The Dark Knight Rises: trailer analysis

This week saw the launch of the third trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. James has been digging in to see what it all means...

And so, with the release of the third trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, the four-year build up to Chris Nolan’s final Bat-flick enters the home stretch.

But what does this final trailer actually tell us…?

The Dark Knight… continues

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From the sparse opening musical accompaniment to the woozy images of Gotham in the half-light, TDKR seems to be continuing with the stark mood that dominated the conclusion of Nolan’s previous film.

Back to the beginning

The Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) we see as the trailer opens is without doubt a clear echo of the Bruce we were introduced to at the start of Batman Begins. Bearded, pained and haunted by the past, it’s a clear indication that the fall Batman took at the end of The Dark Knight has truly left its mark.

Also making a reappearance from the first movie is Wayne Manor. If TDK saw Bruce/Batman at the height of his power, living and working in the heart of the city, this seemingly broken incarnation has retreated to the fringes of his hometown, hiding away from the world inside his rebuilt family home.

The bat and the cat

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Whereas the previous trailers seemed concerned with selling both the premise of the film and introducing the character of Bane, this time out the accent seems to be on introducing Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) to the wider audience.

From the way the trailer begins and ends on a Batman and Catwoman verbal exchange, it appears that this famously combustible relationship may well be the central spine of the story. On first glance, it appears that Catwoman will start off as an ally of Bane before morphing into Batman’s de-facto sidekick along the way. But will things really be that straightforward?

There’s certainly a precedent for Catwoman to team up with Batman in the comics, and in both of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight books, Batman’s sidekick is not only a girl, but one who matures into the role of Catwoman (well, Catgirl) as the story progresses. 

But what is the nature of their relationship? Antagonistic? Purely professional? Or is there romance in the air between the Bat and the Cat?

The boy in the well

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One of Nolan’s key influences right from the start of his time with the franchise has been a Denny O’Neil and Dick Giordano Batman short story entitled The Man Who Falls.

We’ve seen its influence at work in the image of the well in Begins and again during TDK’s conclusion after Batman saves Commissioner Gordon’s son from Two-Face’s clutches.

However, for this final installment, Nolan seems to have pushed that image even further with Wayne seemingly imprisoned (another echo to the opening of Batman Begins) inside an underground facility where the only point of access is a giant well that resembles the one he fell into as a child.

Serving as both a literal obstacle for Batman to overcome and as a more expressionistic representation of Wayne’s state of mind, it seems that Nolan is setting up Wayne to finally overcome both his recent and longer term demons.

Is this how the Dark Knight will rise?

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The mysterious John Blake

Since the casting of Joseph Gordon Levitt as Detective John Blake we’ve learnt next to nothing about his character or his role in the movie. While this trailer doesn’t give us any definitive answers, it does give us a few hints.

From the way Blake is portrayed, it seems obvious that he’s being very much set-up as the ‘everyman’ of this story. However, there does appear to be more to Blake than meets the eye.

Firstly, if Blake’s exchange with Selina Kyle is any indication, then it would appear that Blake is key to Catwoman switching sides during the battle with Bane. How or why this happens we don’t yet know, but the interaction between these two characters looks intriguing.

Secondly, Blake’s conversation with the small child drawing the chalk bat symbol on the floor suggests that Blake has a long-standing sympathy for the Batman. While this is by no means a big moment, it does seem quite telling.

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Does Blake have a pre-existing relationship with Batman? Is he a character we’ve met before? Maybe he’s the kid Batman saved in The Narrows during Batman Begins, now grown up and serving as part of Gotham’s finest?

For my money, the casting of Levitt means that there’s more going on than we currently realize. What that is…well, we only have a couple more months to speculate.Bane

Playing a more subdued role in this trailer than the last, Tom Hardy’s Bane nonetheless still gets a few choice moments. As well as reprised snippets of his mid-air introduction from the IMAX prologue and clips of the football stadium explosion from trailer two, we also get shots of Bane fighting Batman underground as well as a brief shot of the man mountain seemingly sans his pain-relieving mask.

And then there’s the small matter of Bane blowing up the bridges linking Gotham to the mainland. Batman’s previous foe, the anarchic Joker, was defiantly small scale in his ambitions, but it’s clear from this footage that Bane is playing a much bigger and more ambitious game.

Despite Bane’s appetite for destruction, the two most interesting moments featuring the masked man revolve around the moments when he speaks (and yes, we can understand him now!).

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The first moment, which seemingly takes place during his raid on Gotham’s stock exchange, is a direct riff on Batman’s classic  ‘What are you?’ introduction from both Batman ’89 and Batman Begins. 

Even though he describes himself as “Gotham’s reckoning”, Bane is definitely being cast as the dark reflection of Batman himself.  We’ve seen this mentioned before, but it’s never been more explicitly played up than in this moment.

However, more interesting is Bane’s second scene which appears to take place after Batman has been defeated and placed inside the underground prison. After Batman asks why he hasn’t been killed, Bane replies: “Your punishment must be more severe.” Why is that? Why not just kill Batman? And if not, why not? The villains of these movies have always had a ruthless logic to them, so what is underpinning Bane’s plan that means Batman can’t die yet?

Also worth noting in this scene is its similarity to a scene between Bruce and Ra’s Al Ghul in the opening act of Batman Begins. Perhaps this backs up earlier suggestions that Bane is somehow connected to either a revived League of Shadows or even the Al Ghuls themselves? 

Again, I’d be very surprised if these connections proved to be accidental.

The other returnees

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With the main focus placed upon Batman, Catwoman and John Blake, a number of major characters are seemingly sidelined in this trailer. Both Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) are only glimpsed in passing, while Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) can be seen, ever so briefly, locking lips with Bruce Wayne inside Wayne Manor. 

Despite the famously reticent Nolan holding back information surrounding these characters a number of questions still remain. What happens to Gordon after Gotham is taken over by Bane? How come Lucius Fox’s R&D equipment is being used to subjugate Gotham? And is Miranda Tate really who she says she is?  

Faring slightly better than that trio of supporting players is Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). Building on his rather tearful statement to Bruce in the previous trailer, Alfred’s declaration that he won’t stand by and bury another member of the Wayne family indicates all is not well between master and servant inside Wayne Manor.

Will Batman’s faithful butler finally confess to burning Rachel Dawes’ letter at the end of TDK? Does he approve of Bruce resuming his crime-fighting career? And will the aging Alfred even make it out of the film alive?

With so much still under wraps and with the air of finality surrounding this project, anything seems possible.

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Will Batman live to fight another day? Will Gotham survive this final brush with disaster? And just what is the story behind the freaky chanting that we keep hearing in every trailer?

July 20th never seemed so far away. 

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