Originally Published: September 6, 2011, on EGMNOW.com

Same Bat-Time, Very Different Bat-Channel?

I remember the year or so leading up to the release of The Dark Knight. The cast had been revealed and immediately people, admittedly myself included, started to freak out that Heath Ledger would be the Joker (a role he’d win a posthumous Oscar for). The ‘Broke-bat Mountain’ jokes were numerous and very few of us had the faith that Christopher Nolan could catch lightning in a bottle twice as he did with Batman Begins. Then the movie was released and Ledger is now talked about in geek circles as possibly the best Joker ever (not by me, but he did do a great job). So when casting was announced for The Dark Knight Rises, people definitely raised on eyebrow, but Nolan and his crew had earned the respect of us from the previous movie to have faith in that they knew what they’re doing.

Now for the past several weeks, on an almost daily basis, a few clever people from Pittsburgh (I know how oxymoronic that sounds) have snuck in camera phones or flip cams to the set where The Dark Knight Rises is being filmed. As locked down as the set of The Dark Knight was, the set of The Dark Knight Rises seems to be as porous. We have confirmation of several tumbler Batmobiles, the Bat-Pod, a breakout from Blackgate, an invaded football stadium converted from the Steelers’ Heinz Field before the NFL pre-season began, a fight between Bane and Batman on the steps of City Hall, Catwoman riding out of City Hall on the Bat-Pod, a blooper of Anne Hathaway’s stunt double smashing an IMAX camera, a Batwing more reminiscent of a UFO, and there are still months of filming left if we are to believe the six month anticipated shooting schedule.

All this leads me to several questions. If Nolan was able to run such a tight ship with The Dark Knight, what has changed, if anything? Or is this all a ploy to throw detail hungry fanboys off the trail of the movie’s bigger picture and to help build up all the hype, much like the release of the first six minutes of the movie did at San Diego Comic Con before The Dark Knight? But even if this is some clever plot to keep us all distracted and away from whatever secrets Nolan is trying to protect, could these images actually do damage to the film instead?

Although Anne Hathaway looks phenomenal in her Catwoman outfit, there has already been fan outrage that she lacks Catwoman staples like a bullwhip and cat-ears. I’m not saying she has to be in bright purple spandex, but some small odes to the comic costumes would be a nice touch. And many are saying Bane looks absolutely abysmal, looking more like a common thug crossed with a young Hannibal Lecter than the mastermind behind the Knightfall comic book story arc of two decades ago. Could these quick to judge fan opinions from leaked footage and stills do anything to the powerhouse audiences this movie is sure to draw next July? Not likely, but if too much of the plot can be determined from this footage, you might start to see the comic community find less and less reason to go see this in theatres, or try harder to procure leaked scripts and film reels like with X-Men Origins: Wolverine a couple of years ago.

Then, of course, there is also the option that Nolan is purposely trying to bring people’s opinion of the movie down. When trying to aspire to great expectations like this movie is, it will be much harder to reach that brass ring with audiences than to surprise audiences who are expecting less. This may be part of the reason that Ledger’s Joker was so successful because many of us going in were filled with doubt about whether or not he could pull it off so that when he gave the performance he did, we immediately put his portrayal onto a previously unthinkable pedestal.

No matter what happens, I’m sure The Dark Knight Rises will draw a ton of bank, but it should be interesting to see how all this leaked footage affects people’s opinions before and after seeing the movie and whether or not it hurts or helps it in the end.

The Dark Knight Rises will hit movie theaters mid-July of 2012 and conclude Christopher Nolan’s celebrated (so far) trilogy of the Caped Crusader. What do you expect from this final movie? Are you disappointed by what members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery were featured? Should Nolan and Bale come back for a fourth? Sound off below!