What’s the next step after creating one of the most critically acclaimed superhero movies of the last 30 years? Well, if you’re Christopher Nolan, you outdo yourself and make not just the best superhero movie all-time, but arguably one of the greatest films ever (yes, we went there).

2008’s The Dark Knight took the world by storm, grossing over $533 million in the United States alone and over $1 billion worldwide, as well as earning Heath Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his disturbingly evil turn as Batman’s arch-enemy, the Joker.

And then what? Well you take a little time off and let rumors quell that you are stepping down, halting your Batman franchise because you don’t have a story and because the death of your star has made you question whether continuing with the series is the right thing to do. And so for a while, the world wondered if Nolan’s Batman was no more.

Following The Dark Knight, Nolan went and made one of the most original thrillers in some time in 2010’s Inception, a mind-f@$% so crazy that it actually works. And not just works, but is both acclaimed and award-winning, beloved among critics and audiences. Once the production on Inception neared its end, Nolan did what everyone hoped he would all along: he announced the final chapter to his Dark Knight legend, a third act so badly wanted that it has been called “the most anticipated film of the century.” And no, that is no exaggeration.

Batman diehards and casual fans alike have been pining to catch any glimpse of Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises that they can, from posting casting announcements online to capturing thousands of pictures and videos of the production to waiting for hours to see the first six minutes of the film. What kind of crazy person would do that? Oh, right..

The world has followed Nolan’s every step for months, from criticizing his casting to heaping both praise and derision on every single piece of promotional material released to date. But whether you are criticizing TDKR or anticipating it, you are, in the end, adding fuel to the already-burning-hot fire of hype.

The Dark Knight Rises is so anticipated that its second trailer, released by Chris Nolan and WB in mid-December, broke iTunes download records with 12.5 million downloads in 24 hours upon release, over 2 million downloads better than The Avengers trailer released this past October. That’s over half a million downloads per hour. Wrap your mind around that.

But now, with the world watching, waiting, what will Nolan have in store for us come July 20? Here’s what we know so far:

1. Christopher Nolan has chosen Bane and Catwoman as his villains, or at least we think Selina Kyle and her alter-ego will be a villain. Significant information points to her helping Batman at some point, but in what respect and when, we don’t yet know. The castings of Bane and Catwoman were followed crazily, with fans both excited and disappointed when Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway were cast for their respective roles. Tom Hardy has received some flak recently for Bane’s voice, as heard in the prologue and the trailer, but we don’t see it being as big an issue as others; Hathaway has been derided for not having the necessary acting chops to pull off the role, which seems to be a bit off-base. There is of course the rumor of Marion Cotillard playing Talia al-Ghul, daughter of Ra’s, the villain in Batman Begins, but we are going to hold off on speculation in the al-Ghul department… for now.

2. It takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, enough time for Gotham to have both recovered from all that the Joker has done and been restored thanks to Harvey Dent’s service (as well as Batman taking the fall for Dent’s missteps). That being said, this also means that Nolan & Co. are able to bypass the Joker storyline altogether, an asset, to be sure, considering Heath Ledger is no longer alive to reprise his role (unfortunately).

3. Batman will make his daylight debut, fighting in the streets of Gotham City with Tom Hardy’s Bane. Many production stills and leaks point to this, and Nolan, Hardy, Christian Bale, and others have said it too. Fighting in broad daylight is unheard of for Bruce Wayne’s typically secretive alter-ego.

Of course, there is so much more we can get into here, such as the above-mentioned Talia al-Ghul rumors, speculation that Batman dies, the possible return of Ra’s al-Ghul, the new “Batwing” and Bane’s so-called “earthquake machine,” and so much more; but with a full 6 months to go until the film is released, we’re going to hold off a bit for now and continue speculation as The Dark Knight Rises gets closer to release.

The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters July 20, 2012. Be sure to check out the first teaser and the official trailer, both embedded below, and stay tuned for more on this film from Hype the Movies.

Trailer #2

Teaser Trailer #1


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