‘The Dark Knight’ Teaser Answers Some Questions, But Raises More

If you're one of the millions of people who went to see "Harry Potter" this weekend, you might have also seen a preview of another hero who's about to face his final battle. The first teaser trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises" played in front of "Deathly Hallows" this past weekend. And like the last "Potter" film -- which took the box-office record for biggest opening weekend ever away from "The Dark Knight" -- this trailer promises that Batman's story will end with a bang.

Now the teaser trailer has been officially released online, and the video quality is much clearer than in the bootleg versions that recently popped up. The high-definition picture reveals more details about the movie, but also raises some new questions. For instance, who is the figure standing in the background in the last shot where Batman faces his new adversary? Could it be Catwoman, played in the movie by Anne Hathaway, who is otherwise left out of this first preview?

Watch the teaser trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises," then keep reading to see what information we can pick out from still captures of the video.

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The first voice you hear in the teaser belongs to Liam Neeson, with dialogue from the opening sequence of "Batman Begins" (and also the trailer for that first movie). Neeson's character, Ra's al Ghul, told Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) when he was locked in a foreign prison, "If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal... then you become something else entirely. A legend."

This is played over shots from "Batman Begins," which not only ties this movie back to the first, but also lends credence to Variety's report that Neeson will be back as Ra's al Ghul in the next movie. But whether he will appear in flashbacks or if he somehow cheated death is still unknown.

The trailer then shows a clip from the final shot of "The Dark Knight," with Batman speeding off on the Batpod. The second movie, of course, ended with him on the run from the police after he took the blame for Harvey "Two-Face" Dent's crimes to protect his late friend's reputation.

Then we get into new footage. Commissioner Gordon, played again by Gary Oldman, is in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask he's pulled down to speak. We're looking over Bruce Wayne's shoulder, and we don't see his face but we do hear him speak. Gordon says, "We were in this together, and then you were gone."

As Gordon says, "And now this evil, rising," we see a figure scaling the well Bruce Wayne fell down when he was a child that first instilled him with the fear of bats. The well later led Bruce down to where he set up his Batcave.

Gordon tells Bruce, "The Batman has to come back," to which he responds, "What if he doesn't exist anymore?" Then we get a quick, shaky shot of a bearded, shirtless man doing push-ups in what looks to be a jail cell. You can't really make out his face, but it looks like it might be Tom Hardy, who plays the movie's villain, Bane. In the comics, Bane was raised in prison and subjected to an experimental drug called Venom which gave him incredible strength.

Gordon tells Bruce that Batman must come back, and we get a clear reveal of Bane, who wears a creepy mask that may be supplying him with Venom. Hardy previously worked with director Christopher Nolan in last year's "Inception" where he played Eames, the "forger" who could appear to be other people in dreams. But with his shaved head, bulky physique, and intimidating mask, Hardy is completely unrecognizable.

And speaking of unrecognizable, we're left with the final shot of the trailer with Batman facing off with Bane and that mysterious person in the back. Batman looks damp, out of breath, and a little unsteady on his feet as Bane comes lumbering at him. Behind him, an out-of-focus figure stands on a catwalk ("Cat"-walk? Could that be a clue?) From that distance, it's hard to make out if it's a man or a woman. While Anne Hathaway is notably excluded from the footage of the trailer, so are other new cast additions Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard (who were also in "Inception"). Might one of them be observing the big brawl? At this point, it's just too early to say.

Obviously, speculation about this and most every other aspect of the movie will run rampant over the next year. But as Christopher Nolan has proven over the past several years, he's very particular about what details get out about his movies. For now, we'll just have to wait. "The Dark Knight Rises" will swoop into theaters on July 20, 2012.