The future of Batman on film is very uncertain. With DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. launching a Justice League movie in 2015, and The Dark Knight Rises effectively closing the door on that iteration of Batman, how we next see the Dark Knight onscreen is still a mystery. We know that he'll be part of the Justice League roster, but what age he'll be, and who will play him, are big looming questions in need of answers.
No doubt there are still people out there who wish that Dark Knight Trilogy architect Christopher Nolan would return and help usher the DC movie universe to greatness - but that's not going to happen. And Nolan himself is once again letting it be known why The Dark Knight Rises is officially his last Batman film.
"For me, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in BATMAN BEGINS, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on."
As far as Nolan is concerned, the ending of Dark Knight Rises isn't a question of whether or not Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, John Blake, becomes the next Batman - it's simply a testament to the fact that anyone can step up and be the kind of symbol that Batman is - if they simply have the strength of character to do so. Considering that Batman Begins... er, begins with Bruce Wayne coming home from exile with the stated goal of becoming an everlasting symbol, suffice to say that Nolan (thematically) brought things full circle throughout the run of the trilogy - which is why he isn't coming back for Justice League.
But this is where things get tricky.
Recent rumors (key word: rumors) have suggested that Warner Bros. could be planning to include John Blake (and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the Justice League roster. The thinking likely is that continuity amongst the films would help the studio establish their shared movie universe easier than trying to reboot Batman with a new actor picking up the role...possibly too soon. Best of all: they could offer a version of Batman that's already somewhat established, arguably without stepping on the creative vision of Nolan's trilogy. But just remember: Nolan's blessing is not at all necessary in order for the studio to make this move.
We'll leave the question of having John Blake's Batman in Justice League (as opposed to a rebooted Bruce Wayne) for the comment section, but it's clear that for Nolan, time hasn't changed a thing; the thought of expanding his Batman universe into something like what Marvel is building simply doesn't appeal to him. He set out to tell a story, told it, and brought it to a close. It's a rare bit of integrity to put the telling of a story over the thought of more money to be made. But... will Warner Bros. share in that sentiment?
The Dark Knight Rises will be on DVD/Blu-ray on December 4th.
Justice League will hit theaters in 2015.