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Jonathan Nolan On Controversial Ending of The Dark Knight Rises

The ending of The Dark Knight Rises has been debated since the film opened in July, and so far no one has come forward to set the record straight about what it means. Now the film’s co-writer, and Person of Interest showrunner, Jonathan Nolan has offered his take on the somewhat-subjective ending, and he seems to say it’s vague for a reason.

“I’ve long maintained that if you get to that place where people are passionate about it and arguing about what the end of your film means, then that’s great, and who am I to put my opinion in the mix,” he told IGN.

He used his brother Christopher Nolan’s film Memento as an example to explain what he meant. That movie, based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, has a more intentionally open ending, and it has elicited a similar response from fans.

“This goes back to a conversation that I had with my brother many, many years ago when he first took his film Memento to the Venice Film Festival and we were having dinner afterwards with the cast and crew and realized at that moment, reposed, relaxed, having dinner, everybody sort of letting their hair down a little bit, and we’d had a great response from the audience, someone realized after a few drinks that everyone there — the stars, the producers, my brother, myself — everyone had a different interpretation of what that film meant,” Nolan recalled.

He continued, “Chris and I still disagree about the end of Memento, by the way, so I feel like that’s as it should be.”

IGN also asked about the inclusion of Robin in the storyline, as he was a character that Christopher Nolan had long said he didn’t want to use. Jonathan Nolan explained that having Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character amed Robin was their way of acknowledging his role in the Batman universe.

“It’s a wink at the audience. There’s such a huge kind of incredible universe that writers from Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, onwards, artists and writers who created this massive universe filled with jewels, frankly. So many characters that you can never do all of them justice,” he explained. “But I think we endeavored to do was not the complete story of Batman but our complete story of this character. It’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to see the Catwoman character there, a favorite of mine, and I think the wink towards Robin was an acknowledgement to, you like the character or not like the character, he’s a huge part of that universe for 70 years.”


  • ZBaksh386

     Cool article.
    I guess Chris nolan felt more against the idea of putting a young kid as a superhero partner since it might be a bit of a stretch for realism.

  • warren

    disappointed in the film.   batman wouldnt sit around for eight years.  based on the film timeline he was really only batman for a year or two.  nice twist with talia, but did batman ever beat bane one on one?  boring….the amazing spider-man was much better….lets be honest here.

  • Caleb Wossen

    Batman sat around for ten years in “The Dark Knight Returns”.

  • Gcsmith_88

    Give me a break folks!!! Any bashing of this wonderful made conclusion to the Nolan films can go rewatch the travesty from 1997. Thank-you Nolan’s for satisfying this diehard Batman fan!!!!!!! :D

  • Beast

    The entire Nolan Saga was downright awful. So I’m glad it’s over.

    Hated their take on Bruce/Batman and Joker especially. Hopefully an eventual reboot is better.

  • slafaive

    I can’t imagine too many people agreeing with your opinion on the Joker. I’m guessing most of us were amazed by Ledger’s take on the Joker. For me, of all the film and TV versions of the Joker, his was truest to the character. It was actually terrifying and brilliant.

  • slafaive

    By the way, it’s a rather shallow article on the topic without much new information.

  • Penguintruth

    The biggest problem is Bruce Wayne leaving an untrained out of work rookie police detective to be BATMAN. Why? Because he’s a good person? What makes him qualified to be Batman? 

    I mean, I know the message is “Anyone can be Batman”, but that’s not literally true. This guy is going to jump off a roof and f***ing kill himself. 

  • Erikgalston

    but wasn’t that after a long career of being batman… 

  • therealjoeben

    But in “The Dark Knight Returns,” a government ban against all superheroes forced Batman and everybody to quit. He didn’t want to quit, but he had not been Batman for a long time and was getting old so he tried to stop, but after ten years he came back full force (and even though he was in his sixties, he had not stopped working out or let his body fall apart). I personally never cared for Nolan’s characterization of Batman/Bruce Wayne. I always liked the idea that Batman was his real personality and Bruce Wayne was an act, but in Nolan’s movies, Bruce Wayne is his personality and he wants to be Batman but isn’t quite obsessed/dedicated/strong enough to fully be Batman. I thought Dark Knight Rises was about him becoming strong enough to actually be Batman, but then in the end, he wasn’t in the cave waiting for “Robin,” but was off living it up in Italy… where as The Dark Knight Returns, once he came back, he realized it was a mistake to ever quit and after he fakes his death, he and Robin start building an army… (and I just pretend that The Dark Knight Strikes Again didn’t happen:)

  • Aaron0428

    Great film.  I agree with his notion that if it polarizes viewers and raises discussion the way the ending has, then it’s a great thing.  I loved it.

  • 0bsessions

     I found the Robin thing came off as less of a wink and more of a bat to the head. I was overall let down by the film, but the ending was mostly working for me until that one, groan inducing line. You could’ve just had his real last name be Grayson and everyone in the world would’ve gotten the hint.

  • Tim Boyer

    I thought that the Nolan trilogy was absolutely amazing. Name one other superhero trilogy that even approaches the grandeur of Batman? Now, normally I’m a Marvel guy, but even I can admit that the Batman movies far outshines any other group of superhero movies. And I love that Nolan put his signature on the movie by making the ending some what vague, letting the audience decide what really happened. Isn’t that a huge part of post-modernism?

  • careyt

    so glad I am not alone in this.

    if this had all been a new superhero story without calling them batman and changing all the visuals so it didn’t look like Batman then it might have been a fun film, but in as much as it’s a Batman movie, I would rather forget it. Nolan doesn’t get the character and Batman shouldn’t exist outside of a greater superhero world, he doesn’t belong “in the real world” as Nolan attempted to put him. The contrast between him and powered superheroes is what makes him interesting, without that he isn’t flawed and isn’t interesting at all.

  • careyt

     Jack’s Joker is the epitome of the character and will forever be the greatest Joker, in and out of the comic book pages.

  • RunnerX13

    Subjecting ending?  Are we talking Inception or Dark Knight Rises?

  • Doug Turner

    This is pure idiotic trolling….lets be honest here.

  • Sephy

    Lets ignore that these movies stretched reality pretty far already.

  • slafaive

     I love Jack, but his Joker was too silly for me. I prefer the gritty Joker of Ledger. Really though, Burton’s Batman vs. Nolan’s Batman are two very different takes on the legend.

  • EmeraldArcher

     Actually it had been eight years “Since the last confirmed sighting” They subtly show that he had continued to operate in the shadows beyond that.
    He wouldn’t have a fully functioning BatCave to retire.
    Plus he clearly got injured at some point beyond TDK. I would say he had been retired for maybe 3-4 years max which was when he started his clean energy project.

  • Beast


  • Beast

     Depends on the era and the version the comics are showcasing.

    And Jack’s Joker in the Burton film captured things about the character that was lacking in the Ledger take. His twisted sense of humor, for example. Where as the only real warped sense of humor we got out of Ledger’s was the “Pencil Trick”. Jack’s Joker was a great combo of chaotic and random and nuts. You really didn’t know how he was going to react from scene to scene. Plus he had the chemist aspect with the Smilex Poison/Gas. And the ingenious random way of seeding it in products that only certain combinations would kill you.

    And nothing beats…

    Joker: “He stole my balloons! Why didn’t somebody tell me he had one of those… things? Bob, gun.” *Takes the gun from Bob and shoots him* “I’m gonna need a minute or two alone boys.”Or of course the awesomeness of… “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

  • Sephy

    Or Ra’s magical microwave device in Begins that vaporizes all water but somehow doesnt affect humans, cuz, y’know, we arent mostly water.

    Or having all of Gotham rigged to a weird sonar system that sends real-time 3D data to Batman’s cowl wirelessly (and I’d assume via 3G since it was mostly via cell phones)

  • Demoncat4

    figured given that nolan did not want to use robin and also bale said he would not do another batfilm if roibn showed up that having gordon as robin in the end was just a little tribute to batmans history and universe nothing more

  • ScottyEnn

    Really? People are debating about the meaning of the end of “The Dark Knight Rises”? I mean, it’s a little bit open in some ways I suppose, but we’re not exactly talking the spinning top in “Inception” here.

  • ToolMaster

     Amazing Spider-man was one of the worst films of all time. You had s doofy looking kid doing a Woody Allen impersanation the whole movie, horrible acting, storyline and an end scene where they put a bunch of cranes together so Spidey can sing.
    I bet you like GLEE? Huh? And I also bet you’re one of the ijits who stands in line overnight to get a new cell phone.

    You’re a tool.

  • Dump Prep

    This is the problem when normal-ish people step into the world of comic book continuity and create things there. People who enjoy superhero fiction aren’t necessarily in it for the vague, complex interpretations. Even best of breed, Watchmen, didn’t leave the viewer with an ending to interpret. 

    I never liked the concept of a director coming on and *concluding* anything. This ain’t Harry Potter. This is Bruce Wayne. A single person having the audacity to *complete* the life of Batman (even if it is just his interpretation of the character) is pretty pompous. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, et al are not the films and actors who portray them. They’re icons. 

    As fantastic as the Dark Knight films are, I believe that with his films, Nolan has stripped away some of Batman’s iconicism by completing Batman’s life story. If for kids this is their Batman; if this is what they define as Batman. For them, the story is over, and everything else is just another Batman story that isn’t their Batman. 

  • kalorama

    “If for kids this is their Batman; if this is what they define as Batman. For them, the story is over, and everything else is just another Batman story that isn’t their Batman. ”
    So? if they enjoy it then who cares? There’s no law that says everyone who ever reads a Batman story must be committed for life to the character. 

  • jmerrill

    Why do you  people care about realism in a Batman movie so much? Want realism? Watch a documentary.

  • Christianizcool

    I would really call it controversial.. seemed pretty definitive as to what happened to me

  • Rggkjg1

    if jonathan nolan realises the importance of robin to batman, then why didnt they do a legit take on the character? JUST BECAUSE IT SAYS “ROBIN” ON BLAKE’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE, DOESNT MEAN HE’S THE CHARACTER ROBIN.

  • Charlie B

    You’re the tool if you think nobody see that your trolling . Sit down, and be quiet .

  • Charlie B

     No . You’re not a Marvel guy if you truly believe that crap you just typed down . smh.

  • Charlie B

     It should be . lol!

  • Sephy

    If the people making these movies (and to an extension the fanboys themselves) didn’t masterbate over the fake idea that Nolan’s Batman movies are “realistic takes on the mythos” then I wouldn’t point out how unrealistic certain aspects of them are.

  • Mjpetersen80

    I don’t think people really care about realism.
    I think they just hate seeing things they like left out or told it’s stupid because they are going a “realistic” route when in fact it is NOT reaslitic.

  • Mjpetersen80

    Wow, nothing was really said in this article.

    The only thing that bothered me was if they wanted to give a wink to Robin……..why not say his real name was Richard Grayson? I would have been much happier with that reveal.

  • sandwich eater

    I don’t see how the ending is open-ended or ambiguous.  Bruce Wayne retires, and Levitt’s character whose name I can’t remember is going to become Gotham’s superhero protector.  He may or may not have taken the name Robin, but it doesn’t really matter.

  • KIris90

    Peter is supposed to be dorky looking. Get a clue.

  • KIdris90

    The vast majority loved Nolan’s Joker and Nolan’s Batman films.

  • KIdris90

    Jack played Jack in makeup.

  • Shodown2g

    Here’s how it should’ve been done: His name is John Blake. His parents were killed when he was young. The cops change his identity to protect him. Then at the end he says, “It’s probably under my given name, Richard Grayson.”


  • Ssbn401

    It’s easy to suspend your disbelief with technology, because it’s always improving. For example, I would believe that the US government could develop Batman’s grappling hook even though it’s currently impossible (it’s been Mythbusted). But I can’t believe some 9 year old kid fighting groups of criminals with karate and not having some random bad guy kill him byt hitting him in the head with a baseball bat or tackling him and then shooting him in the head. Tech is just easier to believe. 

  • Evan

    Jack’s Joker is the epitome of Cesar Romero’s Joker. That’s what you meant. ;-)

  • Evan

    I bet you loved Schumacher’s Batnips.

  • Evan


  • Beast

     Blame Christopher Nolan who kept saying over and over again that his Batman films were going to be based in realism and ignore any of the more bizarre and superish aspects of the Batman mythos. And how Robin, Mr. Freeze, The Penguin, and so on would not work in his films cause they weren’t realistic enough. Only to turn around and suddenly start throwing the stupidest crap into the movies that broke the rules anyway. That’s why.

  • Beast

    I don’t buy it. No, what happened was the vast majority are responding more to the fact that Heath Ledger died than they are that his performance was any good.

  • Omniaural

    Sorry, but I still feel like there hasn’t been a true representation of the Joker on the big screen yet.

    The best Joker for me is Mark Hamill’s in the Animated series.

    Nicholson’s Joker wasn’t really acting and Ledger’s was cut short from truly becoming great because they never got to build on the relationship between him and Bats.  Had Ledger lived I don’t think we would have got the movie we had in TDKR and the franchise is poorer for it.

    Saying that though, there is little I love about Nolan’s series and I agree with others on here that Nolan basically cut the heart out of Batman by trying to be too grounded in his interpretation.

    Hopefully we’ll get a new Batman movie sooner rather than later.  One where he has his extended family that helps keep him sane and shows off his detective skills rather than just being a gadget guy.

  • KIdris90

    Wrong. People were saying he looked incredible based on the trailers, which came out before he died. Eve if you hated the character, the acting was amazing. The guy transformed- voice, laugh, mannerisms, facial expressions. Peter Travers even predicated Ledger would win the Oscar back when he visited the TDK set. This was over 7 months before Ledger died. Transforming yourself is the hardest thing for an actor to do.

  • Beast

     Sorry. Don’t buy it it for a damn minute. His death removed any fair critical review of the character. And no, the acting was not amazing. Just because he lost himself into a role and became self destructive is no reason for everyone to ignore everything that wasn’t “amazing” in their eyes.

  • Rickpalmer317

    People are responding to his death and the role both. It is a great Joker that he played; not necessarily the classic Joker, but very much like The Killing Joke Joker. Regardless, who cares whose batman was more like the golden age batman or whose joker was more like the joker Caesar Romero played. Nolan said from the beginning this is his take on Batman, not the comic. He told you going in that it was not going to be entirely faithful to the comics. So it isn’t really fair to judge his work based on that.

  • KIdris90

    Doesn’t matter how much you hated the joker. Fact is that it is great acting. Ledger’s death had nothing to do with praise. Anytime an actor changes his voice and laugh and mannerisms for a role, the critics and industry people go nuts. The same critics who based Lee in The Crow even after he died praised Ledger. If you knew anything about acting, you would understand.

  • KIdris90

    The same people who didn’t care about the deaths of Lee and aaliyah loved Ledger’s performance. You might not have liked the character that the Nolan bros wrote, but Ledger’s acting was amazing. One of the best performances of the lat 30 years. If you knew anything about acting, you would agree. The way he changed every little detail about himself was incredible. Again, you might dislike how the character came across, but the actign itself was amazing. Most people agree, and most people like Nolan’s Batman films. Stop forcing your opinion on others.

  • KIdris90

    So a series that has 2 movies make over a billion dollars and gets wide acclaim from audiences, critics, and people in the film industry is awful to you? Wow. To each his own, I guess.