The first official image of Tom Hardy (INCEPTION) as the villain Bane in Christopher Nolan’s (BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT) upcoming Batman sequel THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has been releases though a series of viral marketing stunts on the films official web page.

I am a fan of this sneak peak image because it remains true to the spirit of the comic book character (the muzzled mouth) while maintaining a level of realism that is a Nolan staple. I also like how he is not overly ripped or muscular because that would just look goofy. I dig the HANNIBAL vibe I get from this dark image and look forward to seeing him on screen.

If you just can’t wait for news about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES I highly suggest you keep an eye on the official web page linked above because this is sure to be one of many viral marketing stunts leading up to the theatrical release on July 20th 2012.