Dark Knight Rises
Credit: Ron Phillips

The Dark Knight Rises is looking less like a superhero movie and more like a film about civil war or a populist revolution.

Take a look at the people who help you through your day — the store clerk, the hotel bellman, the 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.”

Read a description of the footage after the jump.

The clips began with an extended scene of Bane (played by Inception’s Tom Hardy) and his crew hijacking a plane in an innovative way. Then it cuts to a series of shots showing Christian Bale as an 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 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 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 is unafraid of 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 kept the movie’s overall story in shadow.

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The Dark Knight Rises
  • Movie
  • 164 minutes