Update: An In-Depth Description by Batman-On-Film.Com at the end.
Contains mild spoilers. If you have not seen the prologue yet, you will want to pass this.
The Dark Knight Rises is looking less like a superhero movie and more like a war film – a civil war or even a populist revolution.
Take a look around at the many people who help you through your day – the store clerk, the hotel bellman, the restaurant waiter. Then imagine the working class rising up to attack the people they serve. That’s what the villain Bane appears to be orchestrating in new footage from The Dark Knight Rises, which screened Tuesday at the theater-owner convention CinemaCon. “What defines cinema and gets people out of the home to watch it, is spectacle,” filmmaker Christopher Nolan said. “What we wanted to do with this story was finish it in the biggest way possible.”
The clips began with an extended scene of Bane (played by Inception’s Tom Hardy) and his crew hijacking a plane in a very innovative way. Then it cuts to a series of shots showing Christian Bale as a clearly aging — and perhaps ailing – Batman. (This film is set eight years after 2008′s The Dark Knight.) Bale has sunken eyes; he looks pale and haggard, and uses a cane. By comparison, Michael Caine’s Alfred appears as if he hasn’t aged a day. “Don’t worry, Master Wayne,” the butler reassures him later in the footage. “It takes a little time to get back in the swing of things.”
Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) is revealed to be a maid working in Wayne Manor. On screen, she is nearly skewered by a crossbow arrow Bruce appears to be firing in his dining room. Nolan doesn’t include much dialogue here, but we do see the maid leaving the mansion and peeling off her uniform as her demeanor changes, Keyser Söze-style.
There are several shots of Joseph Gordon-Levitt prowling through decimated city streets with a gun drawn. Exactly how his Gotham cop John Blake fits into the story remain under wraps, though. As Bale sports the bat ears, and Hathaway dons the cat ears, the two costumed characters confront each other. “You’ve given them everything,” she says. “Not everything. Not yet,” he growls back. Just what that means, what goal she’s working toward, or who exactly “them” is, is left mysterious.
An explosion seals off downtown Gotham, allowing an army of infiltrators – or maybe just the dispossessed — to lay waste to the privileged class of the city while police – and even Batman – are helpless to stop it. Unlike many popcorn blockbusters, TDKR seems unafraid to show civilian casualties of the villain’s plot. While the CinemaCon footage helped bring more focus to The Dark Knight Rises, out July 20, Nolan has still managed to keep the movie’s overall story in shadow.
The footage began with an excerpt from the prologue that arrived in theaters in December, featuring Bane (Tom Hardy) taking down a CIA plane, and I have some terrific news: I understood every word that Bane said. It should be noted that the theater I was in featured some of the most advanced technology in the projection industry, so I don’t know if they changed the audio or if it was just the presentation, but it did raise my confidence in that aspect of the film.
As mentioned, most of the scenes shown were tight and quick and featured little to no context, so here is a list of the stuff that I caught:
Warners president Jeff Robinov introduced Christopher Nolan to present an extended montage of moody footage from his swan song to the Batman franchise that he rebooted back in 2005 with Batman Begins. First, it was plainly evident that Bane’s audio had been boosted. Unlike in the prologue attached to last winter’s release of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, some of the footage of which made its way into this several minutes-long sizzle reel, Bane was not muffled at all now. Indeed, I feel confident saying he was crystal clear now! So we can finally lay those “mumbling” memes to rest.
A new, atmospheric Bat-score was used here, music that slowly built in tension and eeriness the way Joker’s theme did in The Dark Knight. There was plenty of images of Batman and Catwoman in action here, lots of Batpod stuff, brawling and explosions. The overriding take-away from this footage was that the very existence of Gotham City itself is at stake, with a stunning bridge destruction set-piece, more of the football stadium chaos, and the fighting in the streets between Bane’s merc army and the Gotham City Police Department (including shots of Commissioner Gordon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake, and Matthew Modine’s politically-ambitious cop in action). We also see Bane and his men attacking the Gotham Stock Exchange. The rich and powerful of Gotham sure are in for it this summer.
We see lots of Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle here. We see her posing as a maid leaving Wayne Manor at night, as well as Catwoman breaking into a hidden wall safe. We see her kicking gunmen in the streets, firing the Batpod’s weapons, but most importantly a dialogue scene between her and Batman. Catwoman tells Batman, “You’ve given them everything!” Batman cryptically replies, “I haven’t given them everything. Not yet.” Oh, Gotham, will Batman pay the ultimate price for your sorry, corrupt ass?! That creeping sense of finality really is everywhere in the presentation of TDKR, from its “The Legend Ends” tagline to even Nolan himself stressing this as the conclusion of his trilogy and the final chapter of their story.
Other sweet stuff we spotted in the footage? Bruce working in his new Batcave, as well as a very “we were destined for this” finding each other in the crowd showdown between Batman and Bane. It was like two mythic gunfighters meeting for the duel to decide who lives or dies. This town literally isn’t big enough for the both of them. We also get some nice Alfred moments here, a very intriguing shot of a mystery man at that stronghold in India they began filming at last year, as well as a hot and heavy shot of Bruce and Miranda kissing.
Overall, the Dark Knight Rises footage was stunning. Atmospheric, unsettling, nerdgasm-inducing and epic. This will be the Batman movie to end all Batman movies … perhaps literally!
It opened with previously seen images from the PROLOGUEand teaser trailer before fading into brand new, incredible sequences. The first “money shot” has now been shown with Batman standing atop a bridge with the wind sweeping his cape behind him. Batman looks as badass as one would expect, but Bruce Wayne looks tired and in need of retirement.
We saw at least a couple shots of Bruce Wayne in his robe at Wayne Manor, one of which shows him in particularly awful shape. He’s standing, but the fatigue shows on his face.
Not all is bad for Bruce, though, as his love life appears to be on the upswing. There was a shot of he and Miranda Tate kissing (I’ve seen it reported elsewhere that he was kissing Selina Kyle, but it was definitely Tate) on what appeared to be the “morning after.”
The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle is a little harder to pin down, as the footage sent mixed signals. Selina Kyle might be a master of disguise, as she’s shown leaving what appears to be a party in a maid’s costume before ripping off the white collar to convert the outfit to a simple black dress. She’s also quite the car thief, boosting Bruce’s Lamborghini and, as you already know, the Batpod. What you don’t know is that she’s learned how to use the vehicle’s weaponry.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, I was left with the feeling that Batman and Catwoman are indeed allies. There was a brief shot of the two of them fighting side-by-side, but more importantly was the sympathy Catwoman showed to Batman and his cause. “You’ve given them everything,” she tells Batman, to which he replies,”No I haven’t. Not yet.” I’m paraphrasing the beginning of Batman’s line, but I’m sure about the “Not yet” part. This was the moment that had the biggest emotional impact for me.
Meanwhile, police commissioner James Gordon has his hands full as he loses his grip on Gotham to Bane. We did not see much of him in this reel, but there was an incredible shot of Gordon lighting a road flare while searching for Batman, only for The Dark Knight to oblige his old friend, emerging from the smoke. You’ll have to see it to understand just how amazing this shot looks.
Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler and, let’s be honest, adoptive father, Alfred, concedes that it may take Batman some time to get back into the “old routine.” Remember that this film takes place eight years after THE DARK KNIGHT. Time, however, is not a luxury Bane is going to afford anyone.
Gotham is at war and Bane is the unstoppable villain who provided the declaration. The ill-fated football field was shown again, but this footage showed us an additional explosion in either a press box or luxury suite, begging the question of whom the target is. The explosions don’t end there. Bane takes out the bridges to Gotham City, perhaps in an effort to deter the arrival of outside assistance. Bane was also shown taking over the Gotham stock market, forcing brokers and other business men to march outside of the building with their hands behind their heads. Taking prisoners is about as much mercy as can be expected from Bane, I’d imagine.
There was also a shot of Batman looking behind him and seeing Bane waiting for him. It looked like they could have been in The Batcave. This might be the beginning of the their first fight, which Batman likely will not win.
Gotham’s other heroes were also seen. Matthew Modine’s character was shown preparing to lead his fellow officers into battle. There was another shot of the Gotham police force searching the tunnels beneath the city, presumably for Bane. John Blake, played by Joseph-Gordon-Levitt, was out looking for trouble. Blake finds what he’s looking for in the form of a gun to the back of his head, but that scene cut away before we could see what became of him.
Batman is going to be down at some point in this movie, but he will rise and he will be well-equipped in this war. We’ve seen his new aerial vehicle before and learned it’s name, The Bat, but this footage really showed it in action. It moves like a jet, doing a barrel roll as it whips over a Gotham skyscraper, but lands almost gently and efficiently like a helicopter within the safety of The Batcave. The Bat is cool. No doubt about it.
I’m sure there’s more that I’ve unintentionally left out, but the feeling I walked out of this presentation with was clear: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES truly looks like the very best of Christopher Nolan’s already legendary era of the franchise. There is a small, but visible ray of light at the end of the tunnel for Batman, but that just appears to be a freight train headed his way. That freight train has a name, and it is Bane.
While Batman may find a way to stop Bane, nothing will stop THE DARK KNIGHT RISES from blowing away fans and general audiences on July 20th.
I want to be Chris Nolan when I grow up, too. - Sean Gerber