Is the Ending of The Dark Knight Rises A Lie?

Do I have to say this article contains spoilers? Fine. It contains bloody spoilers.

As Christopher Nolan’s epic blockbuster winds down, Batman (Christian Bale) makes the ultimate sacrifice. With no other option, he flies off into the sunset dragging a nuclear bomb behind him. It explodes. Batman dies. All the little cute kids on the school bus stare wide-eyed at the blast, because staring wide-eyed at a nuclear blast is what you’re taught to do in grade school.

Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt eulogize Bruce Wayne, the unsung hero of Gotham. Michael Caine does what Michael Caine does and cries with all the raw emotion a father who has lost a son can show.

But wait.

Bruce Wayne fixed the auto pilot, even though he indicated otherwise. The Bat Signal is restored (I still don’t get that one). John Blake, whose first name is Robin, finds the Bat Cave. And good ol’ Alfred returns to the cafe in Italy he always goes to and lo and behold, Bruce Wayne is sitting nearby with Selina Kyle, presumably thinking about how awesome it is that he’s in Italy having sex with Anne Hathaway.

Game over. Or is it?

I read an interesting article over at today where author Katey Rich proposes that Bruce Wayne did die at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, and that the scene in Italy was merely a figment of Alfred’s imagination.

Uh, yeah, no.

She makes some valid arguments. Christopher Nolan doesn’t just show the Batwing flying off into the sunset. He shows Batman sitting in what is presumably the aircraft seconds before it explodes.

Actually, that’s the only really valid argument, because comparing The Dark Knight Rises, which has always dealt in a reality-based world, to Inception, which was all about dreams and obtaining the ultimate dream – of going home – doesn’t hold up. Let me counter:

  1. It’s been pointed out multiple times that the movie isn’t as well assembled as most of Nolan’s other movies. The short time line between Batman’s last appearance and the bomb exploding could, and probably is, nothing more than typical Hollywood editing to take things down to the wire.
  2. Ending The Dark Knight trilogy with a dream sequence just doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise.
  3. There is just enough foreshadowing early on to indicate how it’s going to end, namely Lucius Fox mentioning early on that the auto pilot needs to be fixed and, of course, Alfred talking about the cafe where he’d like to see Bruce some day. Neither of these moments suggest a dream sequence.
  4. The final scene is too established to just be in Alfred’s head. The scenes directly preceding it – the discovery that the auto pilot was indeed installed (by Bruce Wayne), for instance – are not in Alfred’s head, and Nolan wouldn’t have included them had he not intended there to be a concrete resolution.
  5. As “realistic” as the movie is, The Dark Knight Rises is still a comic book movie, and Batman is nothing if not a survivor. And a crafty survivor.
  6. The fact that Bruce Wayne leaves a will that leads John Blake to the Bat cave, gives away Wayne Manor and who knows what else implies that the man never intended to return to Gotham. Sure, he might have expected to die, but nothing about his actions leading up to the climax suggests that he truly wants to die.
  7. Warner Bros. didn’t want to have what is for the most part a depressing movie end with Bruce Wayne of all people biting the bullet.
  8. And, what is most telling to me: The Dark Knight Rises is an amalgam of Knightfall and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is about an aging Batman who comes out of retirement to rescue Gotham from incredible misery. At the end of that series, after a nuclear explosion that nearly kills Superman, Batman has a heart attack and dies. Superman bids him farewell, but just as he’s almost out of earshot, he hears the faintest of heartbeats and realizes that his old friend faked his death to live out the rest of his life. As soon as Batman flew the nuclear bomb toward the ocean, I knew exactly where the movie was going.

Having watched the movie twice, it is definitely suspicious that Batman’s face is edited into the final moments before the nuclear bomb detonates, but nothing suggests that this is anything more than Hollywood being Hollywood. Still, the thought that the ending to The Dark Knight Rises is a lie is an interesting one, and for that I give credit to Ms. Rich for allowing me to entertain the idea.

What do you think?

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Comic Book Movies, Movies, Science Fiction Movies
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  • Shaun

    Bruce Wayne is a detective…all the plot points Ra’s “gave” Bruce came from deductions of Bruce Wayne…his subconcious if you will….but this is how his mind revealed it to him

  • Charleen

    I believe it will be batman and robin as the next batam movie!:) and I hope in right!:)

  • Charleen

    Plus in the bringing of the movie Bruce says you’ll see me one day when I’m not batman anymore in Italy and a beautiful women and all we’ll do is nod at each other like old friends

  • James West

    Forget all that stuff . the question is when Alfred returns home and you know he will cause he’ll take care of the place even though it has been donated. whats he gonna think when he wanders around and sees a new batman or robin in the cave

  • xander

    And Anakin Skywalker standing beside them bathed in a greenish light !

  • Xander

    Of course Rachel will wake up in Bruce’s shower and realize that the second and third were all just a dream she had. (if you can recognize this reference you are severely noting your age 🙂 )

  • Xander

    All heros have a thing for bad girls

  • Xander

    Much like the iconic nod from Christopher Reeve in the end of original movies

  • Xand

    Of course they originally introduced the idea of an alternate batman in the animated series Batman Beyond

  • Xander

    “They symbol can be bigger that any one man can be”

  • Xander

    Martin Scorsese says in an old article that he was habitually pestered by people asking if Robert De Niro’s character had died at the end of Cape Fear. He says… you saw him handcuffed to the railing… you saw the railing sink… and you saw him go under the water…. what more do I have to do to prove he’s dead.”…. seem Batman coughing off vagueness is similar…. however killing off the character… as Bruce Wayne makes no good money sense…. If I haven’t convinced you I can only say….. I Failed YOU !!! I FAILED YOU !!

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    Wow…chill out dude…no need to be so insulting to those who don’t share your view. Batman, the comic book character, has survived so many near death situations and continues to be the biggest seller in the comic book realm. in the Nolan movies, Batman, the “symbol” may have died, but Bruce did NOT! And your statement of a 6 mile radius is just plain wrong. He needed to get the bomb, 6 miles away from Gotham to assure there would not be residual radiation. There are too many hints within the movie that the plot tells you Bruce fulfills his mission of saving Gotham from itself, and then gracefully passes the torch to a younger generation. If you think Batman/Bruce Wayne is dead, good for you. You are not a believer or a true fan in my opinion. So take that, MF’er….

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    Yeah, you’re posting, aren’t you…”vag king”? You must really have a high opinion about yourself, don’t you, you limp dick! You aren’t fooling anyone, douche-king…if you don’t like the conversation, jump the fuck off, ass wipe…..

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    So….that’s why it was shown twice in the same movie? Once where Alfred thinks he see someone who resembles Bruce, but it turns out it wasn’t him, then the ending where it actually is? You’re viewpoint is classic over -thinking….

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    Uh….you do, John Doe….if that is your real name…..

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    You have it backwards…Batman dies (hence, the statue unveiling), and Bruce Wayne lives on in anonymity…

  • Salvatore DiSanto

    Alfred said he vacationed in Florence, as in Florence, Italy, not France…I know that he speaks Cockney, but his dialect is not that hard to follow if you listen closely…

  • TimTheScarecrow

    Bruce Wayne is most known for being a playboy. And, you know… before she nearly killed him, he kinda liked her.

  • matt

    Actually it wouldn’t have made more since with Kyle. Marion played talia al ghul who in the comics is batmans 1 true love and the mother of his child. She loves him and he loves her what doesn’t make since is her being the villian she could never choose between bruce and her father, and hated bane with a passion.

  • Suck My Bankai

    No no at the end i saw Gordons wife holding a young boy and a young female with long hair. It was not another boy.

  • You seem like a smart man. Tell me, what’s Blake going to do as, “Batman”, so to speak. I know my comment is 10 months late but, what do you think that petty, double-fictional, Robin-phony will do in his new role? Just curious.

  • DCfan2013

    Would Batman had been saved by Superman in seconds before the nuclear explosion and what happens after is another story that ties in with Man of Steel and other DC movies to follow?!

  • TaxMan5x

    People see what they want to see…did it ever occur to people that the scene with Batman’s face in it isn’t him sitting in “The Bat” but in a device that is auto-piloting it? What he was sitting in at the end of the movie could be a life-size remote control, ala the car-in-the-van in the old “Batman Returns” that Danny Devito’s Penguin uses to remote control the Batmobile. People just assumed that because we saw Batman sitting in a machine that it was the Bat. Psychology at its best.

  • Barry

    I don’t think the author of the article did NOT watched the movie.

  • Theguywhosaidthings

    The whole movie is a giant running plot hole. The head spinning end of the movie was designed just to make sure you didn’t think about any of the other totally dumb shit you had just witnessed. I loved the Dark Knight and was so disappointed with this epically bad movie. I knew DKR couldn’t live up to DK the moment I stepped out of the theatre from DK…but this movie was just an insult to Batman fans everywhere.

  • Chris

    your analysis is incorrect. He did know about the romantic interest , and so did fox. It was an atom bomb with 5 seconds to go….hes dead. Christopher Nolan himself said it was designed to be open as his contract for a trilogy came to a end. now were left with a nooby batman vs superman. Say goodbye to batman films for a while. I honestly believe it was in his head, his way of moving on. It was filmed so it would give grounds to this speculation, as nolan himself said this. So whilst you raise some questionable in depth points, I politely disagree