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.

[poll id="351"]

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

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  1. That’s not a contradiction at all, TDKR doesn’t change TDKs story or the meaning behind it, it continues it and expands on it. I actually don’t understand how you could think it’s a contradiction. In fact I think you’ve missed the point of TDKR’s story entirely. A lie, even for what seems like the right reason, always has the potential to backfire. In TDK/TDKR’s case it prevents initial outcry and gives Gotham some hope, but it was always built on a lie and came back to bite them even worse than if they had just told the truth in the first place.

    • Agreed. It’s part of the same developing theme, which the previous movies start, and which TDKR finishes developing.

    • this guy gets it.

    • ^this

    • I personally do not feel that TDKR directly contradicted the idea an themes of TDK. I believe that TDK set up as profound truth that a lie can be used to incapacitate evil and give those needed a chance to redeem themselves and do some good. But in the end a lie can come back to haunt and do more harm then good. The same thing happens in real life whether it be politics, business, or even relationships. Things can seem like a good idea at the time and that they will bring more good than bad, but it will always come back to haunt you. It is really the basis of the lie that tells the true story. Whether the lie was formed to create chaos and mistrust or it was created to bring about peace.

    • I completely agree with “Doom” it’s not a contradiction…. it’s a further exegesis of the Dark Knight Legend. They did what they felt was right, and each suffered in their own way since. Some could say it’s karmic. Both however find redemption in the truth. Nolan used the passage of time to show consequences of the actions taken. Roads traveled. I think it was a very fitting end to the trilogy in line with the other movies.

    • Agreed 100%. It’s an evolution.

  2. Kofi, good stuff here. Perhaps that was point of the movie: To say at one time this view was needed but over time it proves to incorrect or false and so a true view takes form and grows out of the falsehood of the other.

  3. How about a machine that evaporates water yet doesn’t seem to affect all the people standing around who consist of 80% water.

    • How about the characters described this as it use focus microwave waves to the water supply. That means some sophisticated technology must been involved where it detects the water in the mains, like a gps. You nitpick for no reason. Rise above your ego and understand thematic elements in the movies,

      • So they’re able to create a microwave that is able to evaporate water through steel pipes yet the same microwave doesn’t do the same through skin ? lol… I understand your fanboyness refuses to acknowledge how ridiculous that is so don’t try arguing anymore.

        • It’s a focused beam like a laser operating in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. D.E.W.S. are something like this, research is on going by the military. One advantage would be low collateral damage, focusable on the target.

          • how is that beam focused on the water line, which is below the street, and they were 3 stories above on the tram? he does bring up a good point.

        • I love people who take the time to say its fanboys that refuse to acknowledge how ridiculous something in a movie is. A) you refuse to acknowledge the clear description of the mechanism in the movie B) refuse to acknowledge the even more clear description by another poster C) by posting such a comment you are in fact proving you are a fanboy of fanboys and their “ridiculous” views of things they like hence D) you are a Hypocrite.

          • or the chitauri on the Avengers… try explaining that

    • I love the Batman trilogy and generally adore Christopher Nolan’s work, but I must admit that I fin all of these films to consist of a strange mix of awkward humor with terrible one liners and bad pseudoscience alongside terribly dark and sometimes disturbing themes.

      As far as the OP’s question, I don’t thinks the films contradict one another, but show a progression of thought. The truth is always better than a lie, no matter how good the lie may seem at the time.

    • I know! Ppl talk up the “realism” in these movies all the time. Fanboys try as hard as they can to explain away these films. Like the microwave gun, or Bats falling off the building, or flipping the car with the bat pod, or owning a flying transformer or surviving a nuclear explosion. The list goes on

      • Voodoo, do you have a point, or are you simply trying to be a provocateur? You’ve acted this way on other Nolan- or DK-based threads.

        Is your alias, perchance, “rod22″?

        Seriously.

      • He didn’t survive a nuclear explosion. He put the bat on autopilot and jumped out way before the blast took place

        • Because a nuclear blast only 6 miles from the coast wouldn’t have any devastating long term negative effects on the citizens of Gotham or anything… just saying.

          • It wasn’t a typical nuclear bomb actually. It was a neutron bomb which if far less powerful than a full out nuclear bomb and has much less fallout. But i understand the complaint.

  4. Well I think what TDKR is saying is that no matter how helpful a lie can be, it will eventually catch up to you and you have to deal with the circumstances of the truth. Bane went out of his way to free the prisoners that were locked up via the Harvey Dent Act, and therefore under false pretenses (the prisoners, mind you, that we do not see for the rest of the film, aside from Selena Kyle).

  5. I disagree that the contradictions are a flaw–I think they show how human the characters deciding on these themes are. They try to do what’s right and good at the time and don’t see the problems they’ve created until it’s too late. In Batman Begins, Bruce spends a whole movie overcoming and eliminating his own fear. Then, in Dark Knight Rises, his lack of fear actually becomes an obstacle. He needs fear in order to survive, and the fact that he doesn’t fear death has kept him from really living. I think it was a very brave move to overturn so many themes from the previous movies, and it gave them a very human element.

  6. I agree all too well. even in the cinema i thought that TDKR was more of a sequel to BB than to TDK.

  7. I thought it was well done. You do see how everything comes full-circle in the trilogy. I can see what is said about the contradiction. But I think it was just a bridge to get where they were trying to go. Much like how Mass Effect 2 was for its trilogy (mainly on Xbox). Not of real consequence, but a good way to get us to the final chapter.

  8. The comments that others have submitted are great, but I actually thought that on the surface it seemed TDK influenced TDKR, but in the end it was all superficial. Bane wasn’t a response to TDK, he was continuing Ra’s Al Gul’s initial plan. However, I did think that was a contradiction in itself though. I would think since Ra’s thought the city was corrupt by letting organize crime run rampant, the new law cleaned up the streets and in essence did Ra’s work. Bane actually undid the clean up for some reason. And then just wanted to blow the city up. So yea, I didn’t really think it undid TDK’s work.

  9. IT also contradicts that Batman is the real Bruce Wayne and Bruce is the alter-ego, like Raechel said in the first and second film!

    • jokerjonj…

      Rachel and most of the main characters (whether primary or supporting, protagonists or antagonists) were shown to be wrong in their perceptions and/or reactions throughout the trilogy. This is a significant point when realizing why TDKR did NOT contradict TDK conceptually/philosophically. Time (the eight years “passing” between the two films) was another important component.

      • But… That is who Batman is in the whole Batman Universe. He’s Batman and Bruce is the Alter-ego. Not only charaters of the film suggest this but the film itself. That was the point I was making. It would have been better if they had stuck to that point. It was still a good movie.

        • That may be true in other versions of Batman, but the difference of Nolan’s Batman is that he gets to have an ending. Bruce Wayne comes full circle and no longer needs Batman. Rachel’s speeches don’t contradict this, they support it.

  10. It does contradict it, absolutely. BUT in its narrative, it is justified. What they accomplished in TDK, is to create a lie to save Gotham, and as we saw in TDKR that lie had all the consequences of any other lie, guilt and retribution.

    • @Michael, I agree with that, in real life somethings truly seem to contradict each other even though there may be reasons for it and sometimes there aren’t (things still unanswered). Why would making a film based on fiction that emulates real life themes be any different.

  11. The mega theme explored within the trilogy, expressed simplest as “what will fear and loss push us to do?”, are totally consistent with the contradiction identified. Batman and Gordon craft the lie out of fear; Fear that the Joker has won. Fear that common people “cannot handle the truth.” However, this is a false solution leading to an imperfect resolution. While, upon the surface, all seem right at the start of DKR, Bane and the secret villain are preparing to undo and discredit the solution based upon it’s won weaknesses (it’s a lie that lead to a police crackdown and a weakening of civil liberties). This forces the protagonists to address the failure of their solution to reach a true resolution.

    • won=own

  12. how is this different from the Terminator movies? The message of the first 1 was, “the future is inevitable.” The message of the second was, “there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

    • I’m not seeing your point, can you elaborate please. Plus in the third Terminator film Judgement Day DOES happen, proving that the future really was inevitable all along.

  13. I don’t think it was contradtictional at all. In all of the films, Batman and his cops are doing whatever’s necessary to protect the people of Gotham. In The Dark Knight, they made the decision to blame Batman and martyrize Harvey Dent due to the very few options they had. Actually, The Dark Knight Rises prooves the the theme of The Dark Knight as panic even more. The decision to martyrize Harvey Dent didn’t work in the long run, for it was a decision made in panic and was based on a lie. For anything, I think the true ideology of the series is that you must adapt to your surroundings to to survive. It was said in Batman Begins and it was done in The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight, how good of a film that may be, shows Batman and his friends being thrown out of track and acting in panic. So the way I see it, The Joker won in The Dark Knight. He achieved long time chaos, even though the ending of the film suggested otherwise. However, they were able to restore that balance when Bane and Tate’s plans went to hell in The Dark Knight Rises.

  14. I think it deserves a lot praise for taking a great, profound ending (TDK) and flipping it on it’s side to cause issues/set up the plot for the next film (TDKR). So not only do they work on their own (with satisfying endings) but they tie together with such rhythm.

  15. I couldn’t agree more. I hate that the poll is so strongly opposed, because this concept got under my skin the whole time I was watching TDKR. Of course, this isn’t necessarily an issue. Different themes separate the films, make them about different struggles of the Batman, and I think that’s fine. His goals and obstacles SHOULD change after eight years, really.

  16. It’s not a contradiction. It actually completes the arc perfectly as you yourself explained.

    What I found to be strangely contradictory was Batman’s entire interaction with John Blake and about how anybody can be the hero (or more specifically anyone can be Batman) which is one of his main reasons for the mask. i.e. Represent Gotham rather than take the glory as Bruce Wayne.

    And yet in The Dark Knight, he seems opposed to the copycats who are trying to help.

    Change of heart, I suppose?

    • The difference is that the copycat Batmen were causing more harm than good. They were essentially a gang that used guns and presumably killed people. Bruce says that kind of response wasn’t the kind he was looking for. Blake, on the other hand, was a person of total altruism who had a personal connection with Bruce and a code similar to his. Note how bad he appears to feel after accidentally killing a guy; he throws his gun away. In Blake Bruce finally has a worthy successor.

  17. I think your flaw is in over analyzing Nolans films, which although good in there own right don’t always stand up to scrutiny, like inception. However that doesn’t really matter because his films are IMO more about character and emotion rather than plot or even thematic points. And if you linger on these details you are just going to end up with more questions than answers, because you are missing the point of Nolans films. TDKR isn’t about whether or not the lie is worth it, it’s about whether or not being a hero is worth it, and what Bruce Wayne has lost in his own life for his fight for Gotham. I find this much more interesting than the premise of a “Noble Lie” “Hero They Need Not That They Deserve” theme from TDK.

    Personally I found the overarching story, especially the scope of the story as well as Bruce Waynes character arch to be much more engaging and interesting In TDKR than in TDK or Batman Begins. For this reason I felt like the move as a whole was better than TDK and if nothing else it concluded in a much more satisfying matter. The only thing that wasn’t really in TDKR were those Holy S**T! moments from TDK as well as a mind blowing performance from Heath Ledger. Also I think the performances of all the actors out shone their previous performances in TDK.

  18. I agree with all above, it’s not a contradiction. Actually it proves the old saying a lie will eat at you and consume you. The lie while noble causes more problems and will come back to cause more problems. Not a contradiction, but a continuation of the the story

  19. I agree with all above, it’s not a contradiction. Actually it proves the old saying a lie will eat at you and consume you. The lie while noble causes more problems and will come back to cause more problems.

  20. Well, you’ve made a really good case that it does. I’d like to revisit TDKR again before I form my own opinion. From reading this, it seems to, so I voted yes.

    • Although, after thinking about it for a minute, everything Bane was spouting was a ruse. He was trying to make people think everything was going to be alright, while he was going to blow them all up anyways.

  21. Note: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie

    The themes are meant to walk hand in hand with one another; the latter about truth and sacrifice being the continuation of the theme about lying. While it seems as though the lie can cover the horrible truth, no matter what, people still get hurt in the lie. In the clearest cases of this, the results of the lie are seen 8 years after the coverup in TDKR: Gordon with his family having left him and Bruce being a recluse because he believes that Rachel died preparing to leave Harvey for him. While one can try to argue the point of the greater good, the Truth is the only way that peace can really be achieved. This is the theme; the line at the end of TDK is a stepping stone because as we see in TDKR, the city’s peace built on falsehood ultimately comes to light causing even greater chaos then the joker caused. The lie ultimately fails because the only way Gotham can be truly fixed is by the second theme of truth and sacrifice and authentic hope. It’s a weaving together of both themes in one continuous stream.

  22. I agree that TDKR is a bit of a contradiction. However, it’s important to remember that, in TDK, Commissioner Gordon said that Harvey Dent is the hero that Gotham needs RIGHT NOW not the hero that Gotham deserves (which is Batman). Now, in TDKR, it’s not said, but implied that Gotham needs a new hero. Batman becomes the real hero in this installment of Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. However, Batman has been lost and needs to be found again. This can only be done through Bane’s debasement of Batman.
    There is a distinct theme to each one of the films. Batman Begins deals with fear, The Dark Knight deals with chaos, and The Dark Knight deals with pain.
    Batman doesn’t contradict himself in TDKR, he makes amends for the lies he had to tell in TDK.

  23. Sure, you can see it that way. However, I think that for the Batman story to continue from the end of The Dark Knight, it would have to be acknowledged that the lie about Harvey Dent was only a band-aid. There was no long term solution in it, it was just the right thing at that moment because they needed Harvey’s legacy to be preserved. In fact, Gordan explicitly says that this was the case at the end of The Dark Knight, referring to Batman, “He’s the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.”

    It’s not a contradiction at all. Besides, the theme that “Hope and inspiration cannot be falsely earned, they have to be fought for through blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice” is substantially more poignant than “Sometimes a lie that inspires is better than a truth that defeats,” in my opinion.

  24. I really don’t feel that it truly contradicts TDK… I believe it’s a full circle realization of what needed to be done. The cover up of Dent’s demise was only a temporary fix. Bruce Wayne in the end succeeded in what he was trying to accomplish in passing the torch and establishing a predecessor in ROBIN/The New Batman/Nightwing/Protector of Gotham?!?!? (in which he was trying to do in the beginning right??? Inspire the citizens of Gotham to stand up and fight for themselves?————-) I dunno…
    Even if Nolan is no longer going to be sitting in the director’s chair.. maybe he’ll stay on as an “artistic advisor” or at least contribute to the screenplay with his brother— for whatever might come next)

  25. Someone above (I don’t want to find who) said something about Bane contradicting Ras Al Ghul? What? Ras wanted to destroy Gotham not clean up the streets?

    Good arguments all around but I can’t look at it as a contradiction. Many people aren’t realizing small details of TDKR story. This entire Idea of contradiction just seems like another attempt to taint the greatness that was TDKR… As stated repeatedly, TDKR expands upon the consequences of TDK and furthers the story of BB, Batman and Bruce.

  26. You mentioned being a devil’s advocate to your own thought process, which I think reflects on the power of the story the franchise told. Christopher Nolan strikes me as one of those filmmakers who wants to provoke an audience to think and question, not just ogle the pretty moving picture.

    What I took from TDKR is not that Gordon and Batman have contradicted themselves. Clearly the guilt worked against them. Gordon looked aged and broken–even driving away his family. Bruce was broken in spirit and body–lending to the idea that emotional pain if left internally can manifest as physical pain. Harboring the truth all those years weighed on them. In their grief, they had to prove themselves capable of being the heroes they did not believe they could be. It was less contradiction than redemption, I think. Gordon refused to give up his city–even at the risk of death. Batman, well…that ending is a discussion for another thread.

    While I don’t think there was a contradiction, I do feel this was one of your best articles, Kofi. Thanks for sharing!

  27. In my reviews of the movies, I mentioned that if these movies were originally intended to become a trilogy, more appropriate names for them would be “The Dark Knight” instead of Batman Begins, “The Dark Knight Falls” instead of the Dark Knight, and “The Dark Knight Rises”. I don’t think that Rises contradicts The Dark Knight, but it does push a different idea.

  28. @Vincent – Band Aid. Perfect way to put it.

  29. I don’t think there is a contradiction really. I think they touched on the theme with the whole gordon speech and Bruce Waynes hiding underground. Not to mention, Alfred’s line about how its time for the truth to have its day or something along those lines. Looking back on it now, I agree that they could have worked it in better if thats what they were even trying to do.

    But the overarching storyline is about the conflict of Bruce wayne himself. The lie about harvey dent was just a means to an end within that batman chapter. Basically, that’s what they wanted to do because it would be more detrimental to sacrifice the image of Dent than of Batman who is technically a vigilante. At least, that is what they thought. I think people are too Dark Knight focused and compare everything to that movie. The Dent scheme was not meant to be the whole overarching idea or moral quandary of the whole batman trilogy. But because the movie was so good, it gets a lot of attention in that way. I think people have The Dark Knight tunnel vision in that regard. Personally, I liked the third one a lot better than the second one. I was never really blown away by the second one. I was entertained by it, but I felt like it was too focused on the joker even though we learned nothing about him other than he was a guy who just wanted to push batmans buttons. Still, great movie. This new one is a little clunky in some areas, but they made the movie they wanted to make. They made connections to the previous two. Bane was different and entertaining. The action had good build up and was on a much bigger scale this time.

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