Does ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Contradict ‘The Dark Knight’?

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 25th, 2012 at 6:12 am,

 Does Dark Knight Rises Contradict The Dark Knight?

While writing my review of The Dark Knight Rises, I found myself doing a lot of self-reflection in regards to why I felt less enthused by Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy finale than I did about the previous installment, The Dark Knight. The performances in The Dark Knight Rises were excellent; it was a more visually sophisticated film, and the action set pieces were bigger and more frequent than ever before. The epic conclusion to the film left a lump in many throats, and by all accounts the movie should’ve been the most rousing and exciting chapter in the trilogy (no doubt some will say that it is).

My issue with TDKR  has since come into focus as I’ve had further time to reflect: It’s the story that screenwriters Chris Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer chose to tell. While the story of The Dark Knight Rises is interesting and engaging in its own right, the issue is:  it contradicts the thematic points of The Dark Knight.

[WARNING - TDK & TDKR SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!]

I have always been a fan of the Nolan Bat-films, but what truly blew me away about TDK was the boldness of the climax (that last half-hour of the film some (mistakenly) believe to be irrelevant), which posits the theory that sometimes, a noble lie (that inspires hope) is more important than the truth in its ugly detail: “Sometimes truth isn’t good enough – sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”

Alfred Burns Rachels Letter in The Dark Knight Does Dark Knight Rises Contradict The Dark Knight?

Batman stops the Joker’s rampage, sure, but the real battle – establishing Harvey Dent as the “proper” symbol of hope and justice in Gotham City – is ultimately won by The Joker, who pushes the maimed and scarred lawman to forsake his morals in a murderous quest of vengeance. With all the good they’ve done about to slip through their fingers, Batman and Gordon decide on a lie – that Batman committed the Two-Face murders – in order to protect the fragile hope that Gotham is holding onto. On a personal level, Alfred burns the break-up letter the deceased Rachel Dawes left for Bruce Wayne, so that Bruce has the hope he needs to continue on as Batman.

That theme is quite profound; it’s something that can be applied to real-world politics, our notion of history (the “facts” vs. the established mythology), and even notions of faith and religious belief (if you’re so inclined to open that can of worms). As a (quasi-)comic book movie, TDK is even more profound: the heroes don’t “win,” per se, so they craft victory out of a lie. Whether you agree with the theory or not, it’s undeniable that The Dark Knight serves up food for thought that can be mulled over and debated in a way that few other films in the genre can.

But along comes The Dark Knight Rises, which totally contradicts that deep and unorthodox idea that Nolan and Co. previously put forth.

 Does Dark Knight Rises Contradict The Dark Knight?

In TDKR, we find Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon eight years later, being crushed under the weight of the lie they created. That so-called “noble sacrifice” on their part provides the illusion of prosperity and progress for Gotham, until (in a development that is both wonderfully literal and figurative) the ugliness that Gordon and Batman tried to bury literally explodes out of the bowels of Gotham’s sewers up to the surface, as Bane appears on the scene and forces the Commissioner and Bats to reconcile with the fact that their lie was only a superficial accomplishment. In the case of Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bane’s reign of terror forces our hero to suffer through a painful and perilous journey to truly become the symbol of hope and justice he wanted to be in the first place (i.e., what he sought to become in Batman Begins).

While this arc works well in making The Dark Knight Rises an epic and resonant tale, it also leaves The Dark Knight diminished in terms of its aforementioned uniqueness and profundity. Looking back from the ending of TDKR, TDK is transformed into a story about all the ways in which Batman and Gordon screw up – from who they trusted (bad cops), to how they dealt with The Joker (ignored him at first) and how they resolved the issue of Two-Face (a lie that cost them their spirits). The Dark Knight basically said “Sometimes a lie that inspires is better than a truth that defeats,” while The Dark Knight Rises basically says, “Hope and inspiration cannot be falsely earned, they have to be fought for through blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice.” It’s not every day that a movie uses a sequel to contradict the thematic conclusions of its predecessor.

batman vs bane1 Does Dark Knight Rises Contradict The Dark Knight?

[Of course, it's only fair that I act as my own Devil's advocate: there is a scene in The Dark Knight Rises where Bane is sitting with Bruce Wayne in the cell where he's imprisoned him. As Bane explains Bruce's situation, he makes the point that the prison's greatest weapon is the false hope it continuously inspires, via the sun-lit opening at the top of the pit. The message is that hope - in the right context - can become the most deadly poison of all. Interesting point, but one that TDKR doesn't fully and firmly connect to the events of TDK, in my opinion.]

Do you agree that The Dark Knight Rises contradicts The Dark Knight? Or do the chapters of Nolan’s Batman Trilogy all fit together perfectly (narratively, thematically) in your view? Let us know in the comments.

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TAGS: batman, the dark knight, the dark knight rises

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  1. captain, i completely agree your interpretation.

  2. contains Spoilers!!!

    I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of the Dark Knight, because they just weren’t true to the characters of Batman and Joker, Dent on the other hand wasn’t bad, but he was missing the tragedy in his past, the one that scared him and that he wants to keep a secret, then it would have had a far greater impact that Rachel died, but in these regard he seems to just crack other the loss of his girlfriend which surely is ackward, because not everybody just cracks and he was against anything that is outside of the law, he was sceptical of Batman and so his “fall” does make less sense to me. Next the Joker “oh boy”, he was sometimes funny, but most of the time ackward, a little bit scary yes, but mostly just ackward. He also didn’t have anything special about him accept, being a psychopath, Joker actually is about scheming plans to kill the bat, this one isn’t, he is about gimmicky weapons that look like toys and kill you in an instant, this one isn’t, I understand that Nolan wanted to make it more realistic, but after all it is comic book adaptation, shouldn’t you be faithful to the characters. And now Batman I thought he was well thought out in Begins you see that he didn’t quite get other the tragedy yet, but thats because it is hard you can’t just smile over everything, but the thing at the end about the lie, just pissed me off, Batman wants justice more than anything, but he also knows that it has to be achieved through doing the right thing. A lie isn’t right and false hope isn’t right either. So this is actually about TDKR and I have to say I liked that one much more lets the the main baddys Bane, Intelligent, strong, leader of a military group which would die for him, ok they got him right, let’s see Talia, loves her father, doesn’t stand for all his principles and can’t choose between her father and bruce, ok the last part isn’t in the movie, why because Ras died in Batman Begins, ok so is that a bad thing? No it isn’t actually it shows how Talia would be if her father would be killed by Bruce and I can totally see that. Next up our protagonist, Bruce reject of society, griefs other his loss and can’t live without batman. This actually reminds me of the dark knight returns, why is that so oh sure because it’s based upon that story too. So yeah this Bruce actually developes as part of the movie, when bane comes to Destroy gotham, Bruce knows batman has to come back and that totally makes sense, also the police is after Bruce, which also totally makes sense because He and Gordon lied about Two Face, oh and one thing I really like gordon in these movies, best depiction in a non-Animated Movie. So then the Bat gets broken, Bane takes other the city and lets all the Prisoners loose, why because they were in Prison for something which was based on a lie, what does that tell us? Every lie will come out someday and the backlash will be bigger than you can imagine! Then Bruce has to get out of the hole and he trains and tries and falls and tries and falls until he tries it without the rope and why does that work, because of his will and his hope to do something good and the need to help the people of gotham. So he comes back and a big fight, Talia reveals herself and stabs Bruce, what do we learn here? Killing somebody is wrong and no matter how bad the person is someday the past will comeback to hunt you. And then the part with the bomb you could see it as cliché, but thats only if you scratch the sourface. The bomb is a symbol for the terror mankind has created only to hurt eachother and that mankind needs a symbol to teach them that they don’t need to destroy each other! Also the main idea is that if you give all the people the same power, the strong will rise and the weak will suffer, human kind needs order and justice, true justice and true democracy, which isn’t possible at the moment, but I think I made my point clear!

    That is my opinion on TDK and TDKR

    • actually i agree with everything you said mostly except your opinion with how Bruce escaped it wasn’t because of his thirst for hope its because the rope was attached to part of the hole’s walls preventing him from making the full jump another words after he decided not to use the rope he jumped and made it because the rope didn’t jerk him back down. What really amazed me about this movie Is i absolutely loved it and really made me think if the fact at the end of the movie did Bruce actually survive? and use the clean slate with the cat woman? and move to a different country to start a new life? or was his old butler just imagining his survival? that he made it. Another was the fact that robin found batman’s layer where he kept his stuff That made it seem Like another sequel was going to come. They did the same mistake with the matrix revolutions every movie was great but they give you that notion there’s going to be a sequel to that exact movie or in a lot of now what you see reboots of the movies they make but can’t create a 4th story line because they are fresh out of ideas from the first 3 i think they need to learn how to stretch the story Line in more sequel like they do comics so that every villain gets a chance to be in the movie and its not all based on one ending. None the less I love all the batman movies they were the best I have ever seen i never really watched their old stuff they made the new ones and i loved it. So yea that is my opinion to what you said.

  3. Here’s the simplest way I can think of to express why it isn’t a contradiction: Because every truth isn’t an “in every situation” truth. Sometimes, a fabrication that creates hope might be the best thing. Sometimes, it isn’t.

    Why does a film need to make an absolutist statement from which it would never waver in any circumstance? Maybe TDKR is Gotham learning lessons from TDK. A mind changed or a different viewpoint on an issue is not a contradiction; sometimes it’s growth.

    • Timbo…

      Very well said.

      Ice3oy…

      Actually, I think the trilogy captured the characters of the Batman mythos extremely well. Bruce and his alter ego’s motivations were complex but very well expressed, and his actions made sense for the less comic-booky world Nolan established. Bale, I think, played him brilliantly. The Joker was, pretty much, taken from some of the grimmest, most terrifying interpretations of the character in the comics and graphic novels. Two-Face’s past, dark or otherwise, was not shown in the films, so we do not know if he had some great tragedy that would eventually lead to his fall. We, however, did not NEED to see that past to fully understand the present, so clearly was his character shown. As for Bane, Catwoman, and Talia (and Scarecrow and Ras, in fact), their characters made perfect sense, highlighted their ink-on-paper originals, AND fit in beautifully with the established onscreen universe.

      It’s just an opinion (thus, no more or less valid than yours), but I think you are simply wrong.

      • Ok, that’s just wonderful, you know that’s pretty hypocritical, first you say it’s just an opinion and then you say I am wrong.

        Well let me explain, my problem with TDK is and always was that the characters didn’t always act like they would in these circumstances, TDK takes many Ideas, from 2 Graphic Novels, which are Killing Joke and Long Halloween, also some other storylines, but mainly these two. If you look at these Stories the Joker isn’t a guy who thinks chaotically, he acts so insane that you think he isn’t, that he is just acting! And that’s the thing I saw a sociopathic psychopath not a more or less insane Mastermind, which the Joker is also He was always a character with jokes that made you laugh and scream at the same time.
        The Joker was always a very dark Character, but he was also a character you thought you couldn’t take seriously, because he fights you with everything he can find, the one scene I saw that was the one with the pencile and that one was brilliant, but for me it lacked those scenes imaginative and kind of crazy killing methods!

        Now because of Bruce had only one flaw in TDK and I explained that the character was in every other way like batman, okay sometimes more like Frank Millers Batman, but at least he wasn’t crazy Steve, well the flaw was as I stated before, the problem with him and Gordon lying, because it just was out of character!

        And Dent, in the comics he had a dark past and he talked about it with his wife, which understood him, they could have had that talk between Rachel and Harvey, but instead he was an unhonest prick who most of the time lied or tricked her, yes it was for a greater good, which is understandable and not out of character and yes you could see the problems he had, I just would have liked to have a more concrete look at the character. You just can’t empathize with a person which you don’t really know, yes it’s tragic that he lost Rachel, but he just took the easy way, I want to know why.

        So yeah my opinion can not be wrong, it’s an opinion, but yours isn’t either because it’s an opinion, movies like every media are open for interpretation, you have yours I have mine!

        • Actually, I am NOT being hypocritical. I am giving my opinion…that I think you are wrong. My entire response EXPLAINED my stated opinion, so I’m not sure why you felt the (desperate?) need to explain your opinion AGAIN, but…oh well.

          I stand firmly behind what I said.

          • It’s rather easy to understand if you just think about it, because you meant the movies captured the characters very well and I had only 1 character I disliked, which was the out of character Joker, so I am on the same page with you there, I never said anything against Bale I actually liked his performance, only the ending of TDK was out of character like I said before, but the movie was written that way. And you meant Harveys past wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t, but I think it would have been interesting and would have given the character more depth, that’s all I’m saying.

    • Good points, Timbo. My problem is that Batman vanished the final night of The Dark Knight. Which is not at all what that ending was indicating. Batman was wounded, but not gravely. TDKR, for a movie trilogy priding itself on “realism” it sure seemed to cut corners with Bruce recovering with a severely traumatic back injury, undernourishment, lack of combative practice then proceeding to come back and beat the snot out of Bane just felt awkward.

      Why didn’t Bruce re-dedicate himself to healing right after? He goes into Fox’s office and gets a special knee brace that fixes his leg? Where was that eight years ago? Too many questions arise from Rises. I certainly don’t think they had to be absolutist about Batman and the Comish’s decision, but Bruce quitting right after TDK was completely out of character. I would have preferred seeing a Bruce Wayne who was continually battle-scarred and seeing the weight of Batman, not the lack-of, crush him. It would have lead to a better 1st-Battle with Bane, where he’s not so out of practice and coming off of an instantly-fixed injury.

      • Questions do not arise from TDKR; the film effectively and succinctly (and, I think, beautifully) ANSWERS many questions brought up in and by TDK…if one merely pays attention. This fact has already been shown multiple times, both in this thread and previous others.

  4. The TDK and TDKR do not contradict each other if you see them as a continuing two-part story. What the TDKR does is teach Gordon and Wayne the truth that a seeming shortcut (the convenient lie) may be short-term good but is long-term bad while the difficult way, the difficult truth, may have some short-term negative repercussions but has long-term positive benefits. It is not a contradiction, but a teaching contrast…

  5. No man, there is no contradiction. And that is the point of TDKR. See, what TDK says at the end, is that “we got something good… out of a lie”. But there’s the problem, it’s all based on a lie. Not cool.

    Nolan said it himself on one of the extras in TDKR: This movie (TDKR) takes a closer look at that lie. Bane does that, and everything falls apart. In the end, Batman redeems himself by doing something that brings good to everyone, but this time no lies are used.
    So, no contradiction. TDKR is correcting Bataman’s lie from TDK.

  6. I think if you want to be honest everyone gave up on the movie. There are many plotholes that makes no sence. That prison with bane look wonderful they somehow get food, t.v., no guards, no real cells, and medical attention. Those prisoners live better than many Americans.

    • I am being completely honest when I state that you are wrong so utterly that I MUST wonder if you actually WATCHED the film (and, if so, if you understood ANY of it).

      • I not only watched the film, but every batman movie. There are many plot holes in this movie. Another example, batman and Selina Kyle relationship makes no sence. Selina during 4/5 of the movie betrays batman and gives me no reason to trust her, yet he give his bat cycle to her. Another, how did Alfred seeing bane beat up guards in “wall street” know he part of the league of shadows.

        • I’m pretty sure that you don’t know what a plot hole is. A plot hole specifically undermines the world of the film by furthering the plot at the risk of previous plot points. An example of this would be in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where we find out at the end of the film that Barty Crouch Jr inexplicably escaped from Azkaban unnoticed while the previous film announced that this was completely impossible.

          Now, as far as your spoilers so far:

          1) Whether you have no reason to trust Selina or not is of no consequence to the world of the film. Bruce Wayne is not you, and therefore he does not need to follow your logic. He sees something in her that shows that she is capable of good, even after she betrayed him. Those of us with a sense (yep, that’s how you spell it) of empathy understand where he’s coming from.

          2) I’m pretty sure I recall that Alfred researched Bane and found a link to the League of Shadows, I don’t think he just saw him beating up guards and knew.

          3) The prison doesn’t need to be guarded, it’s impossible to get out. It appears the TV’s only show what Bane wants them to show. The prisoners capable of medical attention are detainees themselves, so you better hope they like you or are ordered to take care of you. I’m also fairly certain the food is crap, but people will eat it to survive. Once again, though, not a plot hole. It gives an illusion of freedom without being true freedom. People want true freedom.

          I recommend that you think future responses through before you label plot points as plot holes. I haven’t heard a proper plot hole from you yet.

  7. I think the contradiction is intended and the entire point of the 3rd movie.

    in TDK the evil forces actually win the battle for gotham, this is encompassed in the final scene with the joker. The only way the good guys could win was to deceive the public and use batman as a scapegoat.

    TDKR is about that deception resurfacing and the consequences associated with it. I think the contradiction is intended

    • Good job Ryan, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      Of all the posts I’ve read, I’ve finally found the one that exemplifies my feelings towards the 2 films contradicting each other. The whole point of TDKR was to establish how rational decisions (lying) in one scenario (to reach an acceptable end result) can backfire and how you have to deal with it to make things right. It definitely was an intended line of reasoning and I admire Nolan for that and Ryan for realizing it.

  8. When Bruce wakes up in the prison with Bane at his side right after Bane broke his back Bane has a monologue in which he states, “There can be no true despair without hope.” As he explains his plan he finally says this to Batman, “Then, when you have truly understood the depth of your failure…” Bruce(and hopefully the audience) just learned in clearly defined terms that the lie created by Gordon and him was inadvertently harmful. They believed that it would bring hope and that Gotham’s citizens would would be inspired to stand up against corruption themselves instead of cowering like they’ve been. They were right that it would bring hope, but they failed to see that that hope will only lead to true despair when the people realize that corruption persist regardless.

    It’s not a contradiction but an irony; something that appears one way but is actually the unexpected opposite. The definition of irony is an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

  9. Ha ha ha! And honestly, I feel like that settles it. I genuinely feel that my last comment decisively answers the question posed by this article.

    I’m finished. lol

  10. I don’t believe it does contradict… You have to understand that when dealing with humanity, 2 things are certain, death and changing circumstances that cause us to question. We may hold blindly onto a conviction, or belief, or truth, only to have something new brought to light that changes everything. In the case of TDK, Batman/Bruce’s action was one to solve an immediate problem, Dent changed. What Bruce failed to realize is that his action would be built on. Gordon didn’t have to keep going using Dent/Batman as the White/Dark Knight, but he did. His choices changed things too.

    The main thing I have lingering in my mind about these films is Nolan’s use of Bruce as an everyman with extreme wealth. However, He doesn’t play into Bruce’s extreme intelligence and forward thinking… In the comics, granted I have not read them, Bruce is always portrayed as the smartest of the Justice league, even preparing in the event that someone as impossibly strong as Superman were to go bad. However, his fears and forward thinking were fed upon and used against him. His Achilles Heel, then, is his lack of trust, not his desire for hope. Nolan portrays that more as a self-doubt, self-confidence issue that needs “Rachel” to solve in TDKR. However, Alfred then tells the truth and because of that, shifts everything Bruce held onto. Instead of being forward thinking, he’s caught in the past. That’s the main argument I have with this movie. While he was forward thinking enough to prepare to give Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character the Batcave, he wasn’t forward thinking enough to tell that Miranda Tate wasn’t the best woman to sleep with. All in all, I think Nolans did a good job of capturing the fragility of building on lies, and what can happen, albeit less severe than blowing up half of Gotham, when people don’t choose to tell the truth. my thoughts… feel free to rage and point out my flaws.

  11. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this content together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and
    posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  12. People should look at the Dark Knight Rises from a neutral viewpoint; throw out your comic perspective and your fascination with characters like Anne Hathaway or Tom Hardy. For one, the sequel is much much slower than its predecessor (I about fell asleep). After all how much bad-a time did Batman get? Hardly any! Just that one bike scene and him beating up Bane (but then Talia slips him the knife, so it didn’t last long). The themes in the second movie are unclear. The Dark Knight focuses on how promising humans are, but in the sequel civilians go crazy. You can’t reconcile the two. Gordon doesn’t appear very often, and even when he does he’s much less resolute. I see comments on this thread which state the TDKR completes the unresolved questions of TDK, but the truth is they are trying to fit a round object into a square peg. These people are just enamored by the entire trilogy that they fail to see where it lacks. Just compare it to the Spider-man trilogy.

    • JD…

      Your comment would have been hilarious if not for the fact that it was so pathetic. You seriously think just because YOU didn’t like the film that all of us who DID must have simply misunderstood or idealized it? Really?

      Wow…arrogant AND sad, all at once.

      Yikes.

  13. TDK was more like a big Batman episode of mafia-cop-corruption and…CHAOS!:( TDKR is a “unique” adventure who could have lenght 3 ½ hours. Like The Return of the King, even after nearly 4 hours, I wanted MORE!:D

  14. I don’t think that TDKR contradicts it predecessor, as such. In TDK, there’s an immediate problem- Joker lost the battle and won the war, Harvey’s nuttier than squirrel poo, and Gotham is now without its White Knight. Jim and Batman, trying to spin this, lie. TDK ends on the immediate effects of this lie- more or less smooth sailing. TDKR explores the long term. The truth is eating Jim alive. Bruce doesn’t see a point to his life and is just a shut-in. Many criminals are locked up, but the supposed justice to this is hollow and false. Alfred’s lie to Bruce, done for the best of reasons, has contributed to his despair and isolation rather than what Alfred was hoping for.

    The Dark Knight Rises is not a contradiction, but a natural progression. True justice and peace can’t be built on deceit and misinformation. It came to the surface, and everyone had to face the consequences of the truth. The message of The Dark Knight might be inspiring, but it was kinda s*****: lie your way to your goals when it’s not working like you hoped it would. But as Alfred said in Rises, “Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day”. To me, it tied very well into the themes and plot of TDK, and I think they went great together.

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  17. If any one of you here have listened to the track ‘A DARK KNIGHT’ from TDK, you will notice that after playing out the victorious Batman 2-note theme in the end and as the track fades away, the single note of the Joker theme continues to play out until it fades at last.It never ends.That symbolises the fact that the Joker never lost out to Batman.It was quite the reverse.So the way TDKR played, it was meant to be so.If Heath Ledger had not died perhaps Joker would have taunted the Batman over his defeat in the third part.With the Joker gone, he realises the magnitude of his defeat 8 years after with Bane’s coming.So that contradiction was meant to be.

  18. Your comments on the two movies are correct that they contradict the principles of Batman and Gordon, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It was a huge part of the story arc to realize that they made a mistake.

  19. The themes contradict because they’re delivered by contradicting characters: Batman and Bane.