14 May 2012 09:37 am

Who is JGL in TDKR?

There's plenty of questions of surrounding "The Dark Knight Rises", Christopher Nolan's final entry into the Batman film series that started with "Batman Begins" and continued with "The Dark Knight". One of the most persistent questions is just who does Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50, Inception) play in the superhero ensemble.

Anyone expecting more answers from the latest "Dark Knight Rises" trailer attached to "The Avengers" got only more ambiguity, as trailer features Gordon-Levitt's John Blake asking Catwoman "Did they kill him", and later, telling a kid he's not sure if "he" is coming back (both times apparently referring to Batman). So I decided to put inner Batman geek to the test, and compile a few possibilities from the Batman universe who could fit the bill for JGL's character.

Holiday (Alberto Falcone)

When Joseph Gordon-Levitt was first cast, many Bat-fans (myself included) thought he was the perfect case for Alberto Falcone, the youngest son of crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson in "Batman Begins") and the original Holiday, a serial killer who strikes on holidays. It's easy to see why because Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks just like the character. While putting a Falcone in the mix might add a sense of symmetry to Nolan's overall Bat-saga, this role seems to be the least likely, considering Batman already has to contend with the likes of Bane, Ra's al Ghul and Catwoman.

Catman


There may be a clue in the name of Gordon-Levitt's character: John Blake. There is an old Batman villain named "Catman", who also had the name "Thomas Blake" in the comics. The character worked alongside Catwoman in his early appearances (which could explain why we see this character talking to Catwoman in the trailer) though the comic book version was ultimately resigned to obscurity until a few years ago. In Gail Simone's "Secret Six", Catman is established as an ultra-tough warrior with a personal sense of honor, making him more an anti-hero than straight-up villain. Of course, such a character would be tied to Catwoman than Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises", but "Blake" remains an interesting choice for the name. The other thing which springs to mind with Blake is . . .

Azrael

The name "Blake" could also hold religious symbolism, as in "William Blake", the English Romantic painter who illustrated "The Divine Comedy". If you want religious symbolism in the Batman comics, your best bet is Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael. An ally of Batman's, Jean-Paul Valley is a college student who practically becomes Jason Bourne for an Opus Dei-like organization, The Sacred Order of Dumas, prompting him to become a costumed crusader named Azrael. Valley ends up becoming Batman in the "Knightfall" storyline when Bruce Wayne is critically injured fighting ... guess who ... Bane. Unfortunately, the programming makes Jean-Paul Valley loses his marbles as Batman, leading Bruce Wayne to take the mantle by, well, beating it off of him (the whole storyline is hilarious reenacted in this online video by Chronicle writer Max Landis). It's hard not to see "The Dark Knight Rises" invoking at least some of "Knightfall" with the inclusion of Bane, but having Batman fight Batman seems a little too convoluted even for Christopher Nolan to pull off. But if someone is going to take Bruce Wayne's place, it probably will be . . .

Dick Grayson

You know him better as Robin. The most tantalizing rumor about "The Dark Knight Rises" is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is in fact the protege of Christian Bale's Batman. If this movie is in fact about the fall of Bruce Wayne, it makes sense that the movie ends with Wayne training up someone else to take up the cowl. Several eagle-eyed trailer watchers claim it's not Bale under the cowl in parts of the trailer - it's Gordon-Levitt. In the comics, Dick Grayson did serve as a member of the Bluddhaven Police Department in his "Nightwing" series, and its not too far-fetched that he could have changed his name to avoid any connection to the Flying Graysons, his parents' ill-fated acrobatic team. Gordon-Levitt appears in the trailer more than Morgan Freeman or Gary Oldman, so it stands to reason Nolan could be setting up more as a partner character. On the downside, both Bale and Nolan have said Robin won't appear anywhere in this iteration as Batman - but does that include his alter-ego, who has taken over the Bat-mantle before?

Of course, it's all just speculation at this point. We'll know more when "The Dark Night Rises" hits theaters July 20th.

(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder Wednesday!)

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