Dark Knight Rises’ ‘Dark Knight Returns’ Connection?

Gary Oldman will soon sizzle onscreen as a stalwart master of espionage in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but while making the rounds to promote that spy thriller, he’s of course been poked and prodded for any little tidbit of information about The Dark Knight Rises. In speaking with Moviefone, Oldman dropped a quote that is worth examining:

On the subject of where we find Gordon in The Dark Knight Rises:

We find him — obviously I can’t give too much away because I’m sworn to secrecy — but when we meet him, things are calmer in Gotham. It’s reminiscent of the Gordon that we met in the first one. There’s a world-weariness to him, and even though things on the surface are now calmer, he’s cleaned up Gotham with the Harvey Dent Act, it’s seething underneath.

Now, there’s a lot of speculative ground that can be bridged, based on that quote:

  1. The idea that at the start of TDKR, Gotham is a more tranquil town, where crime is under control.
  2. “The Harvey Dent Act,” which suggests some kind of law spun out of the events of The Dark Knight, and also explains some of the ambiguous images from the film that recently hit the Web.
  3. The idea of Gotham “seething underneath” the superficial mandates of ‘The Harvey Dent Act’, which would explain the powder keg of mass chaos that Bane (Tom Hardy) unleashes on the city.
  4. The combination of Oldman’s quote above and Gordon’s monologue in The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer, which suggests that he and Batman were ‘in it together’ to clean up Gotham, until Batman “went away,” leaving room for Bane to rise.

This kind of scenario Oldman paints – taken in conjunction with what we’ve seen in trailers, or heard directly from Nolan and Co. – begins to paint a narrative picture that contains faint traces of Frank Miller’s classic Batman tale, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ – in addition to the ‘Knightfall’ and/or ‘Legacy’ storylines that have been speculated as having influenced the story of TDKR.


We’ve been wondering why Chris Nolan chose to set Dark Knight Rises eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, and Oldman’s quote pretty much kills any speculation (and the alleged preview footage description) that Bane breaks Batman’s back immediately after TDK, and Bruce Wayne therefore spends eight years recovering. Hard to believe that a calmer, safer, Gotham would be the result of such a traumatic event.

No, it seems more likely that TDKR borrows some of the world Miller envisioned in The Dark Knight Returns, wherein laws against costumed vigilantism (like a ‘Harvy Dent Act’, perhaps?) forced Batman into retirement, but had the unexpected side-effect of discouraging costumed villains like The Joker, who went catatonic with no Batman to fuel him (good way to avoid the Heath Ledger issue). When a new and more savage crop of criminals (called The Mutants) start terrorizing Gotham, an aging Bruce Wayne is called back to duty and once again wages war as Batman to reclaim his city.

Just put in a younger Bruce Wayne (no gray hair), swap Bane in for ‘The Mutant Gang’ in Miller’s tale, and it’s not hard to see how Dark Knight Rises (from its title, to its depiction of Bane, to its thematic arc) could bear a strong resemblance to ‘Dark Knight Returns’mixed with story points borrowed from ‘Knightfall’ and/or ‘Legacy’.

They kind of look alike, no?

But one then has to wonder: could the speculation that Batman dies at the end of Nolan’s trilogy  be valid? After all, Batman faking his death was used in the conclusion of ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ story – so whether real (and symbolic) or fake (and reboot-friendly), might we see Batman bite the big one in TDKR?

Nothing better than some fun speculation… Discuss your Dark Knight Rises theories in our comment section for now, and we’ll all find out for sure what the film is about when it hits theaters on July 20, 2012.

Sources: Cosmic Book News & Moviefone


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