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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  • Bruce Wayne lived. He lied about the autopilot so everyone would think that Batman was dead. This freed him up to go and live his life.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    Have you actually seen TDKR?

  • DevilsAdvocate

    The bat-signal was fixed by Blake, that’s the idea. It reinforces the suggestion that he is the new batman. At the start of the film he and Gordon are talking about batman beside the broken bat-signal, so Blake fixes it as a message to Gordon.

  • AmItheOnlyAdultHere

    This has gotten so out of hand that I just had to comment: You are all over-thinking this, what is the one thing you can be sure of with superhero movies…..wait for it……………………………….oh yeah, they will always find a way to re-boot it, so with that being said, whether he died or didn’t die, is not the question, its more a matter of when will they reboot it, as it will happen. The purpose of watching a movie is for the entertainment value of it. NOT to criticize and complain and over analyze, and find reasons to dislike it. Sit back enjoy the ride, and shut up!! Its a story, if you don’t like the story that is told, then don’t watch it again. End of discussion!!

  • don

    the bat that exploded was not the bat batman was in when they cut to him 5 secs before the explosion. it has been said multi times, there were many bats and they ALL HAD AUTOPILOT

  • Christian Yoshio Hirata Merrem

    I think is a try to fitting this movie into the label of “epic” and “amazing”, an entertaining, but utterly absurd, movie… that after a second watch you realize how much is overrated, so people try to fix the not-so-few, plot holes in the story.

  • Truth Seeker

    The thought crossed my mind (independently of this) and I concluded the same as you. Add one more data point to your argument – after the bag is handed to “Robin” there is a conversation about Bruce’s estate and the “pearls” that are missing.

  • Classic Kathy Bates.

  • of course, this is the Bat Universe. so the Bruce Wayne at the cafe could be Clayface.

    suck it.

  • Eddie

    #8 is your only decent point, everything else is just as trash as the cinema blend article

  • ronny

    the whole ending scene is bullcrap in my opinion. It was all way to complicated and ruined the movie. I am going with the comclusion that bruce died in the explosion. The ending had to be a dream for 1 reason, Think of bruce wayne as steve jobs for a second. when he died, everyone would knew about it. so a week after steve jobs’ death some Italian sees him at a café? yea. what im trying to say is that someone would easily recognize him if he was at such a public place.

  • Mark ant

    Right, they made the film with Wayne dying in the script. This was agreed before budgeting as nolan and bale both wanted to end the trilogy without it being reserected. The deal with the studios, was that the Blake scene would leave itopen for a new batman to emerge if the studio decided to take it that route, as they own the rights. Once shot, the studio hated the fact there was no potential way of having Bruce back. They realise what a big hit it was going to be and knew there was more $$$ in this franchise. They then asked for 3 scenes to be installed. 1. Well this was just an editing of a previously shot scene, where the lady then voices over “robin” I like that (no view of her face of a serious change of brakes face is present) 2. Bruce Italian cafe scene after (note his hair is about 2 inches longer then the rest of the film which suggest it was shot at a different time to the main film and they might not have been able to change his hair as he could have been in the process of shooting a new film. 3. “The auto polite has been fixed” scene with freeman. This was an easy add in. All these coupled together with the fact Alfred would not have been crying at the private funeral if he was not really dead… Or at least intended to be. Peace out!

  • Sal KNightRO

    I heard that batman was saved by superman who sooped down to his aircraft and saved him in a second before the explosion

  • Ryan Thompson

    Well. There is a possibility that it wasn’t the Bat he was in at the last couple of seconds, it was maybe an escape pod that just happened to look like the Bat.

  • geirge

    If in the first place the Bat (the flying thingy) exploded with the nuke, why the heck would the two scientists and Lucius Fox be able to know whether the autopilot on the Bat is fixed or not? If there are other Bats in the Applied Science department then Bane would have get his hands on it and they don’t have to go through the awkward situation when the air superiority is very…indeed, very superior. Bad Nolan, could’ve skip that part to get a bit more smoky between the bat and the cat.

  • Tothian

    I think Batman lives.

  • Steven

    Why would he when he’s in a different Bat? The fact that Lucius’s team is working on another Bat to find the auto-pilot patch proves there are others…so he ejected and switched before that scene.

  • R4nd0m

    Nothing is mentioned about the ‘Clean Sweep’ Device that Selena Kyle was after, im pretty sure it has a part in this and them ending up in France or Italy whatever it was.

  • dark1

    didn’t anybody see that red/blue blur across the screen just before the explosion.
    the batman was rescued.
    trust me …

  • Miles

    Whats not to get about the bat signal being fixed? Bruce fixed it knowing that John Blake would now be Batman (or some form of him).

  • john

    when i think about it, i see blake as robing from the beginning. batman sent him to do his own little assignments throughout the movie and the only thing that separated him from actually being robin was a cheesy outfit.

  • john

    robin* not robing sorry

  • well said. Excellent analysis.

  • There were many people who shared having a role in Inception as well as The Dark Knight Rises.

  • observer

    For anyone not paying attention to the movie, Alfred actually doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne and Selina Keyle get together–he makes a joke of it early in the movie, but he doesn’t know. When he leaves Bruce (after admitting that he burned Rachel’s letter) he isn’t aware of any romantic link between Selina Kyle and Bruce (and really one didn’t exist at that point). Only later does that link solidify and turn into something real–most clearly when Kyle kisses Batman before he attempts to carry the bomb off into the “sunset”. So in other words, there would be no way for Alfred to imagine that Bruce would be with Selina Kyle.

  • tRUTH mAcHiNe

    three words AUTOPILOT WAS FIXED.

  • Unless Batman really exists.. Which, last I checked, he did not. Then yes. . It’s a lie/fiction, just like the rest of the movie. :-p 😉

  • maddace

    i hate to break it to my brother batman fans but batman fought bane, which i would assume toke a hefty amount of stamina from him, got stabbed by taila, and not to mention, she twisted the knife while she did it, many times. After selina killed bane, i would assume that batsy would be dead out of exsoustion but he still has time to get chased by a missile around the skies of the city, and fly away from it to the deep blue wide ocean with a nuclear bomb that has a six mile radius( i watched the movie yesterday) and he escapes it not 4 to 10 seconds before the explosion. If, and thats a big if, he survived that, should he be out of blood already for Gods sake. and how did he even swim away from the explosion, and who treated his wounds. The rest is answerable like him fixing the auto pilot as he could have fixed it before he meet selina kyle but its safe to say that its all done to please the fans. Otherwise, he’s just BATMAN

  • SideshowJon36

    Because he’s not imagining him dead, he’s imagining him alive. And besides, in Alfred’s mind, Rachel ultimately betrayed Bruce by choosing Dent

  • Prince Awesom3

    Yeah, when Bane was gonna beat Batman to death, but then Catwoman ran him over. I expected Bane to go out hard because he was such a fuckin badass throughout the movie, and it pisses me off yet it makes me laugh at the same time that Catwoman simply did what Batman couldn’t do in such a cowardly way. Oh Nolan, you are the most overrated director of the 21st Century


  • Bat-Man

    Batman DIES!

    [In the bat-cave scene] Alfred tells Bruce his “fantasy” is to see him at a cafe in Florence “with a wife, maybe a couple of kids. You wouldn’t say anything to me, nor me to you, but we both know that you’d make it, that you were happy”

    This is the ending scene

    The ending scene is the dream scene

    Alfred watched Bruce grow up, so he should see Bruce’s face in his dreams and he said he saw him in his dream so Bruce would have to be in the scene for sure…why would it show another man and not Bruce in that scene when Alfred specifically said Bruce was in it?

    Now to explain cat-women/Selena in the dream scene.

    Alfred and Bruce knows about her since the beginning, I believe it was a plan, (Alfred tells Bruce “we have a trace on the necklace” before Bruce said anything about it in the Bat-cave scene) Alfred sends her into Bruce’s room with a set of instructions and she stole the necklace with a gps tracker. Going back to the bat-cave scene, Alfred has seen her before AND Bruce shows Alfred Selena’s profile on the computer)
    Alfred says “You two should exchange notes over coffee”
    Now Alfred tells Bruce about his dream which is the end scene in which he sees Bruce at a cafe. Selena is also wearing the pearl necklace in that scene, they were just discussing about the stolen gps necklace. It is likely he imagined her with the necklace on but not looking directly at her because he is not as familiar with her face as he is with Bruce that is why you see the back of her head
    They were just discussing about Selena and the pearl necklace so it would make more sense that he quickly imagined her instead of Rachel
    The dream scene in the beginning is the actual reality, it shows him entering the cafe, and when he looks up he’s disappointed because his dream is to see Bruce but he died so that is why it is another guy and not Bruce that Alfred sees. and the ending dream scene, it did not show Alfred entering the cafe but that he is already there. Alfred and supposedly Bruce did not look at each other in the first dream scene

    Those two scenes are similar because Alfred says he goes to that cafe in Florence every year when Bruce was away.

    Auto pilot
    Mr Fox says the auto pilot needs a better mind to fix when he first shows Bruce the Bat. The end scene says the auto pilot was fixed months ago. The auto pilot was probably already fixed when he first took the Bat out (maybe autopilot is needed to hover in the ally?)

    [Batman is connecting the cable from the Bat to the bomb scene]

    Cat-women says “set out to fly over the water and then eject?” then Batman says “No autopilot” It probably got damaged during the fight in the city. He does not have a reason to lie to cat-women in a time like this and he revealed his identity to Gordon. The Bat is traveling incredibly fast for a hovering/helicopter thing to the that far out in under a minute, even if he ejected out of the Bat, he would die from the impact of the bomb. The bomb would vaporize the water/air and would boil the water near the point of explosion. Not only that but he would suffer from radiation if he somehow managed to survive the blast.

    Alfred’s dream scene from the beginning is the reality one because he is at the cafe he always goes to and when he looks up, he hopes to see Bruce but instead sees another guy in his place.

  • Bat-Man

    Having the auto pilot fixed or not doesn’t matter, the scene shows his face inside the Bat and then it shows 5 seconds left on the bomb, if he had escaped (even with the help of a rocket seat ejector) or not he would not have lived being that close to the bomb explosion. If all the kids on the bus and everyone else is watching the Bat carry the bomb, wouldn’t someone see a rocket chair shoot out of the Bat if Batman tried to escape? Even if he jumped out of the Bat early the Bat does not have auto pilot and could stray off either up, down, left, or right, it could crash into the ocean causing it to not travel its maximum safety distance. Batman would not take that risk as he is trying to save the city. Even if he did escape he’s too close to the bomb so he would die anyways.

    Who said there is 1 bat man signal light? There are multiple Batman signal lights around the city not just 1. In the previous movie It shows lots of them getting smashed, maybe there are thousands of Batman lights on top of the buildings in Gothom City? Maybe Gordon found 1 that wasn’t smashed or maybe he called up the handy man to come and fix it up.
    Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, I’m sure he has money stashed in many places over seas. He knew Batman must die for the city to have a hero. He probably wrote his will a long time ago. He had planned for Blake to find the cave, maybe he has big plans for him, we just don’t know yet, all we know is he finds the cave. Bruce had a lot of time when he was in prison, probably planned it out while he was there and added Blake to his will when he got out.

  • dee9922

    watched these movies again last night, and In the previous movie it showed ONE scene of ONE getting smashed, the same one was later on fixed in the last movie, I don’t know what magic scenes you viewed where several were being destroyed around town….

    it is installed on top of the main police headquarters in Gotham. Every write up or description of the bat signal to date has always been on top of the Police HQ.

    The ending is left to the viewers imagination. Trying to apply fact to this is just plain silly.

  • theres no reason why the Bat didnt have a escape pod, just like the car did with the Batpod. Bruce could have been sat in it and remotely controlled the rest of the flight.

  • well said sir

  • josephus

    the ejection pod thing makes perfect sense with the cutshot to his face. just because you see the same cockpit doesnt mean he’s still attached to the entire BAT. good call.

  • Actually you’re wrong. There was an element of “dreams” used in TDKR … Bruce imagined Ra’s Al Ghul when he was crippled in the cave. The apparition somehow gave Bruce key plot elements (even though it was in his head) … but I agree with the rest of what you are saying.

  • eriksamdahl

    Daniel, good point!

  • JoBlo

    The ending was a lie because Batman would NEVER give up being Batman just so he could *play* Bruce Wayne for the rest of his life. Bruce Wayne is the alter ego, just a role Batman plays. He is the goddamn Batman. And no amount of crying from Alfred or anybody else is going to change that. Spending the rest of his life in Italy would be a hell with no end for him, Selina Kyle or no Selina Kyle.

  • Watch that last shot of Batman before the bomb goes off. All you see is his head and the chair. He had ejected from the Bat.

  • What some fans still don’t get is that this film depicted an aging Bruce Wayne. We are too caught up in what Batman has become to us. This version is not beloved by everyone because of this. But in this version Batman has to deal with major injuries sustained from a decade plus of crime fighting (8 years between Knight and Rises). He wasn’t going to be Batman forever. His mortality has been hinted at since the beginning. Rachel said it in Begins, Alfred said it in Dark Knight, and Bruce finally has to realize it in Rises. It’s a story about a superhero at the end of his career.

  • I do not have the movie handy, so if there is a tidbit I am forgetting…well tell me. But just to throw this out there, where does it say Batman just didn’t drop the bomb from the Bat, and continue out towards the ocean at full speed? He could have theoretically gotten six miles away from the blast just by that. There would be no ejector seat needed, and no one would be able to see the Bat after the bomb explodes (since it would be on the other side of it).

  • In the comics (Specifically Nightwing: New 52) it explains this a lot better. Batman is supposed to be immortal in the eyes of his enemies, being without death. He leaves the bat cave to “Robin” who is actually supposed to be dick grayson (who later becomes nightwing) who steps in as batman for 2 years before starting out on his own in Bludhaven (gotham city’s less popular and unimaginatively named sister) as Nightwing. This is why the bat signal was restored. Batman Never dies, even when when he dies he just comes back again and again. After his much needed 2 year vacation, he returns to Gotham and lets Dick Grayson leave and start out on his own with the help and guidance of his former mentor, Bruce Wayne.

    I have to admit the ending makes a lot of sense, but, I hate this version for a few reasons. 1, batman is supposed to make all of the villains (dark night did a so-so job of explaining it by saying he pushed the mob into using the joker) but in fact, batman is supposed to knock him into a vat of acid, Harvey Dent is supposed to be half melted in court with batman testifying, and Bane is meant to be a project unknowingly funded by Bruce Wayne… 2 the voice just isn’t right. In no way shape or form is Nolan’s batman a detective. He’s a martial artist with a billion dollar arsenal of non lethal weapons and tactics. and 3, Gordon has a boy and a girl in the dark knight, when his wife tells the son to go with his sister(in the scene with 2 face at the end they never actually show the other child, or even reference them). This girl is supposed to be bat girl later on… but in “rises”… he magically has 2 sons… I mean the fuck… did he force a sex change on barb gordon or what?! I honestly blame Christian Bale for all of this. He said he’d quit if they added sidekicks like robin in the mix, so they were forced to do a lot of this stuff because of him. But seriously, they couldn’t have gotten someone else to play the caped crusader?

  • Danny Kooks

    Next Movie…. NIGTHWING starting joseph gordon-levitt as a Sequel of the Dark Knight.
    The character’s first incarnation Dick Grayson debuted in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940). Conceived as a vehicle to attract young readership, Robin garnered overwhelmingly positive critical reception, doubling the sales of the Batman related comic books.[1] The early adventures of Robin included Star Spangled Comics #65-130 (1947–1952), which was the character’s first solo feature. Robin made regular appearances in Batman related comic books and other DC Comics publications from 1940 through the early 1980s until the character set aside the Robin identity and became the independent superhero Nightwing.

  • Oa

    Reed more comics bout Catwoman and/or batman refering Catwoman, stuff like that.

  • Oa

    Haha lol

  • Blahhh

    First off no Batman then no Robin… Since there is a hint of a possible Robin then Batman ain’t dead… Simple as that…

  • CharlieGoose

    Bruce Wayne is alive in the cafe. However, he was eating onion rings and a guy with a Members Only jacket walked in the joint!

  • BartNJ

    Great analysis. But what I don’t get is why did Wayne have that one night stand with …Marion Cotillard …(I’m drawing blanks). Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have had an affair with Selina Kyle?

  • bfg666

    About your last sentence: I’ve read that fusion doesn’t produce radioactivity. Our current atomic bombs are based on fission technology, which is not the same thing.