Thursday night in Universal City, Calif., writer-director Christopher Nolan unveiled the opening six minutes of what is already 2012’s most highly anticipated movie: his third and reportedly final installment of the multi-billion-dollar grossing Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
Nolan, who was on hand at the AMC IMAX theater to personally introduce what he calls Dark Knight Rises’s “prologue” (and, not incidentally, entreat the audience to see his new movie in the IMAX format), explained that the preview also will be screened before select engagements of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol later this month. But he also cautioned those gathered to temper their expectations of his output: “I’ve barely started to edit the rest of the film. So don’t ask me what happens,” Nolan joked.
Per a request by the movie’s distributor, Warner Bros, the bloggers, journalists, and Hollywood insiders assembled for the event agreed to refrain from giving a play-by-play of the action. But from the scant footage we screened, The Daily Beast can reveal several crucial talking points about the future film, most of which center around Batman’s newest super-nemesis, Bane (portrayed by the muscle-bound British actor Tom Hardy, who starred in the mixed-martial arts drama, Warrior earlier this year as well as Nolan’s Inception). The Joker he most certainly is not. Bane is a relatively obscure super-villain within the Caped Crusader canon who most famously broke Batman’s back in the comic-book series and is known among fan boys (to the extent he is known at all) as “the Man who broke the Bat.”
The Dark Knight Rises prologue begins with a money-for-hostage CIA rendition in which apparent terrorists from some nondescript country make fervid mention of “the man in the mask”—Bane—before trading a mysterious doctor and three masked prisoners for a briefcase full of cash. Onboard a private jet, CIA operatives then attempt to strong-arm their new prisoners into pinpointing Bane’s whereabouts in a scene that establishes two things: A) that Bane is a high-profile person of interest in espionage circles, and B) that he’s done something diabolical we are sure to find out about soon.
Surprise! One of the masked hostages is none other than the bald and seriously buff Bane, a monster of a guy with a penchant for camo pants and wife beater T-shirts who wears a bizarre bondage-esque, gas-mask-looking facial contraption and talks with the most heavily mannered special effects since Darth Vader. Many of those in attendance at the IMAX event commented that between the character’s labored breathing and quasi-English accent, he was impossible to understand. “Was it your plan to get caught?” a guileless CIA guy asks in the scene. “It was my plan to crash this plane,” Bane replies.
And so begins a bravura set piece involving something that’s never depicted on the big screen before: a midair plane-jacking as exit strategy. Sure enough, another, bigger plane operating under Bane’s auspices swoops in with a squad of specially trained tactical commandos who proceed to string up the CIA jet on metal cables while tearing across a valley at 10,000 feet and … well, let’s just say the bad guy escapes while neither the Gulfstream nor its Quantico-trained occupants fare too well.
The sheer weirdness of the spectacle is much closer in scope to Nolan’s Inception than any of the polished CGI mayhem you’d see the recent Iron Man or X-Men movies. And once that sequence is over, a one-minute montage of select scenes hints at what else fans of the director’s Christian Bale-starring Batman reboot can expect: there is a crowd of apparent rioters rushing toward a dramatic clash with police, here is the Batmobile being trailed by a futuristic jump-jet on the streets of Gotham, and look, it’s Anne Hathaway as the villainous Catwoman. Then there is a brief insert of Bane and Batman in mid-fist-fight before what looks suspiciously like an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.
The final image from this prologue augurs something dark indeed for the Dark Knight: Bane’s clenched fist holding what appears to be Batman’s ripped and battered face mask.