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Monday, September 16, 2013

Op-Ed Article: The Dark Knight Rises Gives Birth to a New Robin

The Dark Knight Rises Gives Birth to a New Robin


The final scenes of The Dark Knight Rises presented one of the most polarizing questions of the entire trilogy: Did John Blake become Batman, or was his character Robin, the Cape Crusader’s sidekick? Rest assured fellow Bat-fans, the bird has taken flight. Blake is Robin.

The evidence provided by director Christopher Nolan in the film is undeniable in its support of that assertion. It amazes me that more than a year later, fans and pop culture analysts continue to debate the issue.

Let’s first address something anti-Robin advocates seem to champion: The fact Nolan has said over the years leading up to The Dark Knight Rises that Robin (as fans have come to know the character) has no place in his Batman universe in the manner in which fans have grown accustomed to.

Nolan’s right. Having a teenaged sidekick isn’t believable, nor is a “ward” that lives with Wayne at the same time that coincidentally Batman has a new partner. That doesn’t work in the realistic world Nolan used for The Dark Knight Trilogy. But Blake isn’t a child. He’s an early 20-something, impressionable rookie cop.

Then there is the reveal of Blake’s true first name, “Robin.”  If Nolan intended Blake to take over as Batman, then why would he put a scene in the movie where “Robin” is noted at the very end as his real first name? It doesn’t make sense. If that were the case, Nolan wouldn’t have written that scene.

The argument that the scene was simply Nolan’s “nod”  to the Robin character fails to hold water. It creates confusion if Blake were to become Batman. Sure, there have been people that have temporarily filled in for Bruce Wayne as Batman in the comics, but that’s just it — it was temporary. Bruce Wayne IS Batman. Tossing the scene aside as token gesture to fans and adding needless confusion to the storyline isn’t Nolan’s style.

Now let’s address Blake’s abilities. He’s got nowhere near the type of combat training or discipline that enabled Bruce to become Batman. How realistic is it to expect Blake to walk into the Batcave and take over? It’s not. Even if you assume he trains for a few years, it’s not believable. Bruce’s development and training took seven years, many spent with the League of Shadows, just to get him ready.

Do people really think Blake can just stroll into the cave, pick up a few martial arts classes and take over the mantle of the bat? It’s not realistic at all, which is why there’s no way Nolan could have intended it that way. Blake would b
e killed in short order by the gangsters and thugs that were released into the streets following Bane’s occupation of Gotham, not to mention the super criminals out there like Scarecrow and The Joker.

Taking all that into consideration, its clear Bruce wanted Blake to find the cave and prepare for a future as his sidekick. Nolan wasn’t going to force Robin into the trilogy as a superhero, but he concluded Batman’s origin story by showing the birth of the Dynamic Duo.

It all ties together with the scene featuring Bruce and Selina Kyle on holiday in France. As all Batman fans know, any relationship between Bruce and Selina is doomed to failure, given their distinctly different personalities.

The Dark Knight Rises was loyal to that. Selina came back at the very end to help, but she walked that familiar line between doing the right thing and being selfish. It’s likely that at some point, the relationship between them in Nolan’s universe will crumble, setting the stage for Bruce’s return to Gotham.

Some fans have noted that Nolan went to great lengths to show the physical punishment Batman had endured, indicating that he’s hung up the cape and cowl for good. But don’t forget that Nolan also showed how a new leg brace and technology helped Bruce overcome his injuries and he came back stronger than ever after being defeated by Bane.

Bruce is 38 in film, but it’s not like he’s 55. He’s the right age to mentor someone. And given how he rebuilt his body to face Bane a second time, it’s clear he still has enough left in the tank to battle Gotham’s underbelly for years to come.

In addition, it was mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises that it would take awhile to prove the futures trading with Bruce Wayne’s thumbprint was fraudulent. That will be proved in time and,
ultimately, restore the Wayne family fortune. This gives Bruce a believable re-entry to Gotham.

Being abroad for a time with Selina allows the legal process to happen and keeps Bruce out of the spotlight until the issue has run its course. Then Bruce comes back to Gotham, saying he faked his death and is back in the game again. Although Wayne Manor now serves as a boy’s home, it’s not a stretch to believe Bruce will take up residence in the penthouse he had in The Dark Knight, or build a new mansion nearby the original Manor.

Love him or hate him, Robin is a defining part of the Batman mythos. He’s as critical to the Batman Universe as Alfred, Commissioner Gordon or any of the supporting cast and helps further define and expand the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Time and numerous comic storylines have proven that. Robin’s existence molds Bruce as a father figure and Batman as a crime fighter and partner.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t time in The Dark Knight Rises to flesh out that relationship and do it justice. The director instead gave us a believable Robin origin story that tied into the movie and Batman’s history, setting the stage for the Dynamic Duo to thrive in Nolan’s realistic Dark Knight Mythology well into the future.

When he’s not opining on Bat-related issues, Brian Heaton spends his days as a professional business-to-business journalist. He has covered technology, construction, sports and politics during a writing career that has spanned three decades. Brian has been an avid Batman fan and collector since 1980. Contact him at