Nolan’s whole Batman trilogy is remarkably consistent in its emotional and psychological characterizations. In the Emotional Toolbox method, rather than looking at genre, the essential emotional force driving the movie is analyzed. Nolan’s trilogy is a series of complex multi-layered Power of Truth stories.
These kinds of stories are driven by secrets, lies, conspiracies, or concealment. In the opening of The Dark Knight Rises a huge lie is rotting at the heart of Gotham City.
Bruce Wayne/Batman languishes in disgrace, broken and hiding in his cavernous mansion. Harvey Dent, who had become the criminally insane Two Face in the previous film, The Dark Knight, has been put on a pedestal and is revered as a hero. His crimes are concealed and even blamed on Batman.
When the terrorist villian Bane takes over Gotham he exposes the lie. Bane says: “Behind you stands a symbol of oppression; Blackgate Prison, where a thousand men have languished under the name of this man.”
Bane holds up a picture of Harvey Dent and continues, “Harvey Dent, has been held up to you as the shining example of justice …You have been supplied with a false idol to stop you from tearing down this corrupt city. Let me tell you the truth about Harvey Dent from the words of Gotham’s police commissioner, James Gordon.”
Bane quotes Gordon’s letter, “‘The Batman didn’t murder Harvey Dent, he saved my boy then took the blame for Harvey’s appalling crimes so that I could, to my shame, build a lie around this fallen idol. I praised the mad man who tried to murder my own child but I can no longer live with my lie. It is time to trust the people of Gotham with the truth and it is time for me to resign.'”
Bane asks the crowd, “And do you accept this man’s resignation? Do you accept the resignation of all these liars? Of all the corrupt?”
Police Officer John Blake watches the speech on television says to Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, “Those men were locked up for eight years in Blackgate and denied parole under the Dent Act, based on a lie?”
Gordon explains, “Gotham needed a hero …”
Blake is disgusted, “You betrayed everything you stood for.”
The Dark Knight Rises and all Power of Truth stories chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. These stories also ask: when does betrayal look like loyalty and when does loyalty looks like betrayal? These stories’ twists, turns, treachery, and reversals, changes everything the character believes is true. All the character holds dear is destroyed.
One of the major betrayals at the heart of the film is Alfred Pennyworth’s omission in telling Bruce Wayne what happened just before Bruce’s great love, Rachel Dawes, died. Alfred argues against Bruce re-emerging as Batman, revealing the truth.
Bruce Wayne can’t believe Alfred would leave him.
Alfred explains, “You see only one end to your journey. Leaving is all I have to make you understand, you’re not Batman anymore. You have to find another way. You used to talk about finishing a life beyond that awful cape.”
Bruce argues that Rachel died believing that the two of them would be together; that was his life beyond the cape. He can’t just move on. She didn’t, she couldn’t.
Alfred reluctantly tells the truth, “What if she had? What if, before she died, she wrote a letter saying she chose Harvey Dent over you? And what if, to spare your pain, I burnt that letter?”
Bruce accuses Alfred of just using Rachel to try to stop him.
Alfred is adamant. “I am using the truth, Master Wayne. Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day. I’m sorry.”
Bruce can’t believe his ears. “You’re sorry? You expect to destroy my world and then think we’re going to shake hands?”
Alfred sadly admits that he knows what exposing this truth means. “It means your hatred… and it also means losing someone that I have cared for since I first heard his cries echo through this house. But it might also mean saving your life. And that is more important.”
Bruce Wayne turns on Alfred and bids him an angry good-bye.
Alfred’s action precisely echoes what Batman himself does at the end of the previous film, The Dark Knight. At the end of that film, Batman takes on the burden of Two Face’s crimes to give Gotham a “hero.” Batman turns himself into someone he’s not in the eyes of the public. Like Alfred tries to “save” Bruce Wayne/Batman from the truth, Batman tries to “save” Gotham from the truth.
In The Dark Knight Rises, deep below Gotham, a secret city seethes in rebellion. The terrorist Bane rises from underground to take over Gotham. His complex subterranean lair tunnels under Gotham and undermines its very foundations. The hidden criminal enclave is a visual symbol that under the assumptions of the slick shiny city surface dark deceit and a world of pain wait– For Batman and for anyone else in Gotham City.