How long do we have to keep saying that?
Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises, may have resolved itself nicely in the end, but along the way, there were plenty of surprising twists and turns. The film had some pretty shocking reveals, and in many cases each of them had a long-term impact on not only the story of the film, but in some cases the continuity of the series as a whole.
ComicBook.com assembled a list of what we thought were the five most shocking scenes in the film.
Alfred Pennyworth Leaves
It happened in the comic books, but even those of us pretty well-versed in ’90s Bat-verse stories didn’t see this one coming: Alfred, discouraged by Bruce seemingly drifting out of control as Batman, gave his surrogate son an ultimatum and told him that he had to leave. When Bruce tried to talk him into sticking around, telling him that he needed help and that Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight had, after all, taken his dream life away from him and stolen any chance he had at normalcy, the gentleman’s gentleman spilled his guts with regard to a long-held secret regarding Rachel Dawes’ last communication with Bruce (to wit, that she was going to leave him and marry Harvey Dent). This was enough to make Bruce snap, and rather than attempting to bring Alfred back to him, he fired him, leaving Bruce truly alone in his house and subject to the whims of Miranda Tate, who would come visit soon thereafter.
Bane breaks the Batman
Again, this happened in the comics and it was widely expected to happen for a year before the movie ever came out. So it’s not particularly shocking when you look at it that way. Still, the idea that they would even adapt Knightfall into a big-budget feature film is a bit bizarre…and the fact that they kept Bane’s iconic “signature move,” the rather silly-looking back-breaking drop, was included in Christopher Nolan’s “realistic” universe is a little surreal.
Of course, it was also a harbinger of things to come: the film was far less grim and gritty than its predecessors, having less in common with Batman Begins than with Batman Returns, in some ways: as the finale progressed, it became something of a techno-thriller, with Batman flying around the city in an experimental aircraft while working against a ticking clock to stop a bomb from destroying Gotham. At the end of the day, Nolan’s final outing was a more traditional Batman movie than his previous ones–taking cues from influences like James Bond and Die Hard rather than Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.
By the time Miranda Tate revealed that she was Talia al Ghul in disguise, the idea had more or less left my mind, as it didn’t seem there was enough time left for another major bomb to drop (no pun intended). That she not only revealed that but, as part of it, revealed that the whole backstory we had been given for Bane was an elaborate misdirection being used to throw Bruce off Talia’s scent, was a baffling moment, where your mind raced to catch up to the plot even as the ticking-clock bomb storyline was still happening and Batman was suddenly at the villains’ mercy with only minutes to go. It was something like three shocks, all packed into one mother-shock, and very effective storytelling.
It also tracks if you go back through the movie, and makes some of the more apparently-random elements of Bane and Talia’s plan make more sense. That kind of makes up for the way to plot started to spin out of control during those final 20 minutes or so, or at least it does for me.
Batman fails to stop the bomb
Granted, the city wasn’t lost–but still, the fact that Batman failed to stop the bomb and allowed himself to be “killed” was a great moment. Even if you knew intellectually that he wouldn’t be dead, you had to sit there for a few minutes and say, “how the heck are we going to find out he’s at the cafe now?”.
Meanwhile, it’s a bit of a cruel misdirect to use against Gotham, isn’t it? Not even the idea that he’s letting them believe Batman is dead, but the fact that he’s lying agani. At the end of The Dark Knight, he and Gordon lied for what they imagined to be the greater good and it set the stage for some pretty nasty stuff in The Dark Knight Rises. But here’s Bruce, in his final act as Bruce, replicating that behavior.
It was an early favorite, as far as spoiler theories went, and became one of the most controversial decisions in the series. Many fans still believe that Nolan should just have allowed Blake to be Dick Grayson all along and saved the last-second swerve for another film, but it worked well for us.
In any event, by the time the movie was over, you could more or less guess at the rest of the story beats in the ending; few really believed that Bruce would be alive, and anyone with a sense of how cinema is “supposed” to work could guess from about five minutes before Alfred left what the final shot of Bruce Wayne would be. What was left? A last-minute, tacked-on revelation that Batman’s successor had been Robin all along. There was a mix of gasps and giggles in our theater when the reveal came, but nobody seemed blase about it.