The Dark Knight Rises is my most anticipated film of 2012 and probably the last super-hero film I'll be forward to for some time (I have some mixed feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man). It was always an enevitable film but it took sometime for it to get off the ground. I think Christopher Nolan is the kind of director who doesn't want to do a film unless he's interested in the story. For me this is emphasized by his statement that he didn't want to do another Batman film unless he had a good story. The fact Nolan has made this film gives me confidence that he has found a worthwhile story to tell rather than just a cobbled together, obligatory third chapter.
The hardest part about doing another Batman film after The Dark Knight is trying to find a villain who won't pale in comparison to the Joker, which is hard because the Joker is Batman's arch-nemesis, the villain who challenges Batman more than any one else in his rogue's gallery (and we clearly saw what an impact he made on Batman and the rest of Gotham in The Dark Knight), and also because Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance was truly remarkable. The villain in this film is Bane, played by Inception's Tom Hardy. I haven't read any Batman comics that feature Bane and sadly I'm mostly familar with the Bane from Batman & Robin, a not so bright Frankenstein like character. Bane from the comics is much smarter, as having brute strength. I think Hardy showcased this combination of smarts and toughness in Inception, also directed by Nolan. Eames, the character he played, had an almost James Bondian combination of wit and mercenary roughness. Imagine that combination taken to a much more sinister level and I think Hardy will give a terrific performance. The way Hardy describes Bane's fighting style sounds brutal to sayy the least:
"The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it's nasty. Anything from small-joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns."
There's something scary about the way Bane fights which I think will make Batman's physical challenge when going up against Bane also a psychological one, expanding upon the psychological struggles he's faced in the last two films.
Just the other day Nolan provided a crucial detail regarding the plot of the film, which is it takes place 8 years after The Dark Knight. This emphasizes Batman's physical challenge due to the possibility that Bruce Wayne may have retired from being Batman during those 8 years. I was a little surprised and disappointed that Nolan was skipping this much time in the series. For quite some time I was thinking this trilogy was primarily about the early years of Batman, with the concluding chapter looking forward to other characters and adventures this Batman would have. I think the story can still end that way but people are already speculating Batman has fought some famous foes in those missing years. Only time will tell.
While it's starting to become clear what role Bane has in the story, I'm still wondering what role Anne Hathaway's Catwoman will play in the film. Catwoman is not strictly a villainess nor heroine so I don't think there'll be a villain team-up nor a team-up between Batman and Catwoman I'll be interested in how Nolan ties the Bane and Catwoman storylines together in a satisying way.
It's a little weird to think of another Batman film in this franchise after The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight was so ambitious and was truly epic, bringing Gotham to the verge of total anarchy. My biggest question regarding this new film is will Nolan be able to create a film which doesn't feel small in comparison, particularly with the absence of the Joker. The Dark Knight was almost too big, if this film tries to top it, it may completely fall apart. I believe in Christopher Nolan though. Through these last two Batman films, he and his writing team clearly care about creating something special with these established characters and their city.