In roughly 30 weeks, The Dark Knight Rises will be arriving in theatres. Fanboys will claim it to be the greatest film ever made, others will call it and its director over-rated. Most of us will just be grateful that our quality of summer blockbuster in 2012 will more than likely be a little bit higher than the previous year. As everyone knows by now, the opening 6 minutes of the film is currently showing in front of IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and so on a brisk December evening in London town, a small group of us made our way to the BFI IMAX to get out first glimpse of what Christopher Nolan has planned for us this summer, here’s what I thought…
For those who haven’t seen it, the prologue is basically a stunning set piece that serves as an introduction to Bane as our new villain. A scientist (Dr. Pavel for those who are following the TDKR’s viral campaign) is being handed over to CIA custody/protection, along with 3 hooded prisoners who we are told were caught trying to kidnap Dr. Pavel, and work for “the masked man”. Once the plane is airborne, CIA agent Tommy Carcetti begins interrogating the prisoners about Bane. After faking an execution on the first prisoner, the third hooded man speaks. Its Bane, (but come on, you already knew that) who announces his plan is to crash the plane, leaving no survivors. What follows is a rather incredible heist sequence wherein Bane, aided by anotheraircraft (and guys who can only be from The League Of Shadows) tears the CIA plane apart, plants a decoy scientist corpse, and escapes with Dr. Pavel.
Like the beginning of The Dark Knight, the purpose of TDKR’s first 6 minutes is to introduce us to our primary villain, Bane. The Joker’s grand entrance was of course a stunning, ‘Heat’ influenced bank heist that perfectly established the villain’s modus operandi; Daring, unpredictable and of course, a taste for the theatrical. There are similarities between the two prologues here. Both feature masks (an important thematic element throughout Nolan’s Batman films), both feature daring heists, executed fearlessly, and both our villains utilise henchmen whose sole purpose seems to be their expendability. In a recent issue of Empire magazine, Christopher Nolan talked about the importance of having a villain who is a totally different archetype to the Joker, and despite the aforementioned similarities, it is clear that with Bane, we are getting a different kind of adversary, one that is cunning, brutal and very importantly, has a plan.
The whole sequence is pretty breath taking, with the plane heist being one of the most memorable action sequences I’d seen all year. One of the best consequences of Christopher Nolan’s success with the Batman films is his advancement of the use of IMAX technology in high budget films. Scenes like this are what IMAX is made for, and in my opinion IMAX (not 3D) needs to be recognised as the future for big studio releases. The level of immersion you get is beyond comparison to any other format, and really is currently the best way to experience a film.
One of the big talking points in recent months has been Bane’s voice, and the unavoidable fact that a lot of people are having trouble understanding it. I had seen the trailer beforehand and Bane’s line, “When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die” was perfectly audible to me. However, when watching the prologue, it was admittedly very difficult to make out what exactly was being said. I have re-watched the prologue a few times since seeing it in the IMAX and once I knew what he was supposed to be saying, it became perfectly audible. So yes there is a slight issue here but I’m not in any way agreeing with the people who want a total re-recording of the dialogue. The suggestion of subtitles is actually not a bad idea but I still think it’s a somewhat hasty suggestion. Bear in mind, the prologue does take place on a plane, in mid flight, with half of Bane’s dialogue spoken while the plane door is open, and the other half while the tail end has been blown off, not the most acoustically friendly environment for a bit of dialogue. I think a couple of tweaks to some sound levels and the issue’s with Bane’s voice will for the most part be cleared up for release day. Sound levels aside, I think Bane’s voice is brilliant; a kind of refined, mechanical dialect, both intimidating and charismatic. I’ve been a big fan of Tom Hardy since the release of ‘Bronson’ back in 2008, and this looks like yet another amazing performance to follow up his roles in Inception and Warrior.
Speaking of Warrior, Hardy is supposedly using the same physique in TDKR (fucking jacked) so anyone complaining that Hardy isn’t big enough to play Bane, check this film out first. In fact I urge anyone who didn’t see it when it was out in cinema’s (which is a lot of you judging by box office figures) to see it whenever you get the chance as it really is a fantastic film.
So, for me personally, all is good on the Nolan front. The little teaser montage we got at the end also threw up some really exciting moments, the most interesting being the incredibly chilling shot of Bane carrying the Bat’s shattered cowl, before casually discarding it in the rain… July 20th cannot come quick enough.
– Jacob Milligan