Christopher Nolans final installment in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, opens on Friday.
And with it comes high expectations. Nolan elevated the comic book movie to new heights with The Dark Knight, which many critics thought should have been nominated for a best picture Oscar (and perhaps prompted the academys choice to widen the best picture race to 10 nominees the following year).
It did win star Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor for his deliciously demented portrayal of the Joker. Really? An Oscar for a comic book movie? It was that good.
So fanboy anticipation is epic for The Dark Knight Rises, but details have been kept top secret. Here is a look at what we know we can expect.
When we last saw Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight, he had just killed Harvey Dent/Two-Face, who had kidnapped Commissioner Jim Gordons son and was going to kill him. Dent had been on a revenge tirade in the name of his slain sweetie Rachel, and had hunted down and killed several city officials, which was creating chaos in Gotham City.
Batman decided he would take the blame for the murders so that Dent would remain a symbol of hope for the city. Commissioner Gordon agreed. Batman rode off into the night.
A manhunt for him ensued. Gordon destroyed the Bat-signal before delivering a eulogy at Dents funeral.
The new story
Eight years have passed since Batman became a fugitive, sacrificing everything for what he and Gordon hoped was for the greater good.
For a while, the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.
But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda.
Far more dangerous, though, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham City drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile.
But even if he dons the cape again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) Hero/fugitive. Since vanishing from the public eye and being labeled a murderer, Bruce is at odds with himself, having lost his purpose. When he comes out of exile, he will face personal demons as well as real ones.
Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) Cat burglar. Its unclear exactly how Catwoman fits into the story here, but we do know there is an encounter with Bruce Wayne that initially sparks him to resurrect Batman.
Bane (Tom Hardy) Ferocious villain. Unlike Batman, Bane does not wear a mask to conceal his identity, but to anesthetize himself against excruciating pain from injuries he suffered long ago.
Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) Do-gooder and ally for Batman. He respects Batmans sacrifice, but allowing the citizens of Gotham City to be fed a lie goes against everything that he believes in.
Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) Wealthy philanthropist. She sits on the board of Wayne Enterprises and later becomes a trusted friend.
John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Police officer. Impresses Commissioner Gordon with his courage and integrity. Becomes an ally for Batman.
Alfred (Michael Caine) Batmans butler and only real friend. Alfred questions the decisions Batman is making and the direction his life is going, which puts a strain on their relationship.
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) CEO of Wayne Enterprises and loyal friend. He builds cool gadgets for Batman.
• There are four Oscar winners among the cast Bale, Caine (who won two), Cotillard and Freeman. Hathaway and Oldman have been nominated for Oscars.
• We will be introduced to The Bat, Batmans new airborne vehicle part helicopter, part jet.
• Key crew members on the film return, including cinematographer Wally Phister, who won an Oscar for lensing Nolans Inception.
• Much of The Dark Knight Rises was shot with large-format IMAX cameras.
• According to IMDB, Jessica Biel, Gemma Arterton, Kate Mara, Charlotte Riley, Keira Knightley and Hathaway all auditioned for the role of Selina Kyle.
• Its rumored that in key scenes, Nolan fed the actors their lines verbally instead of on a written script, to prevent bootleg copies and story leaks.