This is an amazing article written by Mark Hughesover at Forbes. I think it's more pertinent right now given the rumors circulating about JGL playing Batman in the Justice League movie. Check it out below or here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markhughes/2012/07/26/the-meaning-of-joseph-gordon-levitts-fate-in-the-dark-knight-rises-spoilers/
Now that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has come to a conclusion with The Dark Knight Rises, everyone is talking and debating the meaning of the end of the film, and what happens to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake. So let me break it down for you and explain, including perhaps the one obvious thing that everyone seems to have missed so far. Read on! But be warned, here there be SPOILERS!
First of all, let me clear one thing up right away — yes, Bruce Wayne really is still alive at the end. For some reason that escapes me, a segment of fans are insisting it’s “open to interpretation” whether Bruce actually is sitting in that cafe, or if it’s just Alfred’s imagination. But there should be no confusion, the shot of Bruce at the cafe comes amid a montage of scenes showing each person close to Bruce finding out a bit of information revealing Bruce survived the nuclear blast. Lucius finds out Bruce secretly did repair the autopilot on “the Bat,” Gordon finds a repaired bat-signal on the roof of the MCU (contrary to some reviewer’s misunderstanding, Gordon didn’t repair it himself, he walks up and looks shocked to find the new bat-signal, runs a hand over it, grins, and looks around, all in the montage about Bruce’s actions), John Blake gets a big bag full of equipment and a GPS locator, and Alfred gets Bruce’s money and then sees Bruce at the cafe. Bruce’s arc ends with him finally being able to move on with his life, and without that fulfillment Bruce would actually have no true character arc (getting his back fixed and climbing out of the hole to fight Bane again is not a full arc, for those inclined to say the climb out of the pit is the major point in his arc).
Now, I’ll move on to the main question about the film’s end, and the one most of you are probably still unsure about — what happens to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character at the end, and who exactly will he become? I previously wrote, prior to the film’s release, my theory that the character John Blake would be Nolan’s version of Robin in this film, and it of course turned out to be pretty much true. Blake has the background of Jason Todd and Tim Drake, for the most part (his father is murdered due to a debt, and he later deduces Batman’s identity while still a young kid), but then grows up to have Dick Grayson’s adult life (being a police officer and ally of Batman who has dealt with the tragedy in his childhood in a more productive and healthy way than Bruce dealt with his own tragedies, plus that whole chalk emblem, all adds up to a “realistic” incarnation of Nightwing). Then, we find out that his actual legal name is Robin. So I’d argue that yes, he definitely served the role of Robin in The Dark Knight Rises. Meaning he was ALREADY Robin, he isn’t going to become Robin in the future.
Who is he going to become, then? Obviously, Batman. I know most fans seem to feel Blake is going to continue being Robin, and will just now use a mask to disguise his identity — although, that would mean his “secret identity” is his actual literal first name! Nope, that isn’t the meaning of the end of the film. A major theme in the story is “Who was Batman? He was just Batman, the person under the mask doesn’t matter, because ANYBODY can be Batman!” We hear this several times, and it speaks back to the longstanding concept in the Nolan trilogy that a symbol is eternal and cannot be killed or destroyed, and that is what Batman became — an eternal symbol for Gotham, a symbol that would be anybody.
Then, Bruce gives Blake a bag full of equipment to help him locate the batcave, which still contains all of Batman’s equipment. Meanwhile, Gordon was given a brand new bat-signal to call Batman. And as Blake crosses the cave to approach the bat-equipment Bruce has left behind, he is enveloped in a swarm of BATS — just like Bruce’s own initial moment upon entering the cave, in the iconic symbolism of the scene from Batman Begins when Bruce slowly stands amid the swarm of bats to represent his crossing of a threshold on his journey to become Batman.
With Blake getting a cave filled with bat-themed equipment and suits while crossing a swarm of bats just like Bruce did, and Gordon having a signal with the bat-emblem on it, that’s some additional strong evidence that Blake is indeed going to become a new Batman.
But there’s one final piece of evidence, and it’s the “big guns” in my argument. I’ve not seen anyone mention this yet, despite how powerful the imagery is. Consider…
What is the very last shot in the film? It’s Blake, stepping forward in the batcave as the big platform comes up out of the water to lift him into the air toward the Batman equipment that we can see in the distance. The platform lifts Blake out of sight, turning the screen black. And what comes next? The title: The Dark Knight RISES.
Yep, that title has many meanings in the film, including Batman coming back from retirement, Batman climbing up out of the pit to save Gotham, Batman rising as a symbol of hope again in Gotham, and Batman’s general victory over Bane and over the tragedy in his own life. But it has one final meaning, symbolized extremely clearly in the final shot of the film when we see John Blake step forward and that platform RISING to lift him to claim the legacy of Batman that Bruce has passed on to him. The Dark Knight will rise again, with someone else taking up the mantle to keep the symbol alive.
You simply cannot ignore the overt imagery of Blake rising on that platform followed by the title appearing on screen. Notice that Nolan’s films always leave the title until the very end of the movie. That’s where the title of each film has its final, full embodiment: from the announcement that Batman has begun; to the proclamation that Batman is Gotham’s dark knight protecting the city; and lastly to Batman rising to his final, firm status in Gotham as an incorruptible symbol that cannot be killed.
While of course people are free to interpret the story and the end of the film however they wish, I feel that there’s too much importance in the symbolism of that final scene, and in Blake having already served the role of Robin before moving on to serve as the man who will keep Batman’s legend alive. Without those things, the story has a gap and doesn’t truly come full circle with all of the themes of the trilogy. Just as Bruce being alive is necessary for his arc to be fulfilled, so to is it necessary for Batman’s arc and Blake’s arc to be fulfilled by John Blake assuming the mantle as Batman.
And there you have it, dear readers, the real meaning behind the end of The Dark Knight Rises. No doubt, the debate will continue, but I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming and supports my conclusions.