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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  • Interesting thought indeed, but I think Bruce really was sitting in that cafe. I believe that the most telling part to prove this is Fox finding out that the autopilot was fixed months ago. Why add that 10 second scene if you plan having it all be a dream?

    For a second there, I thought that Nolan WOULD NOT show Bruce sitting at the cafe and leave the ending open for discussion. Did Bruce eject from the Bat? Was he really there at the cafe? Is it possible that Alfred left the cafe as soon as he sat down because he couldn’t bare the fact that Bruce was gone?

    Great article and rebuttal. Love it!

  • Anon

    Great article. One other evidence of Batman being alive at the end is that the Bat Signal had been repaired. Alfred was not in that scene, so it’s unlikely that he dreamed it.

  • Taurin

    Batman made a point of saying several times throughout the series that Batman can be any man, and I think he’s left it to the next generation. Although, I have to say that leaving Blake to it without better preparing him, to just drop him into the Bat Cave without first training him to a skill level similar to his own in the martial arts, is just irresponsible. Without said training, I can see him relying too much on gadgets and accidentally kill someone or get killed himself when the gadgets fail and his own skills aren’t enough to save him. But all that to say – not lie; not dream; yay, lotsa sex in Italy with Anne Hathaway!

  • Martin

    I do not believe that this was a dream of Alfred’s. I think that someone like batman with all of his intelligence, former financial resources, and tech could have multiple spots throughout the city where he could controle his vehicle. I think it is possible that when he lifts his plane above the upper street level that he gets out and is able to remotely operate the bat. This has been done before in the previous movie where batman controles the tumbler while scarecrow and the mob face off against the batman copy cats. Also in Dark Knight Rises batman is seen driving the batpod into an alley and then flying away in the bat, only to reveal later that he had a high tech hiding place for the batpod in that alley. He also had a very high tech hiding spot underneath a river for the clean energy fusion device. Now don’t forget that it is a very reliable rule in cinema that if you do not directly see a charector die, they are not dead. Nolan is a great story teller and dream sequences and fantasies are not spoken of in this franchise.
    I think that Bruce wanted these men to know that he was indeed alive somewhere in the world living out his life in peace. He made too many preperations with the auto pilot, fixing the auto pilot, and leaving Blake as his replacement.
    My question has to do with the fact that while in Italy Bruce still looks like he still has some financial power. He looks like he is wearing some pretty expensive threads, and it probably isnt cheap to live in that part of Italy. I wonder if just like any other rich person he had hidden money or invested tons of money into a swiss bank account under an alias.
    I also agree with Taurin, that is was not responsible to leave Blake as his replacement without training him in martial arts and how to use batmans tech. But if you were to read a little far into it I guess you could assume that Mr. Fox will probably still be involved with batman’s tech, and will still have Wayne Enterprises fund his new career as batman.

  • I think you missed the mark. People are suggesting the Italian cafe is the dream or fantasy, not the preceding events and the cliffhanger.

    If Nolan wants to state Bruce is alive, then there is no need to show the cafe. Based on most comments, people are showing confidence in the clues. We can assess the rope and without a rope symbolism to foreshadow the Bat plane and atomic bomb end. We see Bruce fail twice. He loses the rope to escape.

    Simple minds will accept the Italian cafe as realistic. We don’t need the clues to make conclusion. Critical minds will investigate the clues to make an accurate assessment.

    The Italian cafe scene is out of place. .


    How many seconds Batman could have get dropping a capsule with him from de Bat to the ocean? Remember it was flying low. Hi tec, and also you can get more probabilities to continue alive under water.

  • “If Nolan wants to state Bruce is alive, then there is no need to show the cafe.”

    So he basically has to spell it out to you with EVERY character in the movie mentioning his survival?

    Now who has the simple mind?…

  • duhhh

    Of course it was real. why would selina Kyle be there then?

  • ryan

    dude you read my mind about about all your points but i do not find the thought interesting just not thought out.

  • I have a good Idea; let’s not obsess about this movie to the point that we’re actually questioning what we actually saw and have to come up with “arguments” to discuss that we saw what we saw… Just to keep this thing the men in withe coats call “mental health”… no? Just saying.

  • sevanessa

    I literally subscribed to feel a little less alone , as I’m thinking Batman (and Bruce Wayne) did die at then end when the nuclear bomb explodes.

    First of all you stated in your article that Batman’s face was edited at the last moment , for the sake of hollywood entertainement , but don’t you think it would be wise to think it’s the contrary?
    Nolan wanted the character to die but not Hollywood or producers or whoever can decide that?
    Knowing Nolan really well , and the obvious “open” endings he use to shot in all of his other movies.

    The fact is , I watched the movie with my fiancee and bro , and I was SURE he was , I didn’t even envisage he could be alive.He was dead for me , and it was the right way to end the trilogy (imo) , while they were looking at me like a freak , lol.Since then , I didnt come accross other people sharing my opinion.

    In fact , several details made me naturally think that :

    I already evoked Nolan’s work.
    His speech to Alfred and how he’s not part of this world anymore.
    His last will and testament : repair the things he let go (orphanage) and “ask” Robin to take his mask.He KNEW he was going to fake his death?ridiculous idea.
    Alfred crying at the end.Bruce making him the surprise to be alive?I don’t see that happening.Crying over the loss of a hero , symbol of a nation , while he would know about Robin and finally got all he wanted till Batman Begins?Nah.
    Auto pilot repaired : Fox’s face made me think he was realizing Wayne did commit suicide.Sad…
    Alfred’s last scene in the cafe is way too cheesy and stupid , even for a hollywood movie , let alone for a genius like Nolan , regardless of that , why on earth would he go on another table?
    And the way alfred had to look at the camera , look at US , the people , and smile , it’s too big.
    Plus I can’t imagine people not recognizing Bruce’s face in the street, maybe it’s just me.
    Other random details I forgot by now.

    The only real deal is Selina wearing the collar being seen at the end by Alfred.Why?Ony flaw in my plan :p

    I have to say than I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer , just two vision possible (captain obv?not so much , since I feel so alone , lol)

    This is the masterpiece of this movie , being so unpredictable , so unperfect , flawed , almost like a living man , with strenghts and weaknesses and so different from other movies , especially Nolan’s previous Batmans , and yet constantly linked deeply to them.

    btw : I didn’t read the article you mention.(I’m going to though)

  • ColtsFan3223

    An argument I’ve heard and agreed with was, if the end was a dream, and Batman died in the explosion, why put the Lucious Fox/autopilot scene in at all?

    Doesn’t the movie support the death premise better if you go from Wayne Manor being gifted to the youth group, John Blake finding the bat cave and presumably taking up the cape and cowl, to Alfred wishing/dreaming he sees Bruce happy and in the company of a beautiful woman instead of dead? The inclusion of the autopilot scene is either proof that Batman had a means to escape his supposed fate, or a complete red herring.

    Another argument is that Nolan and his brother wrote and directed the movie with Batman dying at the end, and that the studio insisted on either a way for Batman to live or enough ambiguity so that if they wanted to create more sequels without doing another origin story they could pick up where this one left off – the ambiguity could be a studio/creator compromise.

    But for my money once we see Lucius Fox discuss the autopilot, in addition to the identity erasing technology mentioned in the movie, it’s a note to the audience that Batman lived, and left his legacy for someone else to pick up. He’s the motherfucking Batman. He doesn’t die in the end, he always finds a way.

  • Mickey Knox

    You stupid motherfuckers are only NOW considering that Batman could have died?! . “Because he’s Batman” CANNOT be a valid excuse for him surviving an atomic bomb blast. The best part about Batman is that he has no superpowers, and that he is entirely vulnerable. The masterpiece that is The Dark Knight Trilogy will have a more lasting legacy and be considered truly “great” if audiences accept the fact that BATMAN IS DEAD. Nolan took a huge risk even filming an ending that would generate enormous speculation about whether or not Bruce Wayne/Batman is dead or alive. What Alfred saw at cafe in Florence I think was just a figment of his imagination. If it wasn’t, he would’ve jumped out of his seat and ran over to Bruce’s table, not just stare and smirk at him. And Bruce would have done the same. But since moviegoes today only believe what is directly shown to them onscreen, most of them will not be smart enough to admit that Batman could have died in a Megaton bomb blast with a radius of 6 miles, even if the autopilot was fixed and Alred may or may not have seen Bruce in the cafe. He’s dead…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • wow…that was the most pretentious posting I’ve ever read.

    “Simple minds will accept the Italian cafe as realistic. We don’t need the clues to make conclusion. Critical minds will investigate the clues to make an accurate assessment.”

    I consider myself to have a very critical mind and I definitely think he’s alive at the end. Pompous pricks like you try to make yourselves seem smarter by “going against the grain” and saying, “No, wait! You fools, he’s dead. It’s all a dream. It’s all about symbolism”

    The fact is, the Italian cafe scene is necessary because the audience needs to see Bruce Wayne alive…not for the confirmation, but for the emotional pull. Yes, the clues are there, but it’s a friggin movie….it’s dramatic.

  • It is not a dream. Why? Because Alfred does not know that Selina Kyle knew Batman’s identity. Alfred, knew that Bruce was hostile to Selina because she stole her mom’s pearls and his car. Then, in the ending Alfred imagines Selina and Bruce together??? It only means, it is the reality and that’s the first time Alfred sees them together as a civilian not as Catwoman and Batman. Alfred doesn’t even know that Batman and Catwoman are working together because he left, remember.

  • Mikerr

    Yes Batman died. Alfred imagined it like he said he used to when Bruce was missing before. It’s so obvious

  • Mikerr

    If the ending of the Batman trilogy is Bruce disappearing in Europe with catwoman, the entire effort is runied and it would be the worst ending of any movie ever.

  • Noones addressing that Alfred doesn’t know that Batman and Selena has anything going with, so why would he, if that was an ending lie, put Selena as Bruce’s mate? They could’ve used any other character like Rachel or Talia.. but Selena was never talked about with Alfred as a love interest and only that she stole something from Bruce

    Another thing is the window on the Bat.. after the exploding building when the Bat carries tthe bomb, it’s way off.. the bat hurries to the ocean yet the last windowed scene show a slow moving flight.. then, we get no more windowed scene.. just the bat flying off and bruce’s face shot

  • junierizzle

    Maybe if it was Alfred Rises. Honestly, why would we care about Alfred being the happy one?

  • nolan is a genius

    people forget that the pearls of martha wayne were missing at the end of the movie, and selina had them on at the italian restaurant.

  • nolan is a genius

    he didn’t jumped off his seat and greet bruce because when he explained his dream in the beginning of the movie, alfred said they would exchange glances and walk away from each other with the satisfaction of knowing that they are happy and alive.

    ] Remember when you left Gotham? Before all this, before Batman? You were gone seven years. Seven years I waited, hoping that you wouldn’t come back. Every year, I took a holiday. I went to Florence, there’s this cafe, on the banks of the Arno. Every fine evening, I’d sit there and order a Fernet Branca. I had this fantasy, that I would look across the tables and I’d see you there, with a wife and maybe a couple of kids. You wouldn’t say anything to me, nor me to you. But we’d both know that you’d made it, that you were happy. I never wanted you to come back to Gotham. I always knew there was nothing here for you, except pain and tragedy. And I wanted something more for you than that. I still do.

    the quote above states that there is no reason they should say anything to each other.

  • nolan is a genius

    what i mean is that batman is still alive

  • If it was Alfred’s dream, it’s more logical it’d be Miranda Tate.

  • Guest

    He didnt go sit with him because of what was said earlier in the movie…”we would just smile and nod and that would be enough…”

  • I believe that the ending was to be taken at face value…no metaphors, no dreams, just the realism that made these movies great. First off if you are speculating about the ending and have not…I repeat…HAVE NOT read the source material or any Batman comics for that fact should not be drawing conclusions about this movie or what was intended…Now onto my reasoning for “Bruce Wayne” being alive…not Batman for it was intended for The Batman to meet his demise and another to pick up. A) Between the program the erases your identity(all known Id pictures including passports,drivers licenses, mugshots would be gone) and his income level(youre telling me a billionaire genius didnt have an off shore account under a back up alias)…it is completely accurate to say that he started over in Europe as it would be a place not many people would recognize him.
    B) Alfred DID NOT imagine Bruce in that cafe…he was really there! why/how you may ask… 1)Alfred Never knew about the romantic aspect of Selena and Bruce’s relationship. Therefor why would he imagine her to be with Bruce and not Rachel as she was his “dream girl/true love”. And ultimately show him reunited with her. 2)to all you saying why wouldnt he go sit with him or say hi…you obviously didnt pay attention the foreshadowing that covers this in the movie. He tells Bruce, “You wouldn’t say anything to me, nor me to you. But we’d both know that you’d made it, that you were happy” Bruce knew this. He probably shadowed(the man was/is a trained ninja) him and used his “dream” as a way to let Alfred know that he was alright.
    3)Not once in the entire series was there a dream sequence or any play into fantasy being conceived as reality…why start w/ the fantasy now?
    C)The whole auto pilot being fixed thing was put in for a reason…to show us that the autopilot was functional. Think about it…the Tumbler had an ejection vehicle(the Bat Pod)…so logically why wouldnt the Bat? Batman ejects in the the escape pod that functions as a submarine or small flying pod as sorts…as the BAT autopilots away with Batman Watching/Tracking/Controlling it making sure it made it to the safe point of 6 miles away.
    D) This was all to planned out. The will leaving the house to the orphans, the directions for Blake to find the Cave. He knew…having designed the reactor that it would have to come down to him flying it out of the city. The man(in the comics and movies) was way to smart to leave something like this to chance. It was all an elaborate plan(Just like in the previous movie w/ commissioner Gordon being “killed” to draw out the Joker).
    In the End it was a great series and like I said take the ending and the entire series for that matter at face value cause that was what it was meant to portray…REALISM…

  • bgg1175

    It seems most likely Bruce/Batman died. The whole reason Nolan would have Alfred imagine Bruce survived was really for political reasons with WB and DC. Giving them a way around the real ending, not so they could do a sequel but really to protect the character. It was the only way Nolan could have Batman really die but also appease WB.
    As for the signal, it was repaired by the police as a gift to Gordon and as a testament to Batman and Gordon’s working relationship. Trust me, even if Bruce had survived he wouldnt have bothered to fix the signal or replace it.

  • shane

    “Batman” dies at the end in the explosion. He gave his life saving Gotham and redemmed himself after the Harvey Dent incident. But Bruce Wayne lived on and moved to italy to live a simple life. I am pretty sure their will be a another sequel/ spinoff with Drake as either Batman or Robin/Nightwing. JGL is already being groomed as the next big star in Hollywood. Why have the “Robin” reveal and the ending scene in the batcave if it wasn’t a setup for another movie?

  • Sean Wayne

    In Batman Begins Alfred had Bruce Wayne decleared dead for years. Then in Rises he dies again,

    To achieve great things a prince must learn to decieve.

    Bruce Wayne gets to see Batman become a symbol for Gotham. He is left dead, but if someone else takes the cape, Batman becomes ever lasting, exactly what Ra’z was talking to Bruce about. No one stopped Bruce.

  • Evil Melvin

    Anyone who thinks that the ending was Alfred’s “dream” is delusional….why would he dream of Bruce with SELINA KYLE at the end and not Rachel???? If both Bruce and Rachel are dead, that would make more sense. Plus, I don’t think Alfred saw Catwoman in action with Batman nor much less kissing him!! The Batman faked his death…brilliantly!!

  • Evil Melvin

    That final shot of Batman staring at the camera is a nod to the viewer as a goodbye. Bale has been our Batman for almost a decade. Since we don’t know when or if this series will be rebooted…it could be many YEARS before we see Batman on the big screen again. For me, since I don’t consider Val Kilmer nor George Clooney to be Batman, it’s been a long time between Michael Keaton to Christian Bale…from 1992 until 2005…so a parting shot was not only great but necessary!

  • Knowing that he was dealing with an atomic bomb, he could have prepared an escape pod with shielding.

  • Explain the pearl necklace then. That alone shows it’s not a dream. And Nolan isn’t a fucking moron. To have that just be a dream is just corny and shit stupid.

  • Yes, it’s obvious, that’s why 90% of people don’t think that. She even has the fucking pearl necklace on…

    Try again.

  • Are you a mis-handled abortion? You act like it.

    You also ended a sentence with a question mark and a period – yet you’re asking if we are “stupid mother-fuckers”.
    Hmmm….your parents must be so proud.

  • Sorry, but the pearl necklace is on her, and Alfred did not know that she was the cat-woman.

    This is horrible to think about anyway, only the mildy retarded would start this. Nolan is not a bitch of a director – and only a bitch of a director would put a dream sequence at the end.

  • shane

    I never said the cafe scene at the end was a dream or a daydream of Alfred’s. Bruce is alive and well at the end of the movie living a peaceful life in italy. Batman died saving Gotham and he died so that Bruce move on and retire to italy.

  • Valfareinwindir

    The movie sucked and didn’t live up to the predecessors. Dumb ending confirmed the stupidity of the whole movie. The continuity issues and predictable plot basically ****ed it.

  • Pride in Pittsburgh

    I agree that this movie was not edited as well as the others. It was way to long and lots of scenes were unnecessarily included. I also think the original intention was to have Bruce Wayne die but Batman will live on in Blake. As for the ending it too had scenes that seemed to be placed in at the last minute to appease the studio/dc comics and maybe for true Batman fans. It is not a masterpice and I think there was a lot of pre and post production sellouts and compromises. And, for me, the only redeeming feature was that a lot of the movie was filmed in the local area.

  • pjamese3

    Two words about Batman: Crazy prepared!

  • Yes Batman saves Capitalism, put down the occupiers and even gave himself a bail-out!!!!

  • Dr. Nope

    It’s extremely obvious that he did not die. Anyone worried about a few seconds is just unfamiliar with Hollywood editing styles.

  • “I also agree with Taurin, that is was not responsible to leave Blake as
    his replacement without training him in martial arts and how to use
    batmans tech.”

    From Batman Begins:
    Bruce Wayne:
    The man had a gun!

    Henri Ducard:
    Would that stop you?

    Bruce Wayne:
    I’ve had training!

    Henri Ducard:
    The training is nothing! The will is everything!
    The will to act.

    If you follow the rules and guidelines set by the trilogy as a whole, Blake has all he needs. I don’t think that its too much to imagine that Bruce had some sort of training programs in the new bat cave that we never saw. Nonetheless, Blake shares Wayne’s contempt for evil, his passion for true justice, and we see in the film Blake turns his back on guns when he accidentally kills the construction worker. Robin John Blake: the Batman’s Heir Apparent.

  • it also had some similarity to ‘No Man’s Land’

  • I will always go with the truth which is that he died and no the lie that a lot of other fans come up with.

  • Disarray

    I’m not going to post about the end scene, although it wasn’t a dream. I wanted to clarify your question about the bat signal being fixed. Before Bruce left, he fixed it. He knew either Gordon or Blake would see it and know that he had in fact made it and he wouldn’t be coming back.

  • steven

    The shot of Batman flying in the Bat seconds before the blast is 100% true, the dude simply had more than one Bat, otherwise why would Fox be looking over another Bat at the end and discovering the autopilot been fixed. He switched, mis-direction is what Batman is all about.

  • vagking

    wow, you guys need to get a life or that new thing that call vagina….it’s better than batman

  • Alfreds dream is a fake. i have watched this move 4 times in theatres and watched the ending closely and when they show batman in the seat we cant tell since there are light shadows on batmans face going up and down rather than sideways i believe he parachuted by the buildings before the bat finally went to the sea because he was far enough a way and behind buildings in order to leave and if not that the last time we see batman in the cockpit is when there are shadows on his face so we can easily assume hes by buildings at this time because if he was in the middle of the sea there wouldnt have been that many shadows and lights flicking on his face in those seconds we see him in the cockpit.

  • bob

    you have a vagina?

  • Lunchbox

    I most definitely believe he didn’t die,I do however believe that it is a precursor to a nightwing spin off,my other question,what happened to bane and scarecrow? U just stop seeing either one u see talia die. I also believe this is just the end to the legend of the dark knight and also know there are many more great villains to go before batman retires…just what will bring Bruce back to Gotham or will there be a suitable batman replacement as stated in the comics? Too many great questions that will take another 4 years to answer