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ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Prologue [Minor Spoilers]

ComicsAlliance participated in a special press event in Los Angeles Thursday evening that included a brief presentation by Christopher Nolan of the opening sequence of his new film, The Dark Knight Rises. Based on the classic DC Comics superhero Batman and the sequel to the record-breaking and hugely acclaimed (particularly by us) The Dark Knight, the film introduces the next and final threat to the Batman of Nolan’s cycle: Bane. Shot entirely in the luxurious IMAX format, what’s been referred to as the prologue of the film depicts a new screen villain who is every bit the ruthless tactician that The Joker was in the previous chapter, but with a tremendous physical prowess that would seem to outmatch the Dark Knight himself.

We agreed to Warner Bros.’ request not to publish an explicit play-by-play description of the sequence, so what follows is our general impression of the content, the aesthetics, and some hints as to what fans can expect from this much anticipated film. After the cut you will find material that could constitute some measure of spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises, so proceed at your own risk. The same presentation will precede some IMAX screenings of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which opens December 16 in North America.The Dark Knight Rises begins with an extremely dramatic criminal plot whose intricacy invokes the Joker’s bank heist from The Dark Knight, but whose scope attempts to surpass that now classic sequence. Those of you who remember reports of Dark Knight Rises stuntmen falling out of the sky over the United Kingdom may be able to piece together some image of what we can only describe as an astonishing aerial set piece that immediately identifies Bane as the fiendishly clever but deadly villain depicted in his earliest comic book appearances by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan. While revealing no specifics as to his origins or ultimate goals, Tom Hardy plays Bane as an eccentric baddie who lives without restraint, along the lines of Heath Ledger’s Joker but also distinctly different.

Where Bane might surpass The Joker is in his contempt for authority. Although there’s much left to be revealed, the implications of Bane’s actions in the first minutes of The Dark Knight Rises make The Joker’s mission to undermine the spirit and governing systems of Gotham City seem like an angry teenager rebelling against an unreasonably early curfew. It’s possible the scope of The Dark Knight Rises could be reduced in subsequent scenes, but the prologue sees Bane target powers much higher than Commissioner Gordon and his comprised Gotham City Police Department.

As was the case with Batman Begins’s Batman and even The Dark Knight’s Joker, what will be immediately memorable about The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane is his voice. Hardy gives the villain a distinctly weird vocalization that’s made more distracting by the fact that he’s speaking through a mask that covers the majority of his face. Hardy’s sinister characterization shines through, but it was difficult to understand some of Bane’s dialogue in this sequence. It seems likely that there will be many parody videos forthcoming.

The entire prologue was shot in Nolan’s preferred fashion, 70mm IMAX film. Nolan explained that although the IMAX film was invented before he was born, it remains “Far and away the best imaging format that’s ever been created.” Nolan described IMAX as a valuable tool in maintaining “the grandeur of movies, which is being chipped away in a lot of ways.” The director said he was interested in recapturing the spectacle of cinema he remembered as a child, and strongly advises audiences to seek out those IMAX screens where The Dark Knight Rises will be projected in the native format (“Quite a bit” of the film was filmed in IMAX, he said) when it’s released in the summer of 2012.

As to his post-production process, Nolan said, “We’ve barely started editing the film, so don’t ask me how it ends.”

It’s impossible to argue with Nolan’s conclusions about the IMAX format. While we’ve definitely seen more spectacularly choreographed stunts in other movies, the IMAX sequence that begins The Dark Knight Rises is really kind of breathtaking in how enormous and real it seems. There doesn’t appear to be any fakery whatsoever, as though you were watching the events transpire through the window of your own airplane.

IMAX sequences of The Dark Knight were especially rich with visual information, but The Dark Knight Rises (again, based only on the seven minutes of footage we’ve seen so far) seems quite plain in comparison. One of the things we admired so much about The Dark Knight in our five-part analysis of the film was its highly stylized photography and design. The movie followed up Batman Begins’ black-and-bronze motif with a kind of blue-steel look that accentuated some key moments of the film and provided the movie with some unforgettable images (like Batman floating over the Hong Kong skyline). Early promotional material for The Dark Knight Rises suggests a black-and-white scheme that may account for the starkness of the opening sequence. It’s also possible we are just jumping the gun entirely and that the film will be a visual feast the likes of which we could not have predicted.

In any event, the lack of overtly dramatic photography in the film’s opening action does make Bane’s operation seem perhaps more startlingly realistic than it may have were it presented in something more, well, comicbooky.

If you are especially concerned with these kinds of aesthetic elements, you’ll be pleased to know that the prologue does reveal The Dark Knight Rises’ opening animation, following the bats from Batman Begins and the blue flame from The Dark Knight. But we won’t tell you what it is because if you care about it at all then we know you probably really care about it.

After the prologue you will see a brief montage of images from the rest of the film, some of which will be familiar to those of you who’ve kept up with the leaked images from various location shoots.

Also, Catwoman.

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