If you haven’t seen the movie yet (come on, really?) I’m going to put up a big ol’ SPOILER WARNING right now; in bold and everything. The scene I’m about to discuss happens near the end of the film and has a huge impact on the story and everything that comes after it. So…consider yourself warned.
Like I said, there were many great scenes throughout this movie, but one in particular resonated with me, and my mind still wanders to it when I think of the film: Batman’s death. I’m talking the scene specifically where you believe Batman sacrifices himself to save Gotham, before they start hitting you with the clues that Bruce Wayne is still alive.
This was an amazingly impressive scene for me initially because when the bomb exploded over the water, I truly thought Batman had perished. I was so surprised, not because it happened, but because I found myself okay with it. When rumors first started surfacing (a long time ago) that Batman would meet his end in this film, I was highly against it. I didn’t want Batman to be killed off and I didn’t think it’d be good overall for the franchise. It just felt wrong to me, and I held many an online debate with people over why I felt it was a terrible idea to kill him off.
However, when it finally came down to it, I was suddenly fine with the idea. The journey the character went through in the film and the ties to the previous films in the trilogy made his ‘death’ seem like it could have been the logical progression and ending for him. It didn’t feel like they were ruining Batman, or anything like that, and none of the fears I had about his death in the film were realized. I was okay with the sacrifice, and Nolan actually managed to get me to think this was a good idea.
Obviously, it was revealed later that he didn’t actually die, but for the brief period of time when I thought he was dead, I felt at peace with it. That’s not my sole reason for picking this as the film’s most pivotal scene however. This scene is the culmination of nearly all the themes presented throughout the entire trilogy, where everything that Bruce Wayne has stood for and espoused comes to the ultimate test.
One of the things Alfred brought up earlier in the film, was how Bruce seemed like all he lived for was Batman and how he wanted Batman to be needed. This is counter to Bruce’s earlier ideas in the previous films, where his goal is to clean up Gotham to the point where Batman is no longer needed, and he can live a normal life. By sacrificing himself (especially considering he still lives in the end), Bruce is showing that he’s willing to give up the Batman for the greater good. It’s not a selfish thing for him or vainglorious, it’s about doing what he has to, in order to save the city he loves.
As I said, this felt like a very logical progression of the journey Bruce Wayne underwent in this film. One of the all pervasive themes of the entire trilogy dealt with fear, and facing those fears to become a better person (or worse if you’re the villain). The Dark Knight Rises is no exception to that, and throughout the film Bruce is confronted with facing his fears. This key scene in the film is demonstrative of Bruce facing yet another fear, but it’s not of death (he already dealt with that in the pit), he had to face his fear of not being needed.
Once he’s gone, he’s going to have to do something he wasn’t able to before; trust the city. Before, he was trying to bring the city from the brink of self-destruction (the first two films), and at the beginning of TDKR he’s waiting for them to need him again and seems truly at a loss for what to do with his life when they don’t seem to need him. Yet he makes the decision to sacrifice Batman because he can finally trust Gotham and its citizens and that his ‘death’ wouldn’t be fruitless or in vain, but could actually spawn the city onto greater heights.
The Dark Knight Rises was filled with a whole bunch of ideas and themes (sometimes to its detriment), and thus it was also filled with its fair share of pivotal and powerful scenes. Above all of those, I really do feel that Batman’s ‘death’ is the most important of them all. It’s a culmination of all that happens in the film and strikes the right emotional chord with audiences as well.