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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  • Dk

    Tate was raz’s daughter how does that make sense it’s logical it would be rachael

  • too much money in a sequel….since when has hollywood ever done anything artistic over profits…

  • Bonzai1888

    Was a terrible ending to a terrible film.Nolan screwed up what would have been a good trilogy.

  • Conan of Cooma

    Anyone who saw the movie is an idiot. Bale is the worst Batman ever, Nolan is a hack, and there is no more Heath. Bring back Burton and Keaton for the reboot!

  • ThePokeMaster

    Whatever dude. Burton’s Batman was a joke. I just can’t take it seriously. Maybe as a kid, but not anymore.

  • CaptainMagnum

    Alfred just knew Miranda Tate as Miranda Tate. He left Gotham long before any of the bomb stuff took place and before that he was trying to set Bruce up with her anyway. That and I don’t think the revelation that Tate was Ra’s daughter was wide spread info so by a long shot its still possible no one told him the truth about that part of her.

  • I thought Bane was killed in that scene. Wasn’t he?

  • All right, it wasn’t a dream, but sitting in the theater, I totally didn’t buy it. As Kathy Bates would scream, “He didn’t jump out of the cocky-doody Bat!!!”

  • However, one of the heads of Warner Brothers announced Batman would be rebooted in the next couple of years when Dark Knight Rises was still weeks away from release, which was a ridiculous thing to do. Nolan totally could have killed him off, who would care?! They’re rebooting AGAIN, and we already know it. DKR’s ending totally felt like Nolan killed off Batman and Warner Brothers slapped a cafe scene at the end to say, “No, we didn’t kill Batman. That would have been a downer.” We walked out of the theater, and my wife says to me, “I miss Heath Ledger.” Yep, that’s her review, and I had to agree.

  • Eric

    your an idiot if any of that was true they wouldnt be so successful

  • seksivitez

    old post and I am sick. But Kraut. you are a fucktard who cannot read.

  • seksivitez

    or Bruce sets him up with instructions to come to Italy for training in secret.

  • seksivitez

    I believe your comment is another boring knee jerking thought. I want to mock you in a retarded voice. Artistic over profits. Wow. Another cliche spewing idiot. Hollywood did not make this film- Nolan did. Really good art usually turns a great profit, dumbass.

  • seksivitez

    what the hell? The lie? Did you even read the reasons why he was alive? Oh.. nevermind. Your ending makes you more thoughtful and brooding.

  • seksivitez

    Yeah… free market should take a back seat to lazy thieves who rape women and don’t bathe. Loser

  • seksivitez

    This is stupid. He did not die. Political reasons for WB and DC? Are you serious? Get help. You think too damned much.

  • Barticus

    Batmans face can be seen before the explosion butnthe shot right fter we see his face is the camera rushing forward. That is the plane goimg ahead without the Batman…. Batman escapes…. the plane explodes… very comic book classic ending… like sherlock and moriarty… we have never been satisfied but that is the way these guys end their tales.

  • johnny

    calm down. his/her opinion is just as valid as yours.

  • yeah, why doesnt alfred imagine the wayne parents while he’s at it, and give himself a makeover with blond hair and bulging pecs. toss in a ten foot line of blow and a young ann margaret on his arm too.

  • chris mixon

    Its Not An Illusion Or Dream At Least I Don’t Think So Because In The Movie Alfred Tells Bruce About His Dream But Also Says He Never Can Make Out The Womans Face….Why Would This “Dream” or vision be any different than the others

  • SnakePlissken

    You guys are all whacked! Nolan was asked by Warner’s to give a “happy” ending and so he went the “imagined” route as Alfred exlpained – he ALWAYS imagines seeing him in that cafe. Same for the end. But it is open ambiguous for all the fanboys who are too crybaby to understand that Batman having to die at the end of the movie was probably the greatest thing that superhero could ever do. It’s a trilogy and that entire thing is self-contained. Plus if Batman didn’treally die at the end it is a “f.u!” to the entire theme of the film which is SELF SACRIFICE! Buck up people — Batman will be back with the Justice League movie in 2015, just not Nolan’s Dark Knight!

  • mads thobo

    its not seconds before… well some seconds its about 7-10 seconds until it explodes
    which gives him enough time to jump into the water seting the plane on auto pilot… (witch they talked about earlier in the movie) just surviving the from the explosion. np

  • Dominic

    another point that people have pointed out is how would batman know which cafe it was in italy alfred never said what the name of it was,well the answer is easy batman is the worlds greatest detective it would have been easy for him to find out where alfred goes every year on the exact same day

  • jack

    I really though that Nolan was lazy and
    sloppy with this film, I felt like he just waned to be done with the
    franchise, the end was a huge cop out, it would have been better if
    he would have died, it would have been something different and

  • Brian48

    Should point out another clue. The toy version of the Bat flying vehicle exhibits the same modularity as the Tumbler/Batpod. The driving component can detach and fly off by itself. The shot of Batman in the cockpit could have been him actually flying off in the opposite direction as the main Bat flew out over the bay.

  • Marek

    The reason this is even a theory in the first place is because Hollywood, as normal, thought we were stupid. Most of us got teary eyed towards the end because we knew not even Batman can eject from the Batwing and get to a safe distance from a nuclear explosion seconds before it goes off. Then they go “Taa-Daa! Yes he did!” Without explaining how. It wasn’t a dream sequence, just a badly handled sequence designed to entice an emoitional response from the audince.

  • Drek

    Anyone who thinks this stink bomb of a plot hole ridden train wreck is still worth talking about is an idiot. If he died it at least alleviates the unbelievable “Batman ran away from his responsibility” plot… again… as he obviously stopped 8 years prior. This film was long winded, poorly written, terribly paced, and ultimately stupid. And if “realistic” is a concern for the film then there is no way he escaped a nuclear blast, hell his ship would have been vaporized in the blast and it’s sitting pretty in the garage getting worked over by guys not in radiation suits. This film proved to me how stupid movie going audiences are getting.

  • Michael DeVore

    Their is actually one very valid reason to believe that the ending is “just a dream”. Nolan has already stated that The Dark Knight Rises is modeled off of A Tail of Two Cities. At the very end (Last Paragraph) of A Tail of Two Cities the the reader is given the “what if” thoughts of the character about to be beheaded. Those thoughts are that of a Future generation that is better off. Since TDKR is based on ATTC it is possible that the ending after the explosion, or funeral is all fake.

  • eriksamdahl

    Michael, very good point!

  • eriksamdahl

    You’re still talking about it.

  • Samuel Pérez García

    It wasn’t a dream sequence, but Alfred did know she was the Catwoman, Bruce showed him her profile and told him it was her who stole the necklace. What Alfred didn’t know was that they would end up together.

  • Samuel Pérez García

    The training is nothing. The will is EVERYTHING!



  • des

    wow that’s horrible dude. being such a fan, you lost ALL perspective of the franchise and what it was trying to say with the character.

    Why in god’s name would fox be realizing wayne committed suicide after finding out the auto pilot was fixed by wayne. Wayne committing suicide would be a result of him manually controlling the ship or setting autopilot into the blast, and if that’s the case the scene with fox doesn’t make any insinuation towards that because it would be useless to mention the autopilot was fixed. It would be a set up that is completely illogical. Your insight isn’t even justified by common sense.

    Batman is a ninja. If he didn’t want people to recognize him they wouldn’t. Would people in Italy really recognize a millionaire who was declared dead for years, took back a company for a few and then was a recluse for another 8 years. Sounds like he’s just a guy people in the states would know for being wealthy. I town in Italy wouldn’t look twice at him.

    Evoking Nolan’s work? He’s only done one movie that had a questionable ending. Have you seen the rest of his films? Maybe you don’t understand what an open ending is.

    He didn’t know that he would fake his death, but he understood that he might die. The autopilot/faking death was just a back up plan in case all else failed – a bit of stretch when you back the story up, but that’s just a flaw in the script. From the first film, Bruce talks about wanting to make change but not do it forever, hoping he could live a normal life eventually.

    And wait – nolan is a genius but cafe scene is too stupid a cheesy? so if it’s a dream it’s ok to be stupid and cheesy? then Nolan just sucks.

    Deception and theatricality are powerful agents against your enemies, but he also uses it at the end to inspire the people. Ever heard of the story of this character named Jesus? For over 2000 years people have been believing, praying and living their lives devoted to someone who died for them (whether you believe that or not). It’s called a MARTYR. “not everything – not yet” he knew he would potentially have to die because it was the most ultimate action for the symbol of batman. he was just lucky that he had the opportunity to fake it, which is why he didn’t tell fox about the autopilot. It’s called a back up plan. Remember the joker? He had TONS of those, otherwise if you assumed it was all perfectly planned, dark knight makes no sense.

    Now that’s more then you deserved from me, with my own thoughts of the ending aside. I just feel bad your body is controlled by your crappy brain.

    And Everyone in gotham will die & be mutated due to the radiation from the blast…

  • des

    I guess I can totally see Nolan saying this: “so, the idea here is that the cops made it to honor you and batman…you know…because you destroyed it…and the statue wasn’t enough. And I think this moment of showing the cops admiration and respect for you and batman will cut really nicely in the montage of fox learning the autopilot was fixed by wayne, blake being lead to the batcave by wayne’s will-package and alfred seeing wayne and selina with the pearls….yes, this will make perfect sense to cut in between that – and i’m pretty confident the audience will being able to assume that the signal was made by the cops – it’s clear and is vital to the story. And that’s the reason we decided to show this moment inter-cut with those others, and it as nothing to do with the idea of batman being dead or not, or wanting their to always be a symbol for hope…just like the other scenes have no bearing on that either. And Gary, I think you being surprised by it and looking in the sky will be a great close to the character, because at the end of the day you still got fooled by the cops – here they are leaving you with some hope for batman. It confirms that you were a fool of sorts. Yes let’s spend the 30 grand of the second half of this day (after shooting the early scene with blake) to shoot this nice send off from the cops. AND action!”

  • I didn’t like Nolan’s vision of Batman. I want to see a new Batman reboot like the Arkham City video game with that type of setting to it. Not this realistic style. Not saying this movie sucked, is was actually good but I’m just not a fan of Nolan’s vision.

  • Probably going to get bashed for this. I have been a batman fan all of my life. Read some novels even. I had all the toys growing up. I have seen every batman movie…even the cheesy one from the 60s based on the TV series. I have watched the first 2 Nolan movies…but I didn’t watch the third. And I probably won’t I was disappointed with Nolan’s story telling. Bale’s acting was perfect…I just think he had a shit director/story teller. I felt that he left more holes in this version of batman than Swiss cheese! And to end it after only 3 critic and audience acclaimed movies with so much more story to go is LAME! Are we to have another REBOOT?? Are we to have another Joel Schumacher debacle with another director stepping in? Or is this just an ego trip by Nolan to get MORE money to do another??? Ether way…I am left HEAVILY disappointed again!

  • Sid.den

    This is already mentioned below alot of time… so i will re-post it as a refresher…There is no way it was a dream, If anyone has seen the ending carefully. You would notice that selina is wearing the pearl necklace that belonged to bruce’s mother. Bruce took that necklace back in the middle of the movie and during the scene where blake reveals that his middle name is robin, one of the attorneys mentions that he doesn’t want a string of pearls to go missing and cause trouble or something like that… meaning that bruce actively planned to disappear along with selina kyle…

  • Batman!

    @Anyone here that didn’t read even one comic of Batman @Erik Samdahl:
    Since the movies are based on the comics there is actually no way Batman dies in that nuclear blast, which actually is very dump to believe since the autopilot is already fixed…

  • Batman!

    I guess, since Robin finds the Batcave, there will be at least one more movie with barman and robin

  • there was all that “batman is a symbol” stuff throughout the whole movie so although bruce wayne and batman (spoiler): don’t die, bruce AS batman does. the whole film was a metaphor about the bat not being the man

  • the point the film was making as i mentioned was that you can’t kill batman but if you kill off Bruce it doesn’t matter

  • he can’t be both, that was just a screw to the audience

  • Anonymous

    If he really did make it out of the explosion then that was just a silly ending and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is Nolan’s worst film. There’s no explanation for how he escaped so we can only assume we’re meant to speculate.

  • Mark Antonio

    It’s not a dream, the lawyer says “a string of pearls is still missing from the manifest,” guess who’s wearing the pearls in the cafe at the end of the movie. I win

  • Will Mehle

    Didn’t the pearl necklace break at the beginning of begins?

  • Rhet Toge

    FRANCE. The cafe was in FRANCE, not Italy. I think what they showed happened, happened. That said, how did they explain Bruce Wayne’s death to the rest of Gotham and how did he fix the Bat signal? I know he’s as ninja but still…

  • nonsense.

  • Brian

    You people thinking the reason it wasn’t a dream is because Alfred doesn’t imagine Bruce with Rachel are just as delusional as people who think the sequence was a dream.

    Bruce Wayne:
    Rachel died believing that we would be together; that was my life beyond
    the cape. I can’t just move on. She didn’t, she couldn’t.

    What if she had? What if, before she died, she wrote a letter saying she
    chose Harvey Dent over you? And what if, to spare your pain, I burnt
    that letter?

    Why would Alfred imagine the two of them together when he knew she chose Harvey? Alfred isn’t that kind of person.

    I find it ludicrous to get upset like so many of you are over the fact that they showed Bruce in the cockpit close to when the bomb went off. Griping about Hollywood cutting is idiotic because by that argument you should be upset that the movie that took place over the course of months wasn’t in real time. You should be upset that you weren’t sitting in the theater for months watching the seasons change.

    Hypocrites everywhere.

  • Cory Bovard

    Anyone who would speculate the ending of TDKR was a lie just has waaaayyyyy tooo much time on their hands. Every bit of foreshadowing during the movie implied there would be an “end” in some way, shape, or form. Wayne talking with Blake in the car about how Batman was meant to be a symbol, the idea was that “anyone” could be him. All of Alfred’s dialogue had one purpose – save Bruce Wayne from Batman. Nolan gave Bruce Wayne an ending, but left “The Batman” mantle open ended. It’s the best way someone could give a comic book character an “ending” in a real world setting. It’s implied a successor was chosen, but its highly unlikely that anything will ever get made with Blake as the dark knight, Nightwing, or Robin as the central character.