We've been privy to a screening of the first six minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, the third Batman movie from director Christopher Nolan. The movie's not out until summer next year, so to whet your appetite, we thought we'd lay out our first impressions of the movie's high-octane opening.
SPOILER WARNING: We'll try to be careful about not giving away too much, but if you'd rather go into the caped crusader's latest outing with no knowledge of what's to come, stop reading now.
As you might expect, the movie's opening gambit is a big action number, taking place almost entirely on a small plane flying over a mountainous region, and featuring Irish actor Aiden Gillen, better known as Mayor Carcetti from The Wire and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones.
Just as the opening scene in 2008's The Dark Knight introduced the Joker, the bad guy for this movie -- Bane -- is revealed here. A hulking juggernaut of a terrorist concealed by a mask, Bane is played by a bulked-up Tom Hardy (aka Eames from Inception), and is easily the most exciting thing on show.
Following Heath Ledger's enigmatic Joker is no easy task, but the few lines we hear Hardy deliver have us intrigued -- his voice is heavily modulated by his mask, and he should deliver in the action stakes too, as despite his size and freakish strength, he moves quickly. The impression we get is of a smart and dangerous villain.
The opening action is brilliant, inventive, and noticeably Nolan -- from the camera work to the bwaarping music, down to the way the gunshots sound, fans of the previous two Batman movies or Inception will feel right at home here.
We're not sure if this opening salvo packs the same firepower as The Dark Knight's bank heist sequence, but it was great fun. At the end of the six-minute sequence there's a montage of quick clips from the full movie, showing Catwoman and the Batplane.
We've only got one complaint -- Bane's dialogue was very difficult to hear in places. This could be down to the booming speakers in the IMAX cinema we saw the screening at, or the sheer amount of action kicking off in the background, but we hope it gets sorted before the final release, because trying to pick out what Bane was saying was like chatting with a drunk Darth Vader in a nightclub.
Although a very positive first impression, The Dark Knight Rises could still go horribly wrong -- with Catwoman and Bane introduced in this movie, as well as new vehicles, we worry the film could suffer from the bloated feeling that plagues superhero sequels such as Spider-Man 3 or Iron Man 2.
But we're not that worried. It can't be this bad after all. Roll on summer.
If you want to catch the six-minute prologue ahead of time, it's going to be showing at the start of IMAX screenings of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. We think this is true of every IMAX cinema, but we'd recommend checking ahead just in case. Are you excited? Marvel or DC? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook wall. And if you can't get to the cinema you'll just have to make do with this smashing trailer.