There’s a higher force at work in Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman feature, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Or so it seems anyhow. All one can do is guess, but at last night’s preview screening of the six-minute prologue, the small seeds that were planted throughout the ambitious and impressive opening seemed to suggest something even darker and more epic than we’ve seen from the series thus far.
Four years ago in late 2007, Warner Bros. was employing the same strategy. Shot with immense IMAX cameras, the studio and Nolan screened a six-minute introduction to Heath Ledger’s Joker character (that would play before WB’s “I Am Legend”) and that opening sequence would become the unforgettable introduction to one of the most unhinged and thoroughly entertaining psychopaths to ever grace the screen. Fast forward to 2011 and WB is at it again, this time presenting a six-minute prologue teaser for “The Dark Knight Rises” that will start screening this Friday, December 16th in select theaters in the U.S. and on December 21 in the U.K. in front of "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" (see markets and IMAX theaters below).
While it’s already been revealed that “The Dark Knight Rises” will take place eight years after that previous film, the consequences of that picture’s conclusion – Batman sacrificing his reputation for the greater good and therefore taking responsiblility for Harvey Dent’s death on his shoulders – appears to be very much at play. In fact, had we no specific reveal about the time period, one might think the picture picked up exactly where the last one did, time-wise.
Spiritually they do connect, as the prologue opened with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) lamenting Harvey Dent and his untimely death. Clearly, Gotham is still missing its virtuous knight in shining armor. From there the prologue moved on to something more hazy and unclear: the introduction of Bane, the new antagonist of the film (played by a hulking Tom Hardy) and how he fits into the story. Obviously, his piece in the puzzle will come into clearer view with the movie, but suffice to say, his intro is a part of an elaborate and grand aerial action set piece reminiscent of the Bond films and Nolan’s large-scale “Inception” sequences.
And yes, his mask makes his dialogue rather unintelligible as fanboys have worried, but the picture doesn’t come out for another six months, so trust that Nolan and his creative team will have sorted that out by then.
From there the prologue recedes into a more standard sizzle reel with flashes of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), Commissioner Gordon, Batman himself, a few vehicles and much, much more.
Introducing the film to New York press, Nolan’s main message wasn’t so much selling “The Dark Knight Rises” to critics (an easy task, as the anticipation was palpable), but expressing his love for the immersive 70MM IMAX format in which the prologue and almost 50 minutes of the film were shot.
Nolan said he believed IMAX was still the most powerful image that cinema has to offer and suggested it was the still future of event-based movies.
“Our experience on ‘The Dark Knight’ shooting and projecting IMAX 15 perf 65mm/70mm film was inspiring,” he said in a previous statement, but very similar to the one he made last night. “The immersive quality of the image goes beyond any other filmmaking tool available, and in revisiting Gotham, we were determined to shoot even more of the movie in this unique format. Giving the fans an early look at an IMAX sequence is a great way to draw attention to what I believe will be an incredible way to experience our story when it comes out next summer.”
Meanwhile, Nolan's been talking to Hero Complex about the film, and let out a few more morsels of detail, including defending his surprising decision to set the sequel eight year after "The Dark Knight." "It will make a lot more sense to people when they see the film,” the director told the site. “If I had to express it thematically, I think what we’re saying is that for Batman and Commissioner Gordon, there’s a big sacrifice, a big compromise, at the end of the ‘The Dark Knight’ and for that to mean something, that sacrifice has to work and Gotham has to get better in a sense. They have to achieve something for the ending of that film — and the feeling at the end of that film — to have validity. Their sacrifice has to have meaning and it takes time to establish that and to show that, and that’s the primary reason we did that. It’s a time period that is not so far ahead that we would have to do crazy makeup or anything — which I think would be distracting — but it gave them something to get their teeth into, particularly Christian in terms of [portraying] this guy who has been frozen in this moment in time with nowhere to go."
As for that prologue sequence, as usual, the director tried to do as much of it as he can practically and, despite picking the less-than-glorious climate of Scotland for the aerial shoot, it all worked out for the best. "We had a lot of fun on it. It was a tricky sequence to shoot, but a lot of very talented people worked very hard on it. And I’m thrilled with the result. We shot it in Scotland. We braved the weather — it rains all the time there, a terrible place to do an aerial sequence, which is why no one has sort of done it before. You usually wind up in the desert or something for very practical reasons. But it really came off. We got very lucky with the weather and a lot of good planning went into it. I think it had a very unique look.”
Central to the sequence is, of course, Bane, and the director admits that, when it came time to pick out the villain for the new film, he wasn't familiar with the character, who was suggested at the behest of David Goyer, Nolan's frequent co-scripter on the films. "I didn’t know him very well,” the director says. “David Goyer got me a bunch of stuff on him and we looked into him. I only knew him by name, I wasn’t familiar with his back story. He’s a very cool character. And getting an actor like Tom to take it on, you know you’re going to get something very special. Tom is somebody who really knows how to put character into every gesture, every aspect of his physicality in the way that great actors can. He’s a very, very physical actor. He transforms himself and it’s there in every movement. He’s not afraid to look at a character from the outside as well as the inside so there’s a deep psychological branch to the character but also a very, very specific awareness of how he’s going to use his body and his appearance to express that character too. Christian is like that too, very much.”
You'll finally be able to check out the prologue for yourself at the end of the week, when it premieres in front of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" on IMAX screens. Check out below for a full list of markets where you can watch the clip. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine, “The Dark Knight Rises” arrives in theaters on July 20, 2012.
Austin, TX - IMAX Theater Austin - Austin
Boston, MA - Jordan's IMAX - Natick
Boston, MA - IMAX 3D Theater in Reading - Reading
Calgary, AB - Scotiabank Theater Chinook 16 + IMAX - Calgary
Chantilly, VA - Udvar-Hazy Venter IMAX - Chantilly
Chicago, IL - Navy Pier IMAX Theater - Chicago
Des Moines, IA - SCI IMAX Dome Theater - Des Moines
Detroit, MI - Henry Ford IMAX - Dearborn
Edmonton, AB - Scotiabank Theater Edmonton + IMAX - Edmonton
Harrisburg, PA - The Whitaker Center For Science IMAX - Harrisburg
Houston, TX - Houston Marqe Stadium 22 + IMAX - Irvine
Indianapolis - White River IMAX - Indianapolis
Los Angeles, CA - Irvine Spectrum 20 + IMAX - Irvine
Los Angeles, CA - RAVE 18 + IMAX - Los Angeles
Los Angeles CA - Ontario Palace Stadim 22 + IMAX - Ontario
Los Angeles, CA - Citywalk Stadium 19 with IMAX - Universal City
Madison, WI - Star 18 Fitchburg with IMAX - Fitchburg
Miami, FL - AutoNation IMAX - Fort Lauderdale
Minneapolis, MN - Great Clips IMAX - Apple Valley
Montreal, QC - Cinema Banque Scotia Montreal + IMAX - Montreal
Nashville,TN - Opry Mills Stadium 20 + IMAX - Nashville
New York, NY - Lincoln Square 13 with IMAX - New York
New York, NY - Palisades IMAX - West Nyack
Omaha, NE - Star Cinema 16 with IMAX - Council Bluffs
Orlando, FL - Pointe Orlando Stadium 20 + IMAX - Orlando
Ottawa, ON - Silvercity Gloucester + IMAX - Gloucester-Ottawa
Palm Springs (Los Angeles) - Desert IMAX Theatre - Cathedral City
Philadelphia, PA - IMAX & the Tropicana - Atlantic City
Philadelphia, PA - Tuttleman IMAX - Franklin Institute - Philadelphia
Phoenix, AZ - Arizona Mills 25 with IMAX - Tempe
Providence, RI - Providence Place 16 with IMAX - Providence
Quebec City, QC - IMAX Le Theatre At Quebec - Quebec City
Sacramento, CA - Esquire IMAX - Sacramento
San Antonio, TX - IMAX at RiverCenter - San Antonio
San Francisco, CA - Metreon 16 with IMAX & ETX - San Francisco
Seattle, WA - Boeing IMAX - Pacific Science Center - Seattle
Tampa, FL - Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) - Tampa
Toronto, ON - Coliseum 12 Mississauga + IMAX - Mississauga
Toronto, ON - Scotiabank Theatre Toronto + IMAX - Toronto
Toronto, ON - Colossus 18 Woodbridge + IMAX - Woodbridge-Vaughan
Vancouver, BC - Colossus Langley + IMAX - Langley
Vancouver, BC - Silvercity Riverport 18 + IMAX - Richmond
And in the UK, where screenings with "Mission Impossible" will start December 21st:
London - BFI London IMAX
Bradford - National Media Museum IMAX Bradford
Glasgow - Glasgow Science Centre IMAX Cinema
Manchester - Odeon Manchester IMAX at The Printworks