Speculating on The Dark Knight Rises…

Dan Calvisi has brass balls. Now, I’ve never seen the man nude, I just meant it more as a metaphor. Kinda like Alec Baldwin pulling his golden nuts out of the briefcase in Glengarry Glen Ross. To theorize on the story of The Dark Knight Rises is one thing, but to go to the extent to outline all the damn plot points?  Well, Dan can drink all the damn coffee he desires. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a closer (if you didn’t get that reference, please slap yourself in the face before you click here).

Before I get around to Dan’s speculation on the plot, let’s review a few things:

  • The events of the The Dark Knight Rises take place eight years after The Dark Knight.
  • As seen in the prologue that screened before IMAX showings of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bane kidnaps a nuclear physicist, Dr. Leonid Pavel.
  • Bane beats the shit out of Batman, possibly breaking his back, and imprisons him.
  • Liam Neeson reprises his role as Ra’s Al Ghul, more than likely, in a flashback sequence.

Batman Selina Kyle The Dark Knight Rises

After reading Dan’s theory, I believe we’ll see the following beats in the film:

  • Bruce Wayne decides to retire Batman.
  • It’s peace time in Gotham, but there is a economic recession that becomes a full-blown depression.
  • At a masquerade ball, Wayne will learn of an underground movement (The Resistance) that will force him to rethink Batman’s retirement:


There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, ’cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you even thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

Batman versus Bane The Dark Knight Rises

  • John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character), an officer with Gordon’s trust, will infiltrate The Resistance as an undercover cop.
  • Bane will release Arkham’s inmates and arm them against the city.
  • After blowing up the football stadium’s field, Bane will turn the citizens against each other.
  • Batman will face off against Bane and Bane will break his back.
  • Bane will keep Wayne alive, imprisoning him for the purpose of watching the city he vowed to protect destroy itself.


When Gotham is ashes you have my permission to die.

  • Selina Kyle and John Blake will form an alliance after Bane double crosses her.


Why would you run? Bane?


You should be as afraid of him as I am.

Batman The Dark Knight Rises Screenplay

  • Wayne will rebuild himself while imprisoned and escape what may be the Lazarus Pit (this will not have the same elements from the comics, as all of Nolan’s Batman films are based in reality, not the supernatural).
  • Wayne will learn of Bane’s development of Dr. Pavel’s nuclear bomb and his intent to destroy all of Gotham (he may get this information from Selina Kyle — this may be her reason for turning against Bane).
  • Batman will form an alliance with Selina Kyle (potentially turning her into Catwoman) and John Blake (Gordon, Lucius Fox, and Alfred are included here as well) against Bane.
  • In order to disarm the bomb, Batman will have to face off against Bane again.


You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.


Not everything. Not yet.

  • Batman will defeat Bane by ripping off his mask, saving Gotham from the nuclear bomb, but in the process, will expose himself to the Venom gas and die.
  • With Bruce Wayne’s death, John Blake will assume the role of Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises Screenplay

Now, Dan created a PDF where he does a much more thorough job with his speculative story analysis than I just did. I highly recommend you check it out. Now, there’s one place where I wholeheartedly disagree with him — the epilogue. From Dan’s PDF:

EPILOGUE: A ceremony – Bruce Wayne is laid to rest on a televised ceremony, as James Gordon gives a speech about Bruce being Gotham’s true savior. We see Bruce, embalmed, in the coffin as the lid is closed – it’s lowered into the ground as the city watches – everyone is in tears…except Alfred, who looks curiously annoyed.

Bruce Wayne is celebrated as the symbol of Gotham City, replacing Harvey Dent and restoring the hope and honor of a once-proud city. Thomas Wayne’s legacy has been upheld.

Later – Alfred cracks open an identical coffin, to find Bruce, alive, breathing from an oxygen tank! They switched coffins – Batman’s last act of deception. Dissolve to:

SOMEWHERE IN ASIA – Alfred drops Bruce off and they say goodbye. Bruce, face scarred from the venom, but truly at peace, walks off into the mountains. Meanwhile…back in Gotham City…

John Blake, now a Lieutenant, works with Catwoman to keep Gotham City safe. The bat symbol is scrawled all over town.

That would be an amazing epilogue, but I don’t think it fits with what came before it. Now, as I stated earlier, Liam Neeson reprises his role as Ra’s Al Ghul. This will probably be in flashback. Again, I don’t believe Nolan will use any supernatural elements in this film, as he has not used them with Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. Ra’s Al Ghul will not appear out of the Lazarus Pit and heal Wayne’s broken back with a good massage. That’s just not gonna happen. Ducard was Wayne’s mentor. In a way, he’s just as responsible for creating Batman as Wayne. The ideas that created Batman were based on The League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul. From Batman Begins:


A vigilante is just a man who is lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man. If you devote yourself to an ideal. And if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely.


Which is?


A legend, Mr. Wayne.

The Dark Knight Rises Ending

Here’s the thing — Ducard was not Ra’s Al Ghul until Ra’s Al Ghul was killed in the monastery’s destruction. He was Ra’s Al Ghul’s best student. He was to Ra’s Al Ghul what Wayne was to him (we’ll probably see this in the flashback). Bruce Wayne can be locked up and destroyed, but Batman is something else entirely — a legend. That’s why I believe you’ll be seeing Joseph Gordon Levitt wearing the cape at the end. After all, Batman is just like Ra’s Al Ghul — immortal.

UPDATE: A few more thoughts…

I’ve seemed to ignore all the promotional material touting that “THE LEGEND ENDS.” This is the monkey that has been gracefully placed upon my back. I shall do my best to type with it scratching and clawing at my back. From Batman Begins:


In the depression, you father nearly bankrupted Wayne Enterprises combating poverty. He believed that his example could inspire the wealthy of Gotham to save their city.


Did it?


In a way. Their murder shocked the wealthy and the powerful into action.


People need a dramatic example to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. 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.

Here’s the part I failed to include, or better yet, realize: the legend ending has nothing to do with Batman. It has everything to do with the Wayne Family. Of course, Batman’s a legend, too. Hey, I still believe Bruce Wayne will die, but will JGL become Batman? Hmm… as long as John Blake was a ninja or some kind of special forces badass before he joined the police force, I suppose it could happen.

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

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  1. a few notes

    1. as far as anyone knows, Ducard was always Ras Al Ghul. In fact, the theory that he replaced Watanabes character once he died is actually more so speculation than thinking Ducard was always Ras Al Ghul because Ducard says as much.

    2. I was under the impression (I assume I read it somewhere) that Banes mask was giving him anaesthetic in Nolans interpretation, rather than Venom gas?

    • You definitely brought up some good points. As for Ducard / Ra’s Al Ghul’s — both interpretations paint him as a liar, so what’s to trust? If I remember correctly, the lead in to his reveal as Ra’s mentions immortality and the supernatural — and Wayne dismisses both as “cheap parlor tricks.”

      Now, calling it an anesthetic would have been a better choice of words on my part. “Venom” was a reference to the comic. Whatever it is, how deadly is it when exposed to others? After all, it keeps such a powerful man, with what must be one helluva tolerance alive. Back to real world — If a person with zero tolerance to opiates injected the normal fix for a hardcore heroin addict, it’s gonna end in death.

      That brings me to my good friend Dan Calvisi’s guess: Bruce fakes his own death in the epilogue. He’s walking with a cane in the trailer. Is this the toll being Batman has taken on his body? What if he needs a plethora of pain killers just to stay even? If that’s the case, Bruce might have developed enough tolerance to survive.

  2. Got to say that PDF was a great read and it has some plot points that I think definitely can work and could actually come to fruition in the film, though I think if Talia is going to be in the film (and let’s face it she is) I think she will be bad through and through like her father and won’t help Batman/Bruce but as I said absolutely great read and it’s really got me psyched for the film

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