Does Christopher Nolan’s final Bat-flick have more on its mind than just thrilling fanboys and filmgoers with sensational summertime escapism? You might wonder after taking a look at the latest official trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, which made its debut in theaters this past weekend with Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and hit the Web today.

The preview sketches the film’s themes and conflict without ever spelling out the plot. SPOILER ALERT! The trailer begins with a boy launching into the national anthem at a football game. It’s a flourish that signals the beginning of a high-stakes game — and a drama about the current state of the union. As “The Star Spangled Banner” plays, we hear some dialogue about replacing Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) — he’s a “war hero” in a time of peace. And in perhaps the trailer’s most loaded moment (not counting the various beats of gunplay), we see Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle — a.k.a. Catwoman — hissing a line into the ear of fat-cat playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) that suggests she’s been spending time with the unhappy campers at Occupy: Gotham City. “You think this is going to last. There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” As we hear this line, we see the sacking of an opulent home, and we get a lot of ominous imagery involving Thomas Hardy’s fearsome Bane and a small army of goons laying siege to Batman’s hometown. “When Gotham is in ashes,” Bane growls to an incapacitated Bruce, “you have my permission to die.”

Additionally, there’s a jailbreak, a car chase, and some truly explosive gridiron action. The trailer isn’t all bombast and murk. The most affecting beat involves Bruce’s aged butler/mentor/surrogate parent Alfred (Michael Caine) saying, rather emotionally: “You are as precious to me as you were to your mother and father. I swore to them that I would protect you — and I haven’t.” Among many burning questions inspired by a trailer that gives you a lot of menace and mood and actually very little Batman: Are Catwoman and Bane revolutionaries motivated by ideology — or cynical rogues exploiting a volatile moment for pumped-up kicks and personal profit?

With this trailer and the prologue that was also released this past weekend, Team Nolan has made it clear that The Dark Knight Rises won’t be going gently into the good night of franchise retirement-rebootment. But are you intrigued or alienated by the prospect of a potentially politically charged superhero epic, one that arrives July 20 — about a month ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions? Check out the trailer, then share your opinions and interpretations below.

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The Dark Knight Rises
  • Movie
  • 164 minutes