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Will The Dark Knight Rise Again?

A look at the future of the Batman film franchise

Now that director Christopher Nolan has completed his trilogy of Batman films with the arrival of "The Dark Knight Rises," the question has naturally come up: what happens next?

After all, just because Nolan has finished his story, that doesn't mean we've seen the last of the Caped Crusader on the big screen. There's no doubt, in fact, that he will be back. Nolan's movies have been an incredibly successful enterprise, and Batman remains the most lucrative screen property in the DC Comics canon (only Superman comes close).

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No matter how "The Dark Knight Rises" ends up faring at the box office when all is said and done -- and it does seem that the horrifying events in Colorado two weeks ago will end up having an effect on its total grosses -- it will still be a wildly successful movie for Warner Bros., which has a tremendous interest in keeping Batman in the public eye for years to come. The question is, how does the company make that happen?

Well, there are three or four major ways we can think of, and before we discuss them, we should warn you that the following will contain major spoilers for "The Dark Knight Rises." So if you haven't seen the movie yet, stop reading here. Okay? We've warned you...

The first and seemingly most obvious way to go would be to keep future Batman movies in the Nolan universe, even if Nolan himself isn't involved directly as a writer and director (but perhaps as a producer). Although everyone involved went to great lengths to say that "The Dark Knight Rises" was the end of this story, there was clearly enough left open-ended at the finish of the film to allow several threads to be picked up.

First of all, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) isn't dead. He has simply retired for good, somewhere in Italy. Could he be persuaded to return to Gotham once again and fight yet another menace to the city? We suppose that depends on how much money the studio would be willing to offer Bale even though he's said he's done with the character as well. Frankly, this is the least likely possibility: it does feel like Bale won't be back in the cape and cowl.

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Will The Dark Knight Rise Again?

However, he's left them to someone else -- namely John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the good cop who is given a map and the keys to the Batcave at the conclusion of the film, where we also find out that his real name is Robin. That's just a little fan service; we won't be seeing Blake pulling on the yellow, green and red costume any time soon. But the name does signify that Blake has become a worthy ally and eventual successor to Wayne as Gotham's protector.

When we see Blake ascend into the Batcave at the end of the movie, the message is quite clear: anyone can carry on the Batman mantle and legacy.

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