By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 1, 2012 at 11:39AM
Nothing is guaranteed to make the internet light up quite the same way as a new trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises," the third and final Batman film from Christopher Nolan, following "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." No one, bar perhaps J.J. Abrams, has proved quite as expert at teasing audiences with promos without giving the game away, and the latest, curiously elegaic trailer for the film has followed the same path, making people ever more excited about the movie while still leaving them with plenty of questions about what's to come.
We've delved deep into the latest clip to analyze the hints, teases and theories displayed in the two-and-a-half-minute trailer. Are we right? Are we barking up the wrong tree entirely? Do you have your own suppositions about what we're seeing? Let us know in the comments section. "The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters on July 20th, and be warned: there may be spoilers ahead.
As a character, Bane is best known for breaking Batman's back in the "Knightfall" storyline, and ever since it was announced that's who Tom Hardy would be playing, speculation has mounted that Nolan would be mining that storyline for material. We're not sure if that's what'll end up happening exactly, but it's clear that Batman ends up at Bane's mercy, prostrate and wounded, and told he wasn't killed because "Your punishment must be more severe." We're a little doubtful of the back-breaking, only because he seems to be climbing up that impossible well-like prison, presumably out of captivity (or is that a "Batman Begins"-style flashback?). What's more interesting is how long he's gone: we know that eight years have passed since "The Dark Knight," but when that child asks John Blake "Do you think he's coming back?," it could indicate a longer absence at the hands of Bane too. Bale certainly looks significantly older in that earlier, bearded shot than he does elsewhere. And clearly, a bigger sacrifice might be in the cards (unless it's a feint from Nolan), with our hero ominously saying, "Not everything. Not yet."
Nolan's "Inception" star Joseph Gordon-Levitt got only a single shot in the previous trailer, but he's front and center here, and looks to be giving a strong performance. Any thought of him being a secret villain (or sidekick) seems to have been severely misplaced. If anything, he seems to be Harvey Dent's successor, a purely good cop fighting for the city just as much as Batman. He's clearly getting in on the action (at the 1:17 mark, that's him getting pushed down a rubble slope by a special forces type played by "Stargate SG-1" star Christopher Judge, who's presumably one of Bane's acolytes), and seems to be serving as Catwoman's conscience to some degree. Whether he turns out to don the costume of Robin, or Azazel, or Nightwing, or Batman himself, is kept shrouded at this point (we'd wager no to all of the above), but he's clearly on the side of the angels throughout.
Perhaps the biggest new effects shot is of that bridge being blown, and we think it could be key. Gotham's island status makes it vulnerable, and being sealed in by panic has run through all the films to date: the Bridge to the Narrows being sealed in "Batman Begins," and The Joker's bridge/tunnel/ferry trickery in "The Dark Knight." Has Nolan taken it one step further here? The bridge explosion, along with other imagery, is reminiscent of the 1999 "No Man's Land" arc in the comics, which saw an earthquake isolating and sealing off Gotham from the mainland. Could Nolan be borrowing aspects from that storyline? Whatever weapon he uses for the stadium attack certainly hints that it could come into play, as does the general "Escape From New York" vibe that we see throughout.
Reduced to only a few brief appearances in the last trailer, Anne Hathaway is pretty central here as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and we have to say, any doubts we had about her in the part are long gone; her snippets are very impressive indeed. It's obviously a different interpretation to previous incarnations, but it's clear the essential ambiguity of the character has been preserved. She seems to be in on Bane's plot to some degree, as she has personal knowledge of him with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character asking her "Why did you run? Bane?" to which she replies "You should be as afraid of him as I am." From her teary face in that scene, she may even be the one who betrays Batman in some way. Either way, she's presumably redeemed at some point, because by trailer's end, she's kicking ass and taking names alongside Batman.
One of the more intriguing snippets of the trailer sees an orange-suited prisoner pulling a somersault, aided by a cellmate. A closer examination reveals it to be a woman, and our natural assumption is that this is Selina Kyle. Is this our introduction to the character? Is she a con, breaking out of prison? Or, given that the earlier trailer showed Bane's thugs breaking a prison wide open, is she aiding that attempt somehow? We suspect the latter, suggesting a major setpiece relatively early on in the film.