Scientists Weigh In On Ridiculous Dark Knight Trilogy Nuclear Bomb Ending

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

The Dark Knight Rises

Nuclear weapons physicist Greg Spriggs gave an analysis of the nuclear explosion at the end of The Dark Knight Rises and found it’s not as ridiculous as it might seem. In a video from Insider, Spriggs looked at the depiction of nuclear blasts in a number of films, including Oppenheimer and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and found the comic book hero’s method of getting rid of an atomic weapon to be surprisingly plausible. Watch Spriggs’ commentary in the video below.

Despite what fans have been saying for a decade, a nuclear weapon expert explains how The Dark Knight Rises realistically depicts a nuclear expoision.

In Spriggs’ analysis, The Dark Knight Rises is surprisingly realistic in its depiction of the nuclear detonation, tying for first place with Nolan’s other atom bomb in Oppenheimer. Spriggs gave the Batman explosion a 7 out of 10 rating, saying only that the onlookers experienced a slight blowback from the explosion a bit earlier than they should have.

For reference, the only 10 the physicist gave was for real footage from an actual nuclear detonation in Stanley Kubrick’s comedy Dr. Strangelove, which understandably received a 2 for everything Kubrick produced surrounding the real footage.

The nuclear bomb in The Dark Knight Rises

That means that, of all the films Spriggs rated, The Dark Knight Rises and Oppenheimer both had the most realistic nuclear bomb explosions created by visual effects. This is certainly a feather in Nolan’s cap and a vindication of the film’s climax, which has been the subject of a great deal of debate among fans in the decade since its release. At issue, primarily, has been whether the blast was far enough away to protect the people of Gotham.

According to Spriggs, Batman‘s solution to the nuclear threat in The Dark Knight Rises shows a great deal of intelligence and would indeed keep everyone in Gotham fairly safe. As long as there is no significant wind, he says, at that distance, there would be little chance for the city to experience fallout. Judging from the size of the cloud produced by the blast, Spriggs says it’s far enough away to be safe.

That means that, of all the films Spriggs rated, The Dark Knight Rises and Oppenheimer both had the most realistic nuclear bomb explosions created by visual effects.

Another thing The Dark Knight Rises gets right is the color of the mushroom cloud, which Spriggs says is an additional indication of the chance for fallout. As depicted in the film, a white cloud indicates very little to no debris within the explosion.

The nuclear explosion in The Dark Knight Rises

On the other hand, a cloud that looks “dirty” means the explosion has picked up material that the wind could blow and carry fallout away from the blast site. This is one reason detonating the bomb over the water is a good plan, as it keeps the explosion away from such potential fallout carriers as dirt and rocks.

According to expert Greg Spriggs the two most realistic nuclear explosions come from Christopher Nolan films, The Dark Knight Rises and Oppenheimer.

All this means that what seemed like some to be an implausible occurrence in The Dark Knight Rises is among the more carefully constructed, plausible, and realistically detailed depictions of a nuclear explosion in film.

This should put a stop to fan quibbles and debates over the scene, though we all know real fans always find things to disagree about. If nothing else, with The Dark Knight Rises and Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan and his team on each film has proven that they know nukes better than most people in the film industry.