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Five questions “The Dark Knight Rises” didn’t answer about Batman’s future

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Photo: "The Dark Knight Rises," courtesy Warner Bros.

From formerly secret identities to the status of the rest of the DC universe...

This weekend’s premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” has already answered a lot of questions regarding the box-office reception to Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman movie, with screenings selling out across the country over the last few days.

While the tragic events of Thursday evening’s shooting at the screening in Colorado loom large over the film’s debut, it’s evident that “The Dark Knight Rises” has transcended standard movie fare and become a bona fide cultural event, bringing the record-breaking trilogy to a close in dramatic fashion. But that doesn’t mean we get all our questions answered in the concluding chapter of Nolan’s franchise.

Here are five big questions about Batman’s future that “The Dark Knight Rises” left us asking — but be warned: there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!

1. What happens to Wayne Enterprises and the city of Gotham?

By the time the credits roll in “The Dark Knight Rises,” most of Wayne Enterprises’ board of directors are dead, various pieces of “secret” tech developed by the company for Batman have been abandoned throughout the streets, and Bruce Wayne is both bankrupt and no longer running the company. This seems like a lot of problems to overcome before the company can ever — if at all — get back into business. Even so, we see Lucius Fox examining one of the remaining Batwing planes late in the film, with the help of some technicians who don’t seem to be very secretive about what they’re doing. So… what happened?

On top of everything that happened to Wayne Enterprises, the bridges into Gotham have been destroyed, the chief financial center is a smoldering ruin, and most of the city’s businessmen and executives are either riddled with bullets, beaten senseless, or frozen underneath the river. Oh, and the city’s worst criminals are roaming the streets, hoping to avoid the small number of policemen still breathing after a winter spent underground and a valiant charge into a spray of bullets in downtown Gotham. I’m pretty sure this is a situation calling for federal disaster-response aid, but is that even enough?

2. So is John Blake the new Batman… or the new Robin?

Christopher Nolan made sure everyone caught the “Robin” reference at the end of “The Dark Knight Rises” (so much so that it was one of the more unintentionally funny moments of the film), but given everything else that occurred during the film, the future hinted at for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character remains a little uncertain. Sure, his real name is Robin and he now has access to the Bruce Wayne’s secret hideout, but Bale’s character spent most of the film indicating that John Blake could be the heir to Batman’s cape and cowl. Bruce Wayne’s recurring tutelage of John Blake in the ways of being Batman, plus his comment about how the face under the mask doesn’t matter, plus the final scene in which John Blake “rises” in the cave would all seem to point toward him becoming Gotham’s new Dark Knight. So where does that leave Robin?

3. Who doesn’t know Batman’s identity at this point?

I might be missing a few people here, but at last count the list of people who know that Bruce Wayne is Batman includes: Alfred Pennyworth, Lucius Fox, Selina “Catwoman” Kyle, Bane, all of Bane’s henchmen who watched his fight with Batman, all of the inmates in the prison where Bruce Wayne recovered from his injuries, the technicians who worked on the Batwing (not certain, but since they noticed that Bruce Wayne was the last person to work on the vehicle, it’s likely), Talia al Ghul (who’s probably dead), whatever members of the League of Assassins are still around (since Talia, Bane, and Ra’s al Ghul all targeted Bruce at one point or another), the various thugs who apprehended Bruce Wayne during Bane’s reign in Gotham and were later pummeled by him just before Batman returned, and anyone else who connects the dots between Wayne Enterprises’ collection of secret tech and the timing of Bruce Wayne’s disappearance/return and that of Batman.

Not much of a secret identity at this point, is it?

4. Will the next Batman movie be a reboot or a sequel?

Warner Brothers execs seem to be keeping their cards close to their collective vests on this question, with news hitting the wire a while back that the studio planned to reboot the franchise after Nolan concluded his trilogy, but the end of “The Dark Knight Rises” clearly leaves the door open for another sequel. Whether the next film will relaunch the franchise, continue on with a new Batman, return with the old Batman and a new Robin, or simply create an ongoing franchise set apart from its plans for Superman and the rest of the Justice League remains to be heard — and with all the flak “The Amazing Spider-Man” received for rebooting that franchise, one can’t help wondering if the studio would risk a similar response.

5. Does the rest of the DC universe exist yet?

At this point, it’s a little surprising that Nolan didn’t include even the slightest mention of some of DC’s other superheroes in his trilogy, given that the first trailers for “Man of Steel” debuted in front of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Sure, “Green Lantern” didn’t exactly solidify that character’s place on a potential “Justice League” movie’s roster, but with Superman’s impending return to the big screen, as well as upcoming movies based on The Flash and other DC heroes, it feels like the time is right to start bringing these universes together. Marvel has already proven it can work, so with Nolan’s trilogy coming to a close and the potential for a fresh start with a new franchise — or simply a new Batman — I can’t help wondering when the Warner Brothers movie-verse is going to get a little bigger.

Where do you think Batman is headed after “The Dark Knight Rises”? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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