Legal analysis of the conclusion to Dark Knight Rises

If you saw The Dark Knight Rises, you know that at the end of the movie... [SPOILERS FOLLOW]























Bruce Wayne is declared legally dead, despite there not being any body. Law and the Multiverse tackles the thorny question of having someone declared dead, in a guest-post by James Daily Mike Lee:

As is Law and the Multiverse’s convention for Gotham, let’s look at New York law.

By statute, New York has reduced the common law’s seven-year period of required continuous absence to three years. N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 2-1.7, available at Alternatively, the statute establishes that exposure “to a specific peril of death” might suffice to establish death in absentia, even if the three-year statutory period has not yet run. Id. at § 2-1.7(b).

New York’s three-year timetable doesn’t help the Wayne estate much. So the question is whether Bruce has been “exposed to a specific peril of death” so as to meet the requirements of § 2-1.7(b).

Now, Batman clearly meets the requirements—a plane exploded with him apparently in it, so he could easily be declared dead without a body. This is the classic scenario for “specific peril”: missing planes, wreckage of boats found, houses burned to the ground, that sort of thing.

But this doesn’t help us much with Bruce Wayne, because the courts don’t know he was in the nuclear explosion that consumed the not-a-Batwing-Bat-plane. So what might count as “specific peril of death”?

Guest Post: The End of The Dark Knight Rises


  1. Sounds like the same leap that you make in your mind to follow along with the story about a man that also is a ‘batman’ that fights crime. That will be the same type of leap you will need to tell yourself that kind of man has the kind of resources to accomplish something as trivial as faking his death. Like, I don’t know, maybe then faking his death again – he was already missing and came back in the earlier movies…

    1. The resources needed to fake one’s death would be trivial to a billionaire who obviously had a lot of hidden assets off the books already. 

      A better question is: how does a guy recovering from a broken back get from a hole in the middle of a god-forsaken desert on the other side of the planet all the way back to Gotham with no ready access to resources or equipment?

      1. His Bat-VISA?  “It’s everywhere you want to be… and more than a few places you don’t.”

  2. Did you mean The Dark Knight RISES?

    Also, Gotham was Chicago. What does Chicago law say?

    Also also, I may have forgotten but didn’t they reveal that Batman was Bruce Wayne after he died? Dressing up in a costume doesn’t count as a differnt person from a legal perspective I’m sure. So they understood that it was Wayne that died on that day.

      1. For those playing at home THIS is the correct answer. Gotham is an analogue of New York City (being it’s nickname). The films were shot in Chicago, but that was just aesthetics. Carry on!

          1.  Was that location some kind of clue that we’ll soon have a Batman vs Superman showdown?

        1.  Well, the first film was some Chicago drenched in CGI. The second film was really obviously Chicago, river and all. The third film was inexplicably suddenly New York, with bridges and islands. For someone who’s quite familiar with Chicago, let me tell you, that was REALLY jarring.

    1.  Parts of The Dark Knight were filmed in Chicago, and one of the addresses Joker gives in his “You can only save one…” is on Cicero, certainly a Chicago street.

      But I have always and forever assumed the Gotham = NYC.  Just in the universe of the Nolan films, this fits with the ferries and the ‘Island’ mentioned both in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Even during Wayne and Dent’s initial meeting, he mentions Wayne Manor is in The Palisades, which is a region on the NY/NJ border. (yes, there are others across the country, but, you know.. comics..)

      Metropolis, on the other hand, is Cleveland (hometown of both Jerry Siegel) with just-across-the-lake Toronto thrown in (hometown of Schuster)

      The Question’s corrupt town of Hub City is based on East St. Louis, IL, which truly is a terrible, awful town, replete with rampant poverty and epic corruption.

      1. Hasn’t East St Louis gotten any better?  I seem to remember they filmed Escape From New York there since it needed virtually no set dressing to resemble NYC as a citywide maximum security prison/postapocalyptic ruin.

        1. Sadly, no.  If only the weather were better in this part of the country, they could film the Walking Dead in East St. Louis.

      2.  < just-across-the-lake Toronto

        In which continuity are Cleveland and Toronto on the same lake?

      3.  I have heard the Gotham is NYC by night, Metropolis is NYC by day thing, and I suppose I can accept it. But as someone who grew up near Chicago, I always assume that Gotham is an amalgamation of Chicago and Detroit in personality if not geography. Metropolis has more of the glittery, center-of-the-world feel that is more New York’s reputation. I mean, I always assumed the Daily Planet was meant to have a similar influence and scope as the New York Times.

  3. The plot of DARK KNIGHT RISES: in order to get revenge for the death of one man she didn’t even like, a woman (aided by her Sean Connery-imitating gimp) takes over a major US city with the intention of just like SITTING ON IT for six month so she can totally crush it’s spirit just to be REALLY evil before blowing the shit of it; meanwhile, instead of killing the one person who could conceivably foil the insanely risky 6 month city hijack, they put him what is supposed to be the hardest prison in the world to escape from, but actually turns to be a fucking hole in the ground/New Age psychobabble retreat whose only guard is a Chippendale who actually helps you to try and escape.  One of the loudest, dumbest movies I’ve ever seen.

    1. You realize that the movie came out a year ago, right?

      How mad will you get when someone tells you that Vader is Luke’s father?

        1. It’s just as well. You wouldn’t believe how many retcons there are in the New Testament.

        2. Say what you will about the Scientologists, but they’re very careful not to ruin the surprise early.

      1. Cory very carefully gave a spoiler warning, complete with a blank page after the click-through.  All of which he negated by fucking up the title.  Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean Michael is wrong to call him on it.

        I did the same thing, but I don’t especially care since it is unlikely I’ll ever see TDK Rises at this point.  But I sure was confused.

        1. Acting like a spoiler alert is necessary for a year old movie that made over a billion dollars is kind of silly, isn’t it?

        1. Because you were spoiled or because it spat in the face of everything that had happened up to that point? ;P

      1. Simon: “Hecubus, have you seen Presumed Innocent?”
        Hecubus: “Yes master, and his wife killed her”.
        Simon: “But I haven’t seen it yet… EVIL!  EVIL!”

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