The first teaser for next year’s The Dark Knight Rises is airing in front of a little movie called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2. For those of you who missed the Hallows midnight screening because you’re too tired/too busy/too no-longer-a-college-student, here’s the lowdown on the Rises preview. It kicks off with a montage of scenes from Batman Begins, with Bruce Wayne walking over the frozen tundra while Liam Neeson narrates his speech about becoming “A legend, Mr. Wayne.” “Every Hero Has a Journey,” say the intertitles. “Every Journey Has an End.”

Cut to: A shockingly intimate shot of Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordan, lying on a hospital bed, breathing through what appears to be an oxygen mask, speaking in a tremulous voice. He tells someone offscreen — it’s pretty clear that he’s talking to Batman — that people believed in him, but then, suddenly, “You were gone. Now there is evil rising. The Batman must come back.” From offscreen, Christian Bale’s voice — and this sounds specifically like his Bruce Wayne voice, which could indicate that Gordon has figured out Batman’s true identity — says, “What if he doesn’t exist anymore?” Gordon, sounding like a man who hears his own death rattle: “He must…he must…”

There’s a quick shot of Tom Hardy’s Bane in his weird mask which literally looks exactly like that photo from a couple months ago, then a long shot of buildings collapsing which literally looks exactly like that poster from a couple days ago, and then the real attention-getter: A single shot of Batman, braced for a fight. Bane steps into view. We only see him for a second, from over his shoulder, but he looks huge. For the first time in the Nolan Batmen that I can remember, the Caped Crusader actually looks a bit scared. (The shot only lasted for literally 2 seconds, but I could’ve sworn Bats was wearing a new outfit.) A final title promises, “The epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend,” while terrifying chanting plays in the background.

All-in-all, it’s a weird way to launch the year-long lead-up to Rises. In my sold-out Potter theater, there was nary a cheer or clap after the trailer, which either indicates that everyone was stunned into confusion, or I somehow found the one theater in the country filled with people who had no feelings whatsoever about The Dark Knight. Let’s try to decode the trailer with some theories:

–When Gordon tells Batman, “You were gone,” it seems like an indication that, following the climax of Dark Knight — in which Batman become a hunted fugitive, Bruce Wayne decided to retire his alter ego. Maybe Rises will be about his attempt to start a new, normal life — kind of like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2 — only to get called back into service after the arrival of Bane. The haunted man of violence who tries to lead a peaceful life, only to be forced by circumstances and fate to return to his old ways, is a recurring plot point in the films of Michael Mann — a director who has had a huge influence on Nolan’s work.

–What’s up with all the destroyed buildings, and why does Gordon look like he’s on life support? For hints, look back to the storyline that introduced Bane to the Batman mythos. In “Knightfall,” Bane freed Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery from Arkham Asylum and set them loose on Gotham City, creating relentless mayhem and sending the city spiraling into anarchy. People have theorized that the strange chanting is coming from Arkham inmates. It’s possible that Gordon was injured by Bane — or perhaps even targeted. As for the buildings, here’s a wild idea — could it be that Nolan is flavoring his story with elements of “No Man’s Land,” the other great Batman story arc about a citywide descent into anarchy? Sure, “No Man’s Land” seems a bit fantastical for Nolan’s realist mythos…but then again, so does Bane.

–Lastly, a note about that shot of Batman and Bane. When you think about it, all of the villains in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight weren’t really all that physical; the Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul were both most dangerous when they were getting inside of Batman’s head, and the Joker openly scolded Batman at the end of Dark Knight for thinking that their battle would just come down to fisticuffs. (There were also various gangsters who did various gangster things.) It’s interesting, then, to consider that Bane is such a beast of a man — you can tell that these two dudes will wind up fighting each other tooth and nail, just like Schwarzenegger and the Predator (or, more recently and hilariously, the Rock and Vin Diesel in Fast Five.) And something about the finality of all the intertitles — “Every journey has an end, the end of the Dark Knight legend” — makes me wonder if Dark Knight Rises will be a genuine ending. Like, not a “Superhero flies off into the night, forever hunting evil” ending, but an old-fashioned “This story is over, it will not begin again” ending ending. (Remember: When Bane met Batman in the comics, this happened.) And since Nolan, Bale, and Warner Bros. are adamant that the Dark Knight series will end with this film, you have to wonder: Could this be the first superhero movie with a genuinely unhappy ending? Could Christopher Nolan’s Batman die? Or at least be very badly injured?

We’ll post the trailer as soon as it becomes available online. In the meantime, did anyone else out there see the pre-Potter trailer? What did you think? Are you surprised that the trailer focused so heavily on Bane, with nary a shot of Anne Hathaway or Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Anyone else intrigued by the fact that Dark Knight Rises is apparently building so strongly on Batman Begins, a film that Dark Knight really kind of ignored? Could this join Toy Story 3 and The Return of the King in the tiny pantheon of trilogy-enders that are actually good?

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The Dark Knight Rises
  • Movie
  • 164 minutes