The-Dark-Knight-Rises Copyright: Warner Bros.

With the final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s genre-defining superhero trilogy coming very soon, get up to speed with the plot, inspiration and new characters. Warning: Potential Spoilers and Supposition Ahead!

The Plot

As you’d expect from a director who likes to play his cards very close to his chest, the official synopsis is a very short one. It goes a little something like this…

Following the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has been hounded out of town for the supposed murder of Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent. Eight years later, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) returns to Gotham following the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a terrorist hell-bent on destroying the city, and a mysterious cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).

Now that’s the party line, but with Christopher Nolan stating that his movie is “more in the mould of Doctor Zhivago, or A Tale Of Two Cities”, we can possibly expect the wider, truly epic storyline to also shoehorn in the return of Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). Alongside series stalwarts Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a new bunch of characters including Holly Robinson (Juno Temple), Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will also be adding to the intrigue.

The Inspiration

As with the previous Bat-flicks, The Dark Knight Rises is heavily influenced by a number of DC comic books, namely Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (in which an older Batman goes to extreme measures to regain order in a chaotic future Gotham), the Knightfall saga (which sees Bane organising an Arkham Asylum breakout and subsequently breaking the Bat both physically and mentally) and No Man's Land (where Gotham is torn apart by a gang war following a devastating earthquake). Each storyline is a huge game-changer for our hero and all feature some pretty brutal denouements – could Christopher Nolan’s promise of an epic conclusion be emphatically sealed with the downfall of Bruce Wayne?

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The New Blood

BANE: According to his comic-book introduction, Vengeance Of Bane, the master criminal was born in a corrupt and violent prison in the fictional Caribbean Republic of Santa Prisca. There, while forced to serve out his deceased father’s life sentence, he learned the value of violence in such an institution.

With incredible intelligence to match his imposing physique, he escaped his confines and planned to bring about the destruction of Batman and Gotham, which he almost did after breaking Bruce Wayne’s back at the end of the Knightfall series. A brilliant strategist, master manipulator and one of the Bat’s greatest foes, Bane’s only weakness is an addiction to a strength-enhancement drug called Venom, which he self-administers directly into his brain. The big-screen version is set to copy much of the comic-book’s attributes – in fact, the only real change sees Bane having kicked the Venom habit and now wearing apparatus containing an anaesthetic to deal with constant chronic pain.

"He's brutal, but also incredibly clinical in the fact that he has a result-based and oriented fighting style,” says actor Tom Hardy. “The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it's nasty. It's not about fighting, it's about carnage!"

nullCopyright: Warner Bros.

SELINA KYLE: Better known to the world (but never referred to in the movie) as Catwoman, Selina Kyle is one of the most enduring members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery.

Having been around since 1940, she’s been subject to numerous origin revisions but perhaps the most relevant to The Dark Knight Rises is Frank Miller’s 1986 version for Batman: Year One (in which she works as a prostitute who studies martial arts to defend against her violent pimp) and Batman: Dark Victory (the sequel to The Long Halloween – itself a major inspiration for The Dark Knight – where the master thief suspects she is the illegitimate daughter of mafia boss Carmine Falcone, played by Tom Wilkinson in Batman Begins).

Both origins fit the tone of Nolan’s series nicely but we suspect the latter would suit the mooted cyclical nature of the trilogy.
Talking about going back to the beginning, Anne Hathaway – who spends a fair amount of on-screen time clad in a skin-tight suit with upturned night-vision goggles resembling cat ears as a nod to her comic-book origins - based her performance on Hedy Lamarr the original inspiration for Catwoman way back in 1940.

HOLLY ROBINSON: In Batman: Year One, Holly was portrayed as a juvenile prostitute who eventually ends up in a convent under the care of Catwoman’s nun sister. She was later killed by her violent mobster husband and then unexpectedly resurrected to fulfil her better known role as Selina Kyle’s trusted sidekick and one of comicdom’s few openly gay characters.

Pretty much the only person who knows the Cat’s secret identity and no slouch at kicking ass and robbing safes herself, her inclusion in The Dark Knight Rises only seems fair – after all, if Batman has Alfred and Bane an army of acolytes, why shouldn’t Catwoman have a friend to call upon?

JOHN BLAKE: In a series containing more question marks than The Riddler’s wardrobe, one of the biggest mysteries concerns John Blake’s role in the proceedings. He has no comic-book history (other than sharing a name with a young lad from a very early Batman story) and nobody is letting slip about his role in The Dark Knight Rises.

We do know that he’s a Gotham City Cop and works alongside Commissioner Gordon but his profile in the trailers and the fact that he’s played by one of Hollywood’s hottest properties, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, implies there’s more to him than meets the eye.

Many internet theories abound, not least that he’s destined to become Robin (John Blake does rhyme with Tim Drake, Bats’ one-time sidekick, after all) or he’s in line to take the mantle of the Batman. With Nolan’s realistic take on the legend we doubt that any of the outlandish gossip is true, but that’s not to say John Blake won’t play a major part in the series conclusion.

MIRANDA TATE: Another character ostensibly created especially for the movie, Miranda Tate is described as "a Wayne Enterprises board member eager to help a still-grieving Bruce Wayne resume his father’s philanthropic endeavours for Gotham”.

But is she really? Rumours abound that the goody-two-shoes image is simply a cover for her real identity… Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Batman Begins villain Ra's al Ghul. Actress Marion Cotillard denies this is the case and she could very well be telling the truth, but the mooted return of Liam Neeson for The Dark Knight Rises and the IMDB listing of Joey King as Young Talia Al Ghul is making us think otherwise.

If indeed Talia does make an appearance, we can expect romance and intrigue in equal measure. In the comics, Talia is devoted to her father and his plans for world decimation but she falls in love with Batman and a rather strange relationship develops – resulting eventually in a son called Damian, aka the current Robin. The very definition of duplicitous, if Talia does make an appearance in the next film it’s all going to get very complicated for our hero.

The Dark Knight Rises is released on July 20.

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