Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy came to an end with The Dark Knight Rises, but what would have happened if he and Christian Bale had made Batman 4?
Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are considered among the best superhero movies ever made, but what would have happened if he had made a fourth Batman movie with Christian Bale reprising his role as Bruce Wayne? As one of the most popular and beloved comic book characters, Batman has been adapted to all types of media for years, and his history in film has been full of ups and downs. It all started with two serial movies in the 1940s, followed by a film adaptation of the 1960s Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
Batman found success on the big screen in 1989 with Tim Burton’s Batman, followed by Batman Returns in 1992, widely regarded as one of the best superhero movies in film history. The Caped Crusader then went through a rough patch with Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but in 2005, he got a new chance in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which explored the origins of the character and saw him go against Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). Nolan brought a darker and realistic Gotham City and Batman, and the success of Batman Begins made way for two sequels: The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, the former being the best entry in the trilogy.
Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has been credited with starting the trend of darker superhero movies, redefining the genre, and particularly The Dark Knight has become one of the most influential superhero movies. The Dark Knight Rises brought the trilogy to an end by letting Bruce Wayne go of Batman and allowing him to start a new life with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), far away from Gotham City, but what would have happened if Nolan and Bale had reteamed for a fourth Batman movie, and how would it have impacted other superhero movies?
Bale’s Batman Would Have Worked Alongside JGL’s Robin
The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight and saw Bruce dealing with the aftermath of the deaths of Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent, leading him to become a recluse. Although Gotham City eradicated crime thanks to the Dent Act, Bruce is forced to return as Batman when a new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), starts attacking the city. Helping Batman alongside James Gordon (Gary Oldman) was rookie GCPD officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who figured out Bruce’s secret identity long ago. At the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman realized that the only way to save the city from Bane and Talia al Ghul’s (Marion Cotillard) plans of destroying it was by using his aerial craft, the Bat, to take the bomb far over the bay where it could safely explode, but this also meant putting his life at risk. After that, Batman and Bruce were presumed dead, with Wayne Manor turned into an orphanage and Bruce’s estate left to Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). The Dark Knight Rises closes with Alfred coming across Bruce and Selina in Europe, while Blake resigns from the GCPD and receives a parcel from Bruce that leads him to the Batcave.
The Dark Knight Rises also revealed that John Blake’s first name is actually Robin, leading to speculation over him possibly taking Batman’s vigilante place in Gotham City, more so after the Caped Crusader led him to the Batcave. If a fourth Batman movie had happened with Nolan and Bale, the logical payoff would have been Blake properly becoming Robin and teaming up with Bale’s Batman – the biggest question, of course, would be what would have had to happen in Gotham City to make Bruce Wayne leave his new, much calmer life aside to return to action in a city that often labeled Batman as a menace.
Would Bruce Wayne & Selina Kyle Still Be Together?
Selina Kyle was also introduced in The Dark Knight Rises, and she was a burglar, grifter, and an ally of Bane, who led Batman into Bane’s trap. Selina ended up siding with Bruce and helped him defeat Bane and find a way to save Gotham City from the detonation of the bomb Talia had prepared. Selina and Bruce ended up together, moving far away from Gotham City to live a peaceful life after all the struggles they had gone through all their lives. If Bruce decided to return to Gotham City and become Batman again (and team up with Robin), it’s possible Selina would have followed him too, and the three would have formed a very interesting and complete team as they would have covered different areas given their individual experiences and expertise.
Who Would’ve Been The Villain In A Dark Knight Rises Sequel
Perhaps the biggest question around what would have happened if Nolan and Bale had made Batman 4 is who would have been the villain this time. As mentioned above, Batman 4 would have had to give Bruce a very good reason to return to Gotham City and become Batman again, so the movie would have needed a strong villain. The Dark Knight trilogy saw some of Batman’s biggest enemies, such as Carmine Falcone, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, the Joker, Two-Face, and Bane, but it also set up other interesting villains. The most likely options would be The Riddler and Victor Zsasz, both teased very subtly in The Dark Knight trilogy. Victor Szasz is a serial killer who carved tally marks on his skin for every one of his victims, and he made an appearance in Batman Begins as a former mob enforcer who is transferred to Arkham Asylum by Jonathan Crane. Zsasz is later seen escaping from Arkham and coming face to face with Rachel Dawes, with Batman arriving right on time to save her.
Then there’s The Riddler, who is believed to have made a subtle appearance in The Dark Knight though not exactly as Edward Nygma. It’s widely believed that Coleman Reese, the Wayne Enterprises employee who tried to blackmail Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne, was Nolan’s version of The Riddler, as Fox constantly referred to him as “Mr. Reese”, which sounds like “mysteries”. In the end, Reese agreed to keep Batman’s identity a secret after he saved his life, so Reese might have not ended up becoming The Riddler, but this tease could have made way for the proper introduction of Edward Nygma in Batman 4.
Batman 4 Would’ve Hurt The Dark Knight Rises’ Ending
While a fourth Batman movie from Nolan and Bale would have been exciting, it might have not been the best idea. The Dark Knight Rises brought the trilogy to an end and gave proper closure to Bruce Wayne/Batman by letting him leave all the pain associated with Gotham and Batman behind and finally living his life, and making a fourth movie would have meant undoing all this. However, if a fourth Batman movie had been planned and confirmed before the script for The Dark Knight Rises was finished, then the latter’s ending would have been different in order to make way for another adventure – but again, that means not getting the fitting ending it has, and it’s hard to imagine The Dark Knight Rises ending differently.
What Nolan’s Batman 4 Would’ve Meant For The DCEU
The Dark Knight trilogy influenced the DC Extended Universe without starting it, but if there had been a fourth Batman movie, the DCEU wouldn’t be the way it is right now. The DCEU began in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, a darker and more grounded take on Superman that definitely learned a lot from what Nolan did in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and turned it up a bit more. Man of Steel was released the year after The Dark Knight Rises, so if Batman 4 had happened, it would have been released once the DCEU had begun. Given the different tone and approach in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the DCEU, it’s unlikely they would have merged, but Batman 4 could have had a change of tone so it could become part of the DCEU. That would mean that Batman v Superman wouldn’t have happened and the Justice League lineup wouldn’t be what it is now or it wouldn’t have happened at all. Batman 4 could have also changed the course of the DCEU and could have helped give it a more cohesive tone, thus avoiding all the problems DC’s connected universe has faced through the years.
Why Nolan & Bale Never Made A 4th Batman Movie
A fourth Batman movie from Nolan’s Dark Knight universe never happened because Nolan never really had plans for it. Back in 2019, Christian Bale explained that Nolan had a “one movie at a time” mentality when it came to the Dark Knight trilogy, and Nolan said to Bale that if they were “fortunate to be able to make three”, they would stop. Bale added that they rejected the idea of making another Batman movie in order to “stick to Chris’ dream” of making a trilogy, and so Nolan stepped away. Joseph Gordon-Levitt told CinemaBlend in 2016 that Nolan sees The Dark Knight Rises as the conclusion of a trilogy, so there were never plans to continue beyond a third movie. A fourth Batman movie from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight universe was never part of his plans for it, but had it happened, it would have completely changed Warner/DC’s connected universe, most likely for the better.