After Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’: A ‘Dark Knight Returns’ Movie?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 11:14 pm,

batman dark knight returns After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

Christopher Nolan is about to make his final trip into Gotham City with The Dark Knight Rises – a film that will bring closure to a trilogy that started with Batman Begins in 2005 and continued with the massively successful The Dark Knight in 2008.

The notoriously tight-lipped filmmaker is keeping the details of his latest Batman movie a secret, but there’s one question even Nolan doesn’t have the answer to — what happens to the Batman franchise after he jumps ship?

The character of Batman means so many different things to so many different people that a definitive celluloid interpretation is impossible. Yet, Nolan seems to have come closer than any of his predecessors and his films will surely cast an intimidating shadow over anyone tasked with succeeding him. For a large number of fans, putting someone else in charge of this series is a nerve-wracking proposition.

There will be more Batman films after The Dark Knight Rises, though — it’s too lucrative a franchise to abandon. And you know the higher-ups at Warner Bros. and DC Comics have had at least a few discussions about a post-Nolan game plan. Which is why a few of us here at Screen Rant think there might be more to the title of this latest film than meets the eye.

dark knight poster2 top After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

Now obviously The Dark Knight Rises isn’t a name that was carelessly picked out of a hat. The Dark Knight didn’t just look cool on a poster — it actually meant something when those three words appeared on screen at the end of that film. So as bland as the new title may sound to me, I’m sure it ties into the story (presumably it references Batman’s redemption in the eyes of Gotham’s citizens).

However, like a lot of you, I was surprised by the repetition of Batman’s nickname. After expecting something as unique and distinctive as The Dark Knight, this strikes me as a very curious move. Now, this is PURELY SPECULATION, but perhaps the studio is eager to brand this franchise and instill name recognition in the large portion of its audience that isn’t familiar with the comic books.

Why would it be so important to hammer the name “Dark Knight” home? Well, it seems to me that this film could just as easily have been called The Dark Knight Returns. Sure, they probably wanted to avoid confusion with Frank Miller’s comic of the same name (or a potential DCU animated adaptation) — but maybe… just maybe… DCE/WB is open to the possibility of a live-action version of Dark Knight Returns somewhere down the road.

the dark knight returns1 After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

The Dark Knight Rises not only leaves the door open for using that other title in the future — it would help make The Dark Knight Returns immediately identifiable as a continuation of the previous films. With Nolan’s departure from the Batman franchise likely on the horizon, this would actually be a logical time to use The Dark Knight Returns as a template of sorts for subsequent Batman sequels.

After The Dark Knight Rises, the studio is left with two choices if they want the franchise to carry on: reboot it again or bring in a new director to work within the guidelines of Nolan’s established universe. Neither approach sounds particularly satisfying to me. Fortunately, bringing The Dark Knight Returns to the big screen solves both problems.

For those of you not familiar with the comic, it tells the story of a 55 year-old Bruce Wayne putting on the cape and cowl after ten years of retirement. He squares off against old enemies, makes some new ones, takes a female Robin under his wing, and discovers that Gotham City is now a very different place for vigilantes.

Although I think Miller’s Year One series is the superior comic, The Dark Knight Returns remains a fan-favorite for good reason: it’s packed with one memorable moment after another and culminates with one of the most iconic fight scenes of all-time: Batman vs. Superman.

darknightreturnsbatssupes After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

Adapting The Dark Knight Returns verbatim would never work as a continuation of Nolan’s films. Harvey Dent plays a prominent role (although some would argue his fate in Nolan’s universe is still unknown), training a new Robin would be a little strange without any predecessors, and of course there’s the previously mentioned red and blue elephant in the room — Superman.

The politics of The Dark Knight Returns are an integral part of its narrative and the idea of Superman being reduced to a pawn of the United States government is powerful stuff. All of the Cold War-era paranoia could be effortlessly updated, but even in a semi-futuristic setting, Supes is just a little too fantastical for this universe. Fortunately, the idea of vigilantes being outlawed would still work without him.

I think the bigger issue is how much of The Dark Knight Rises is devoted to covering similar ground and how much influence The Dark Knight Returns might ultimately have on that film. Luckily, even if they eschew the majority of that subplot there’s still a lot left to work with.

dark knight returns hunt the dark knight After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

For me, the most resonant part of The Dark Knight Returns is the premise itself. Typically, when Batman crosses over into other mediums it’s to detail the beginnings of his war on crime. Quite honestly, I think the character becomes so much more compelling when he’s at the inevitable end of that journey. The qualities that make him so tragic are amplified and I love the idea of this old man forced to make peace with all of his decisions and sacrifices.

The specifics of the story are important, but not essential — at least not for me. What makes The Dark Knight Returns work is watching Bruce Wayne accept who and what he is. Connecting it to Nolan’s films would give it a sense of history and purpose that it wouldn’t carry as a stand-alone effort. I think any adjustments that need to be made to the narrative in order to accomplish that would be well worth it.

And, like I said, the decade-long gap between where established continuity ends and Returns begins would allow a new director to put his stamp on Batman without resorting to a reboot. You could drastically change the look of Gotham and the tone of the film without it feeling incompatible.

How about a Gotham cityscape that’s reminiscent of something out of Blade Runner? It’d actually be a natural evolution, as Nolan was greatly inspired by that film’s visual palette when he made Batman Begins.

blade runner city 01 After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

blade runner city 02 After Nolans Dark Knight Rises: A Dark Knight Returns Movie?

The same goes for the cast — what if Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine aren’t interested in returning if Nolan’s not calling the shots? No problem. Not only does The Dark Knight Returns allow new actors to take over the lead roles, it almost demands it.

Continue to actors who could play Batman in The Dark Knight Returns

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  1. For the 50 year old batman how about Daniel Craig? It’s going to be a few years till the movie would be made. Craig at the time would be entering his 50′s and the ten year stint for several movies would fit right into his age window. You could actually see the character age real time through the 50′s. Craig can maintain the physical requirements for the role and he looks a little aged now. K Russel would look to old, the dude from Avatar just doesn’t look the role, what about Guy Pierce would be hitting that window as well (recent action roles). Or how about a stretch for a great actor like Sean Penn? Right in the wheel house for dark and 50′s.

    • NO NO NO NO NO NO NO CRAIG he’d ruin it.

      • No one wants to watch some old guy running around it a tight suit… One big reason these movies were so popular ( except for Nolan ) is that Christian is hot and he mad the part into him … No one can play it like him anymore I rather see him come bake with catwoman and train robin

  2. I like the idea of Brolin, if you’re wanting to continue with from Nolan’s universe because he most closely resembles Christian Bale I believe. Also would like to see a Daniel Day-Lewis Joker… always liked this guy.

  3. the Nolan era of Batman is done folks!

    we had 3 films to enjoy, now we have to embrace change because the next movie i’m sure will be a fresh start.

  4. In order for TDKR to be a qualified success, it must be allowed to exist as its OWN entity and not be forced into Nolans mold or anyone elses, for that matter.

    TDKR should break the mold of previous superhero movies and be allowed to freely wallow in it’s “comic-bookness” so to speak.

    The first logical and important artistic step, is to NOT turn it into another “live-action” film. The graphics of the original publication are far too ingrained in most peoples minds to change it to actual flesh and blood. Instead, preserve Janson and Varleys work and make it *move*. A graphic novel come to life and a fanboys dream of a faithful, “un-Hollywoodized” Batman feature.

    The general public has gotten it’s own way for a long time-Now, they should step into “our” world and see what things can REALLY be like!

    Using animation would diminish the budget greatly over the live-action choice. DARK KNIGHT RISES cost $250 million-A computer controlled animatics feature could probably come in at less than $100 million.

    One more touch to make it perfect( a personal dream of mine ) and that would be to have Vangelis do the soundtrack. Frank Miller may not acknowledge this, but I think he was more than a little swayed by BLADE RUNNER when he was writing TDKR….

    • wouldn’t it be interesting if they really went out in the deep end and cast denzell washington as the elder bruce wayne, this cat is such a great actor you wouldn’t notice the color of his skin. who better to play a half physco half genious like washington. dare i say heath ledger type performance, maybe not but very close.come on warner bros. expand your minds. washington would be a 1000 percent upgrade over the pre- nolan batmans, which i think were bad jokes compared to the nolan version. but wow i get excited just thinking about how washington would inhance this character.

      • Jeffrey-The reason they don’t do an African-American Bruce Wayne (following years of Caucasian Bruces) MIGHT have something to do with the 1st Michael Keaton Batfilm; Harvey Dent was played NOT by a Caucasian actor (again, after years of Caucasian Harveys), but by Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams.

    • I think The Dark Knight Rises was amazing, and it did leave the door open for more amazing things. I being 36 years old growing up it was always about batman and robin, so i think it would be cool to see what batman does to train robin!

  5. I thought that this would open the door for the “batman beyond” series. You know the younger more agile batman, with the black and red suit? but idk it would be pretty sick. with bruce as his mentor.

    • Originally before they maid Batman Begins that was their other option,Batman Beyond, for a film series so…it’s a possibility.

      • the “robyn” character in dark knight rises film would fit lol physically, and appearance wise lol he even has the ears

        • I think you guys should learn how to spell. I also think you and many others suck at grammar. But I like the idea of Batman becoming a mentor of Robin. But it is over, and it was great.

        • I think you guys should learn how to spell. I also think you and many others are horrible at grammar.

  6. Honestly maybe it would be cool if robin(the cop) somehow figured out that alfred had saw Wayne in italy and went to find wayne then got taught by him
    (wearing a bada** version of the robin costume like when we first saw batmans in batman begins)after traing he make the batman costume better and takes over or at least batman (new) would do a movie where he teaches robin and has him fight at the end where eventually he takes over the batman mantle so wayne can have a peaceful life

    • Robin was given those coordinates in his bag to the batcave by bruce i believe so that he can be trained by him and help him now that he is older kind of like the old batman tv show and old comics.Batman was always an older man so in the next films (if any) batman would recieve help from robin

  7. george clooney as powers and clint eastwood as old bruce and the guy that plays scott from the new teen wolf as terry

  8. Everything you just said sounds stupid. To hell with the comic having a 55 year old batman, it’s just not possible. Wayne’s physical condition in Dark Knight Rises makes him being 55 and still doing Batman things just stupid. If anything, Robin John… whatever, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will take the place of Dick Grayson either as Nightwing or completely jumping ahead to him being the new Batman. I’d actually expect Nightwing to be completely eschewed for the simple fact that during Nolan’s films, there never was a Robin at Batman’s side to be dismissed and become Nightwing. Everything you said in your rant is just dumb. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be the new Batman.

    • You OBVIOUSLY Have never read the batman comics Duck.

  9. i don’t know or like the idea of Robin being the new Batman. Nolan left the Dark Knight Rises to end like most of his films making you guess and wanting more. He left the ending free where we can interpret whatever we want is he still batman, or has he retired??

    But as for Robin, he can never be Batman he will always be Robin, Batman’s sidekick. If there was another movie to be continued i don’t want another reboot for this marvelous work that can never be more topped if there really was a reboot, the audience will have really high expectations and the director and cast will have a lot to work with.For example The Amazing Spider man, its cool and all for me personally i would rather have them make this story of the same cast a continuation of where the last spider man movie took off.

    I personally believe there should be another Batman after the The Dark Knight Rises, i don’t know about Nolan, it would be great if he did another one. But more likely another director that can use the essence of Nolan’s perspective to make the next movie more entertaining and have the darkness edge to it like Nolan. It would be awesome to have the same cast or mostly the main characters. I want Batman to always be (christian bale)because his voice is the whole essence of fear and what batman should sound like. and Robin (Joseph Gordon Levitt)to fight side by side and have robin have another suit of his own more gadgets etc. with another villain like poison ivy and penguin and the riddler, freeze etc. But if secondary characters like Alfred and gordon they can be replaced and wont be missed much although i want them in the next movie. I don’t know if that is going to happen and i speak for most people its going to be awesome if the next director and WB would wanna go with it. Bale should return as batman and have robin by his side to save Gotham again.

  10. Ewwww why all such old guys? Chris bale or someone new who rocks it like Christian did!

    • Umm becasue in the story of Dark Knight Returns Batman was OLD…DUH LOL

      • Aw gee, Kieran…you’re not actually going to insist that they follow the COMIC, are you?


  11. I am 26 and never followed comic books. I enjoyed batman when i was young with keaton, but it wasnt enough to hook me. Every batman from then until batman begins was nothing i cared for. However, nolan and bale hooked me. I went to the theatre as many times as i could for each of these 3 films, thats how hooked i am. I hope they find a way to continue with the current cast and crew. I really want them to continue with the look and feel. I would hate for a reboot to be over the top bubble gum. Im not like you guys, i dont recognize alot of these bat bad guys youve talked about so i guess im speaking for the non comic fan fanbase of these films. I watched batman under the red hood and thuroughly enjoyed it. I would like to see the black mask play a role in a nolan batman, and someone i was ALWAYS hoping for was the riddler. Just a complete maniac. However, thats what the joker was. i could see trying to avoid repition. I love the idea of no super powers. Real people in essence. i guess what im getting at is i would hate for an incredibly lame reboot to start and turn away all of us new comers.

    on a side note, i see alot of talk about the amazing spider-man. I personally enjoyed it. I like that he was more brash funny and cocky. Toby was just to awkward for me. i managed to look past that for the first 2 movies but that third one. WOW that ruined the whole series for me. I refuse to watch those 3 movies and i like spider man. watched the cartoon in the 90′s. still no comic books tho. But did they ever DESTROY Venom. I was hoping the new spider man would follow a bit more in the darker universe where they could show a real venom and carnage. maybe one day :D

  12. i disagree with the whole plot except for the name nolan has done something nobody else can do in any super hero movie ive ever seen and thats keep all the actors and by returns he returns with robin beeing that rises ended off with robin i think it plays robin fighting crime untill the riddler comes along and shows robin he can’t do it alone then batman (christian bale) comes in for one last epic fight and thus the triligy ends there you cant and shouldnt take nolan’s film and continue it with someone else its not logical and the movie would downright suck o also during the whole thing alfred dies due to the penguin killing him. ;) now THAT would be an amazing story line.

    sheesh i should send that in to nolan.

  13. Zach Snyder will takeover and carry on the dark knight so he can setup his Justice League movie. He will most likely takeover Green Lantern as well. Btw Man of Steel is the official start.

  14. They should continue the story of the dark knight even if the director is nolan and the bat is not bale. but I prefer if they will make a new batman movie they should continue this story not to reboot it……..

  15. I think dc comics should come back with a movie of justice league….. I agree with Ian Zack should continue it

  16. When i say ”Wolverine” who is the first person that comes to mind ? Yip its Hugh Jackman !!

    As such Christian Bale is ”Batman” it will be very hard for the next person who takes the role of ”Batman” to walk in Christian Bale’s footsteps, he really took the role and made it his own, just like ”Ironman” Robert D jnr has filled those shoes.

    All i know is that the future players in the film industry really has big steps to fill.

    Personaly i would like to see Bale in another ”Batman” saga

    • definitely.. bring back Bale. I don’t see why not? I have to admit that Christopher Nolan is a fantastic director. He really knows how to bring up super hero under heroic moment and knows how to utlizes 3rd party perspective to amplify awesomeness of its hero.

      I have no problem however if they go w/ another director. Namely, Brad Bird.

    • I think Liam Nelson could play a great elder Wayne. That man has a darkness in him. Just watch the Taken duo. Holy crap! He scared me and I was rooting for him.

      • You’re joking right? You do realize Liam Neeson is already in the movies right?

  17. Despite that some of the characters saying that they are done with the Nolan Batman series ,there are some clues for the next Batman movie.
    For those who did not watch the movie do not read this:
    In the end Batman did not die as Alfred met him at the end and they did not say anything to each other which suggest another movie to show how they will forgive each other.
    The nurse around the end told the cop Blake that she liked the name in his files Robin and that he should keep it.
    Another clue was that in Bruce Wayne’s vision of Ra’s Al Ghoul in which he said that there is more than one way for immortaility weither its his decendants ,his followers ,his legacy which will inspire many mmore
    Finally there is the most important fact there are far more enemies in the Batman series and they are more important movie material to be just ignored and they represented more a threat than those who were made already.

  18. I know this is completely unrelated to this article but I’m watching batman forever right now and I have to get this off my chest. Tommy lee Jones is just TERRIBLE as two face.. half the time he looks like he doesn’t even know what he’s doing he just laughs that awful fake laugh. Jim Carey.. awsome riddler though.

    • agree!!

      So. anyway.. why not return Christian bale? lol.. he will be mid 40s.. who says you have to be crippled 55 year old to play batman..?

      • Um, the comic says so, jvmxtra…

      • Quoting Wikipedia:

        “Bruce Wayne, now 55, has voluntarily retired from crime fighting following the death (under unspecified circumstances[1]) of Jason Todd, the second Robin. In the absence of superheroes, criminals run amok, and a gang called the Mutants terrorizes Gotham City.”

  19. I still think Bale is perfect for the role, He’s absolutely amazing and takes every role he play’s seriously. we’ve seen him lose lots of weight and gain it back all of a sudden, im sure if Nolan directs it again all actors will be up for it. Bale could easily look a lot older than he seems. Talking about villains 2 face is another potential, we have poison ivy, the riddler, penguin and freeze as well. The way The Dark Knight Rises ends definitely reeks of a new movie, Robin must be a part of it. You cant leave someone dangling off a cliff like I am just now. Although timing is essential with Michael Caine and morgan freeman due to age I think more can definitely be squeezed from this lemon. Nolan does deserve a break. But i would like to see more.

  20. Well, in all honesty, “Rises” already had a plethora of references to “Returns” shoved in there – at least to part one anyway. Wayne “retired” into a life of isolation and regret but dons the suit and cape again as a new great threat arises with an army of followers. The old cop telling the rookie he is “in for a show tonight” is a classic scene from “Returns” too. And by the way, there IS a Robin in “Rises”, albeit not a traditional one.
    The big question is still why the title is “Rises”. It would have made so much more sense if they had swapped the titles of the last two movies.

  21. what could happen is they make a nightwing series then go back and make batman and robin like the do in so may series

  22. Let Batman continue forever

  23. I think the Guy that plays Michel in brun notice would be a good Batman

  24. I dislike all of the actors that could be the new Batman. Kristin Bale is the best actor for the role. Why change the cast even though they may not want to, then don’t make another Batman movie.

  25. how the hell can i contact bale and nolan? Man’ you can’t quit like this. The batman series has to continue at any cost :x

  26. I think that all thee actors should be thee same. That’s what most people want and like.

  27. No one said Christian Bale is not going to do the part…

  28. and if you all do not remember the end of The Dark Knight Rises, in the ending a female secretary tells the cop that she likes his real name “Robin” when he hands his ID to her, and Alfred sees Bruce at the table with cat woman, after the engineers say that Bruce had fixed the auto pilot for the “bat” 6 months ago even though he himself said there was no auto pilot before taking off with the bomb. There will for sure be a cumulating batman film with this same cast.

  29. mann whatever is the game going on… I actually want bat’man to return.. Maybe a few times more hehehe… to save gotham. Please nolan and bale. You got to team up guys. i put on a challenge to both of you. “P