The Wolfpack are back for one last adventure. This time, alas, they forgot to pack any jokes.
The Dark Knight Rises: will they kill him?
Yes, The Dark Knight Rises may well be - as it is described in the new trailer - "the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend". But it's a bit of a leap to imply from this that it is Batman's life Christopher Nolan also wants to conclude. Yes, the latest promo does seem a particularly doom-laden affair, what with Michael Caine's Alfred saying he has "buried enough members of the Wayne family" and Batman's whispered suggestion he hasn't yet given Gotham "everything". Rather than fateful portents though, couldn't these merely be artful misdirections from a film-maker particularly fond of wrong-footing audiences?
The idea of Christopher Nolan tricking the audience with doom-laden trailers seems a bit cheap for the conclusion of the most successful comic book trilogy ever, doesn't it? This is a straight-up epic, already rumoured to stretch to nearly three hours. Yes, Batman will return from Bruce Wayne's punishment and capture. But can he win? No. It's not only this trailer but the whole of The Dark Knight that points to Batman as a sacrificial character.
THE BANE FACTOR
Even if we still can't make out what Tom Hardy is saying, there is no doubt Bane will be Batman's most formidable adversary to date - not surprising for a nemesis whose USP in the comic-book world is that he once broke the Caped Crusader's back. But while there's ample evidence to suggest the burly bald terrorist might cut short the Bat's crime-fighting career, methinks Nolan will refrain from pulling the plug completely. This writer is more inclined to believe an alternative theory that's doing the rounds: that another Batman will step up to fill in for an incapacitated Bruce Wayne.
"You should be as scared of him as I am," says Selina Kyle. The footage of Bane holding what appears to be Batman's shattered mask is nothing new. The foreshadowing of the defeat at the hands of Bane has been clear since the first poster emerged. It's right there in the Knightfall comic book. Bane breaks Batman's back over his knee. Can Christopher Nolan resist such a dramatic temptation?
Can Batman survive?
One intriguing element in the latest trailer is the watchful presence of Inception actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We know his character, John Blake, is "a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty". Could this "special duty" involve inheriting the Bat-suit and wearing it in future Caped Crusader outings? That would certainly make sense if the much-mooted Justice League project ever gets off the ground - a DC Comics superhero mash-up that could get a kick start now that The Avengers has proved such a worldwide box office cash-cow.
Don't forget, the death of this Batman doesn't necessarily mean that Bane wins and Gotham is plunged into darkness. A new light could rise. Have you noticed how disproportionately front-and-centre Anne Hathaway is in the latest trailer? Don't overlook the fact that we see a tantalizing shot of costumed Bats and Catwoman fighting in unison in this one. She clearly turns for the good. The cat could replace the bat.
Chris Nolan and Christian Bale have made no bones about the fact that The Dark Knight Rises will be their final foray into Batman's world. For all their success together, though, they have never been more than custodians of a legend that existed long before them and will endure without them too. It would be a poor show if their legacy would be to kill off a character who has delighted so many millions. How more fitting it would be if they left him with a future of possibilities, just waiting for be exploited by the next visionary star-director combo.
Christopher Nolan has a unique opportunity to turn the traditional heroic archetype on its head. Already, the 'happy ever after' ending seems impossible for this character. I could go on. But I'll give the last line to IGN's Chris Carle, who made this sharp observation on the 'Keepin' It Reel' podcast following an extended footage screening with Nolan: "They're gonna whack him. I have a feeling they've set up an almost Christian allegory to the whole thing. He goes away, prepares his ministry then comes back and, ultimately, will sacrifice himself."
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