Christopher Nolan Was Inspired By Richard Donner's Superman & Talks Ending To The Dark Knight Rises
There's the Batman is dead theory with Alfred imagining Bruce Wayne at the end.
There's the theory that Batman escaped out of the Batwing and it was on auto-pilot.
There's the recent theory that it set up the Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the new Batman for the Justice League movie.
There's even the theory that during the Man of Steel, Henry Cavill will be shown to swoop down and save Batman in the new Superman movie!
While we can ponder what exactly happened until the cows come home, director Christopher Nolan recently talked about the ending to The Dark Knight Rises with Film Comment and explained that it was his way of ending the story and showing that Batman wasn't just one man, but a symbol.
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.
And speaking of Superman, of which Nolan is producer on the new Man of Steel, he says that Richard Donner was an influence on The Dark Knight Trilogy.
I had in mind a sort of treatment of Batman that Richard Donner might have done in the late Seventies the way he did Superman. To me what that represented was firstly a detailed telling of the origin story, which wasn’t even really definitively addressed in the comics over the years, funnily enough. And secondly, tonally I was looking for an interpretation of that character that presented an extraordinary figure in an ordinary world. So I wanted the inhabitants of Gotham to view Batman as being as outlandish and extraordinary as we do.
I do love actors and I feel great actors can find the depth of a characterization that adds to the richness of the film. I felt a lot of the scale of Batman Begins should come through the casting, and once again I looked back to Richard Donner’s Superman for that because he cast Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford and Ned Beatty.