The movie picks up eight years after "The Dark Knight" with Bruce Wayne "not in a great state," says the helmer, who has been notoriously secretive about the final film in his Batman trilogy.
"It's really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne's story," said Nolan, who previously directed 2005's Batman Begins and 2008's The Dark Knight. "We left him in a very precarious place. Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight. So he's an older Bruce Wayne; he's not in a great state."
Warner Bros.' summer 2012 tentpole finds Christian Bale reprising his role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gary Oldman back as Commissioner Gordon. But several newcomers also have joined the film, including Tom Hardy as the villain Bane, whom Nolan described as "brutal."
"He's a big dude who's incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and oriented fighting style," he said. "It's not about fighting. It's about carnage. The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it's nasty. Anything from small-joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. He is a terrorist in mentality as well as brutal action."
Nolan said the plan was to give Batman a villain unlike any he's previously encountered.
"With Bane, we're looking to give Batman a challenge he hasn't had before," Nolan said. "With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we're testing Batman both physically as well as mentally."
Meanwhile, costume designer Lindy Hemming revealed a few more details about the villain's backstory as it relates to his mask [see picture, below].
"He was injured early in his story," she told Empire. "He's suffering from pain and needs gas to survive. He can't survive the pain without the mask. The pipes from the mask go back along his jawline and feed into the thing at his back, where there are two cannisters."
Nolan has been notoriously secretive about the movie's plot. In September, Oldman said that he believed he was the only actor who knew details about the final scenes.