I'm working reeeeeeeeeeeeal hard to pace myself.

If you're a "Dark Knight" addict, you've probably been mainlining paparazzi photos for months, to the point where you feel somewhat bloated and over it at this point.  I've been so careful not to do that to myself.  I am not the most ardent fan in the world of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," but I do like them both quite a bit, and I'm absolutely ready to see how Nolan wraps up his time as the architect of Batman's fate.

As a comic fan, I am aware of the various battle lines that exist in fandom, and one of them is how you felt about Bane when he appeared in Batman comics.  If you don't know his storyline, I won't lay it out here, but I'll say that it was a fairly iconic move by DC, one that had some long-range impact on the entire DC world.  Like Venom is for Spider-Man, Bane represents a challenge that genuinely tested the hero in question, one that became a major player in the rogue's gallery rotation.  Bane appeared in Joel Schumacher's detestable "Batman In Rubber," and he was portrayed as a large grunting latex suit in a Mexican wrestler's mask who stood around in the background of scenes where Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger overacted.

I doubt I would have picked Bane off a list of likely villains for a Nolan film, but if he's going to use him and Nolan's been vocal about this being the last film in his continuity, then why not give Batman a villain to face that could very well do him lasting harm?  I hope all bets are off in this film.  I hope there is the very real possibility of death for Batman and those close to him.  I hope Nolan's not afraid to push as far as possible in order to play out a particular theme, whatever that is.

Empire has a big "Dark Knight Rises" set visit piece coming soon, and as a result, they've also got a pair of covers for the issue, one showing Batman and one showing Bane. 



These are pretty much exactly what I'd expect, although I will say I'm not sure what that device is that Batman's holding, and it's a really weird choice, since now that's the thing I'm left thinking about instead of Batman or Christian Bale.  The device and Tom Hardy's freaky steroid-looking body acne, which is really disturbingly prominent in his cover.



I don't know how Nolan's planning to tie Bane and Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway, together, but that's what makes his choices interesting to me.  They're not the choices I'd make as a Batman fan, but then again, none of his choices are really what I would have done.  Batman, like the best of the superhero archetypes, is extremely flexible, and how his stories are told says a lot about the person telling them.  Those who are upset by Frank Miller's recent anti-"Occupy Wall Street" comments must not have read work like "The Dark Knight Returns" again recently, because I think he's always been fairly naked with his pathology.  He's a great writer because of his blunt force storytelling, his big broad strokes and his heightened choices, and that's what his "Batman" stories are.  Alan Moore's "Killing Joke" is full of strong character work, storytelling-as-commentary, and perverse and permanent consequences, which pretty much sums up Alan Moore.  With Nolan, his Batman movies are these puzzle boxes, like all of his films, and the way things fit together is a big part of the pleasure.  

Our first best look at what he's got up his sleeve will be the six-minute prologue sequence in IMAX that is playing exclusively in front of the 70MM IMAX engagements of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol."  The people who I've talked to who have seen the six-minute segment just smile at the mention of it, and I've been told to expect something on a much larger scale than the opening bank robbery from "The Dark Knight" which played in front of the IMAX prints of "I Am Legend."  That's going to be the moment where we really get a sense of what tone to expect from this one, and I'm willing to bet it's going to be very different than either of the first two films.  For now, this is a fun nudge, a hint of what's coming soon, and I like how Empire handled the reveals over the weekend.

"The Dark Knight Rises" opens July 20, 2012.