I was very careful when I wrote about the "Dark Knight Rises" footage we saw the other day not to give away certain images or beats from the seven-minute prologue that will be available on a limited number of IMAX screens when "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" opens on December 16.

But I feel like with the release of the new teaser poster for "The Dark Knight Rises," I don't have to be quite as careful, because the goosebumps-inducing ending of the preview reel is the same basic idea as the remarkable new teaser poster for the film that Warner Bros. just released.

Of all things, they used Twitter to debut this power, sending out a link mid-afternoon on Saturday, and right away, I expect that this poster is going to spark a spirited round of fan debates and speculation about what we're going to see when this final film in Nolan's trilogy arrives in theaters this summer.

Bane, played in the new film by Tom Hardy, is notable in his original comics incarnation as the man who quite literally broke Batman.  I'm starting to get the idea that Nolan and his collaborators like the idea of giving Batman a physical challenge in this film that he's not ready to handle, and I'm starting to wonder if Nolan is indeed perverse enough to kill Batman in this film.  After all, he's done.  It's time to wrap things up, and there are very few ways that are more final to end a series than killing your main character.

And it works thematically, too.  After all, the very first thing we glimpse in the IMAX prologue is Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) speaking at a memorial service for Harvey Dent, talking about what a good man he was.  There was value in Harvey's death, symbolically speaking, and Batman's death could be an equally powerful symbol.  Plus they're grooming replacements for him now, including the cop played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the maybe-not-all-bad bad guy Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway.  Either of them could easily pick up the idea of defending the city without literally becoming the new Batman, and his death would be enough to spur then into action.

That's pure guesswork on my part.  I don't know anything about the script to this film and I like it that way.  I don't want to scoop the movie this far out.  I don't want to ruin whatever narrative surprises Nolan has in store for us.

 

Tom Hardy as Bane in the first teaser poster for THE DARK NIGHT RISES



But looking at this poster, I sure do want to see the movie, and as soon as possible.  It's starting to feel like this trilogy could end on a preposterously high note, and I can't wait to see for myself.  And as a piece of marketing art, I'm giving this my highest rating for trying something evocative and visual and dynamic instead of just a bunch of cast members photoshopped together.

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