such a finale is never expressly stated, one cannot help but walk away from the article believing that not only is it likely Bruce Wayne will die or retire at the end of "DKR," but that it's exactly what should happen.
A large portion of the lengthy article deals directly with the idea of Nolan ending his run of Batman films with a period instead of a more traditional and economically friendly ellipsis. This kind of move is unprecedented when dealing with a property as infinitely reusable as Batman. Jonathan, Nolan's brother and co-writer, told Empire that he feels a solid ending helps the functions of a storyteller.
"It's the right way to end it — to blow the whole thing up! It's better than trying to spin the thing out indefinitely and make it into the Bond franchise," Jonathan Nolan said. "I mean, they've successfully pulled it off with Bond, but at certain costs, certainly at the cost of continuity. I think with almost every other franchise it's a mistake to try and keep those plates spinning. You want stakes. You want tectonic plates to shift. And as a writer you wanna feel you've worked on a complete story, with a beginning, a middle and an end."
Jonathan Nolan's reasoning behind his brother's choice to end the story necessitates some significant change in the life of Bruce Wayne, but if that shift isn't drastic enough, "The Dark Knight Rises" will not be considered a finale. The movie itself may have a conclusion, but without real, lasting transformation for the character and the series, Nolan would fail to deliver on the one promise he has made over and over again: an ending.
But does that necessarily mean the death or retirement of Bruce Wayne? For "The Dark Knight Rises" to be a true end as Nolan has indicated, the lasting effect of this film has to render the idea of any further Christian Bale/ Christopher Nolan Batman movies either impossible or meaningless. How do you do that? There are two ways: either Wayne experiences an epiphany, changing or solidifying his world view for good, or he dies/retires while the symbol lives on as foreshadowed in "Batman Begins." Which sounds more appealing to you? To use Nolan's word, which has more "stakes"?
Even if Bruce Wayne's ultimate fate won't be revealed until the film opens on July 20, it's almost guaranteed that his life will be on the throughout the film, simply because of Bane's presence in the story. "Bane is a resourceful, cunning and committed villain who knows exactly what he wants," Jonathan Nolan said when comparing him to the Joker. "He wants Batman dead and Gotham in ruins. That's fitting for a third film."
Perhaps the most telling evidence of Bruce Wayne's demise comes from the much-circulated quote from co-writer David S. Goyer, describing the final sequence of the film and his emotional reaction to seeing it onscreen. "The final scene of 'The Dark Knight Rises' is exactly that scene we talked about then," he said. "It remained completely unchanged. We both knew in our hearts that we were onto something special. I have to tell you, having finally seen everything strung together a little while ago and seeing that scene, I got a complete lump in my throat."
I rest my case.
Check out everything we've got on "The Dark Knight Rises."