Warner Bros and director Christopher Nolan revealed the six-minute prologue of their summer blockbuster-in-waiting The Dark Knight Rises, plus a couple of minutes of random teaser trailer-type stuff, at a special press screening Thursday night at the Universal CityWalk IMAX theater. With this being the most anticipated fanboy flick of 2012 — and the last Batman film from Nolan and star Christian Bale, the director told me later in the evening — there was a good turnout of that group to check it all out. Although brief, it seemed to play well. One geek fanboy told me he was “overwhelmed” with anticipation, and the footage lived up to it. No, Batman wasn’t in the prologue, which revolved around some sort of heist on a small plane and attempted getaway by the franchise’s new “masked” villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) and some cronies. Warners, trying to maintain some secrecy around the project, asked the press not to give away too much minute detail, but the public will get to see this starting December 21 when it will play in select IMAX theaters in front of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. Nolan also showed the same footage to a VIP group of filmmakers earlier in the evening in an effort to show off his experience in IMAX. The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20.

At the reception following the presentation, which was introduced by Nolan as basically an endorsement of the whole IMAX experience, I reminded him of a similar IMAX outing he and Warners did four years ago when they had a super-early event like this to reveal the first six minutes of The Dark Knight — the first chance anyone had to see Heath Ledger’s Joker. Of course, Ledger went on to win a posthumous Academy Award. Will Hardy’s introduction as the evil terrorist leader Bane spark similar talk? Probably not. For Dark Knight Rises 6 Minute Previewsome reason, looking at him with that mask I kept thinking of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, and it wasn’t always easy to understand him. But from the pulse-pounding in-flight footage shown, it is hard to tell where the character goes from here, and Nolan admits he barely is into editing the film right now for its July release. There were also some intriguing, if fleeting, shots shown of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, but nothing substantial. Nolan said he is very happy with the results of the shoot mainly because it gives him a great opportunity to work with such remarkable colleagues in front of and behind the scenes.

Nolan told me he basically wanted to do this kind of promo event again to show off the magic of IMAX and what it can look like when you shoot in that format, as he did with several sequences in The Dark Knight. The idea of seeing an optimum experience on a big theater screen is key for the director, and this promotional kickoff is one way to emphasize the glory of it all. In other words, try not to watch this movie on your iPads, kids.

I asked Nolan about Bale’s recent remarks that this film will be his last as the Caped Crusader. Nolan echoed that and said it would definitely be his last, as well. “Christian and I sat down and agreed there was still an exciting place to take this story and then move on to different things,” he told me about the reason he took this one on and why it is the absolute last one for him and Bale. I recall Nolan saying similar things after previewing footage from The Dark Knight, but this time he clearly means it.

Even though it received a couple of Oscars in 2008 and won Nolan a DGA nomination, The Dark Knight (2008’s top grosser) failed to crack the Best Picture race, and that omission was widely regarded as the catalyst for the move to 10 nominees in the category the next year. Nolan’s Inception won four 2010 Oscars and did get him his first Best Pic nomination, but again, despite another DGA nom, he was overlooked by the Academy’s directors branch. Still, that hasn’t soured him on this awards season. He said he loves this time of year and wanted to talk Oscar contenders with me. His favorite?  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which stars Gary Oldman, who has played Jim Gordon in all three of Nolan’s Batman movies. When I mentioned Oldman had never been nominated for an Oscar, Nolan was shocked and said, “hopefully that will change this year. It should. The movie is great and so is Gary.”