By Cory Everett | @modage December 19, 2011 at 1:00AM
With “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” now playing in IMAX theaters, the first 6 minutes of “The Dark Knight Rises” is now officially playing for thousands of Batman fans across the country – at least those lucky enough to live near one of the 50-some IMAX screens playing the clip. We couldn’t resist taking another look at the footage yesterday and after seeing the prologue a second time, we have a few questions for Nolan and co. about the mysterious intro, as well as a few guesses about where the film might be headed. Warning: there are some SPOILERS ahead, so please don’t read on until after you’ve seen the footage.
Spiritually this new footage and the last film are connected by a brief intro from Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) lamenting Harvey Dent, his untimely death, how he believed in the former District Attorney and how it would be a long time before someone inspired the city like he did. Clearly, Gotham is still missing its virtuous knight in shining armor. As we know from interviews with Nolan, this film is set 8 years after the events of the last one so clearly Dent’s death still hangs like a cloud over Gotham City.
From there the prologue moved on to a remote location very unlike Gotham City for something more hazy and unclear: the introduction of Bane, the new antagonist of the film (played by a hulking Tom Hardy) and how he fits into the story. Obviously, his piece in the puzzle will come, suffice to say, and his intro is a part of an elaborate and grand aerial action set piece reminiscent of the Bond films and Nolan’s large-scale “Inception” sequences.
In a remote airstrip in an unnamed country, a CIA agent (played by “The Wire” actor Aidan Gillen) outside of a small chartered plane greets a car full of passengers including Dr. Leonid Pavel (subject of the recent viral efforts), who is flanked unexpectedly by two hooded men. As we’ve learned from the viral (though not clear in the footage), Pavel is a nuclear physicist who has gone missing and was last seen in the Chelyabinsk Region, which is a city in Russia with a history of top-secret nuclear research.
After boarding, the agent says the flightplan only allows for one of the two hooded men to stay aboard the plane and proceeds to dangle one out of the airlock, questioning him on Bane and why he wears the mask. Bane then reveals himself to be one of the masked men, cautioning, “It doesn’t matter who we are. What matters is our plan.” In the short term anyway, their plan appears to be crashing this plane in a most spectacular fashion. Getting caught, it appears, has been part of Bane’s plan from the beginning.
Another plane appears above the CIA plane and Bane’s cohorts come rappelling out of it, attaching themselves to the CIA plane. After the plane is anchored to their own, they spin it 90 degrees, tearing off the tail end. Then they drop inside the cabin, bringing in a bodybag which they unzip to begin some kind of blood transfusion between the man inside it and Dr. Pavel. Bane then insists that one of his henchmen stay inside the plane while it plummets to the ground with Bane and Dr. Pavel swinging safely from a rope attached to their own plane. So what was the point of this daring aerial heist?
If we had to guess we’d say that there were two goals in mind here. Firstly, Bane told the CIA agent he needed to see how much Dr. Pavel had told them about his organization. This implies that Pavel has been working for Bane and his thugs in some capacity and also that the CIA has been tracking Bane. Secondly, by doing this blood transfusion they’ve intended for whoever finds the plane to mistake the decoy body as Dr. Pavel so they’ll stop searching for him. What is Bane and his organization using him for? The kind of experiments that might have turned Bane into the hulking monster he now is? Or some kind of weapon, perhaps the one that decimates that football field in the new trailer?
More intriguing are the subtle hints; the musical chants and dialogue referencing “the fire rises,” and a chilling moment of martyrdom that suggests a cult or army is mounting. Bane could not only be a terror descending down upon Gotham, he looks to be a straight up terrorist with larger plans in mind. And yet, someone in the clip refers to Bane as “the mercenary” which seems to imply that he’s been hired by someone and isn’t working from his own designs. Is he an idealist, or a gun-for-hire? Could this be a setup for the return of the League of Shadows from the first film? That could certainly explain how Ra's al Ghul, confirmed to be returning at some point in the follow-up, or his daughter Talia (long thought by fanboys to be Marion Cotillard’s role) might figure into the picture.
As for Bane himself, we have to say that Hardy seems to be nailing the role. Far from the grunting guard dog depicted in “Batman & Robin,” in the comics the character is actually a genius as well as a bulked up behemoth. And while his literary background has the character hailing from a fictional Caribbean republic and growing up in a jail cell, it’s clear Nolan may be have his own designs for Bane. His the accent, for one, definitely sounds a touch British (almost hammily so), and a touch Eastern European so there’s no telling where the film might be taking the character other than keeping his bone-breaking ruthlessness in tact.
And yes, his mask makes his dialogue occasionally unintelligible, as early reports suggested, particularly towards the end of the clip, but we’d have to imagine that any confusion over what’s being said is probably intentional. And anyway the picture doesn’t come out for another six months, so trust that Nolan and his creative team will have sorted that out by then.
From there the prologue recedes into a more standard sizzle reel with flashes of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Commissioner Gordon, Batman himself, a few new vehicles both new – some sort of hi-tech bat-copter – and old – a desert storm-looking Tumbler car and much, much more, including a spooky-looking shot of a crushed Batman helmet, much like the one in the recent teaser poster (see above).
We were absolutely dazzled by the footage but we’re definitely left with more questions than answers. And we’re sure that’s just the way Nolan intended it. “The Dark Knight Rises” opens in theaters on July 20th.
Additional reporting by RP