Okay, as we did with Batman Begins, we’ll leave aside the obvious things like the idea that it’s the same actors playing the same characters and that Scarecrow might or might not come back and all that good stuff. We’re really just talking about specific thematic and story beats that pop up in one movie and then, by all appearances, will pay off in The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final film in Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy.
This time around, we’ve got a specific line that represents each—and while the speaker may or may not appear in the film, it seems likely that who said it will be nearly as relevant as simply the fact that it appears in the film.
“The day won’t come when you no longer need Batman.”
A line spoken to Bruce Wayne by Rachel Dawes, it’s very telling in terms of where Bruce finds himself at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, and it speaks to his psychology in a deep and fascinating way.
Batman was, after all, born out of a desire by Bruce to make sense of the senseless killing of his parents and even if he succeeded in bringing peace and harmony to Gotham, that wouldn’t solve the underlying issue that brought the Dark Knight into being in the first place. Rachel saw this, and knew that he would never truly retire the cape and cowl—something that Bruce has never been able to see.
Well, according to the production notes released earlier this week, Bruce starts the movie in quite a bad way, not least of all because he just doesn't know what to do with his life after hanging up the pointy ears. When Catwoman and Bane find their way to the city, does Gotham need Batman? Of course. But what seems to be the implication here is that Bruce needs Batman just as much.
“What’s gonna happen the day you find out your limits?”
Alfred asked this question and, even back when Batman Begins was in theaters, I remember turning to my seatmate and saying, "...Then we get Knightfall."
Ever since that first teaser poster with the shattered mask hit the Internet, of course, the speculation has been that Bane would break the bat, and everything from filmmaker comments to carefully-assembled clues from the trailer seems to suggest that's a real probability.
If we're looking at the film as a psychological look at Bruce Wayne, as suggested above, the idea of exploring what Bruce will do when finally faced with his limits for the first time is certainly an important aspect of that.
This is a recurring theme that goes all the way back to Batman Begins.
Still, it takes on a special and more literal meaning if, as has been suggested, Bruce has to step out of the role of Batman and leave the protection of Gotham to John Blake, who rumor has it is either a variation on Robin/Nightwing or maybe filling the Azrael role from Knightfall in terms of someone who would be Batman when Bruce can't.
The fact that these are the words of some chubby, middle-aged schmuck in a Batman costume doesn't change the fact that it gave him the courage to stand up to The Joker in the moments before his death, telling him that Batman gives everyday people the strength to stand up to the scariest and most awful things Gotham has to throw at them. It's something that's important when you consider that in this film, we see little kids longing for the return of Batman, even though he's been out of commission since they were far too young to really know who he was.
“The Bridge and tunnel crowd are sure in for a surprise.”
Anyone in the city is concscripted into the game/war that Joker sets up in The Dark Knight, and while he offers people a chance to escape the city limits, he warns them that the bridges and tunnels may not be safe. It's ultimately part of a master plan to force people onto the ferries, but it's a recurring theme in the trilogy, with the bridges being raised in Batman Begins to create an island of mayhem within the city limits.
We've already seen (time and time and time again) that the bridges into and out of Gotham will be detonated during the course of The Dark Knight Rises, and so it's certainly the kind of thing that's worth pointing out that a recurring theme of being "trapped on the island" is as common in Nolan's Batman work as in Lost.
“We thought we could be decent men in an indecent time”
Harvey Dent claimed that Gotham is such a corrosive influence that even he, Gordon and Batman couldn't be good. And while most would argue that Batman and Gordon manage to pull it off (and Batman and Gordon handed that reputation to Dent following his death), the secret Gordon has been keeping--that Batman didn't in fact kill Dent--has been eating at him for years. What will it do to Gotham if his personal morality overwhelms his desire to save the soul of the City?