Since the release of the latest trailer, fans have been speculating that Bruce Wayne will meet his end in The Dark Knight Rises. We all know this is both Christopher Nolan's and Christian Bale's last time spent on the Batman franchise. While Nolan is known for constantly trying to mislead audiences, Batman's death is certainly something that seems likely in third and final Dark Knight film.
When we last saw the Caped Crusader he was on the run from the law after taking the fall for crimes committed by District Attorney Harvey Dent. Set forward to this film eight years later, we find Bruce in retirement after temporarily hanging up the mantle. From what the trailers and TV spots have shown us is that Bruce is old and weakened in this film. Is this perhaps a sign of things to come for the Dark Knight?
Since this is the last film in Nolan's trilogy, it's fitting that he would want to wrap up Bruce's story full circle. Blockbuster trilogies rarely get fitting conclusions anymore. Comic book movies such as Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3 ended either too softly or with unresolved cliffhangers while other franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean 3 simply conclude by trying to set up sequels. It's a money-focused market where filmmakers don't have to power to do anything drastic to their films or characters that belong to high-grossing franchises. However, Nolan is not your usual director and it's likely that DC might let him conclude his story by having Bruce Wayne die while preventing future filmmakers from butchering his franchise with bad sequels.
To truly understand the enormity of the problem Warner Bros themselves face post Dark Knight Rises, is to look at what Nolan has achieved with his work on the Batman films. To take a product that was considered dead in the water after back-t0-back critical flops and turning it into a billion dollar franchise is an undisputed achievement which DC aren't likely to achieve again. Warner Bros have finished with Harry Potter and finishing with Batman and now left needing a new blockbuster hero. Will that be Superman? I doubt it.
Warner Bros don't have another big time superhero to turn to. Man of Steel faces an uphill battle to win over sceptics that find Superman unrelatable, while 2011's Green Lantern killed off any potential for a Flash movie. They need a superhero property that keeps their presence felt in a market where rivals Marvel are currently dominating. Once Nolan's Batman trilogy wraps up, DC only has Superman left to compete. Even then, Man of Steel finds itself up against Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 in the same year.
I don't think Batman is going to die in The Dark Knight Rises. While studio factors are definitely a part of the reason, I just feel Nolan simply doesn't have to have Bruce Wayne die in order to complete his story. I think Gotham will realise Batman is their true white knight, and the film will end with Bruce Wayne going in to hiding akin to the ending of Frank Miller's masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns.
As a side note, one of the best Batman comic books of the modern age contains Bruce's former sidekick Dick Grayson as the Caped Crusader. Batman doesn't need Bruce Wayne anymore. As said by Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, "as a symbol I can be everlasting". A new face behind the mask means Warner Bros won't need to reboot the Batman franchise while leaving Nolan's trilogy intact.