THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Prologue Review & Full Description

It's not the knockout jolt that The Joker's bank heist was, but it's still a great opening sequence, with a particularly intriguing final shot that leaves you craving for more.

WhatCulture! were among the UK publications invited to Waterloo's BFI IMAX this morning to watch the first 6 minutes of Christopher Nolan's sure-to-be-epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. While initial impressions dropped from U.S. critics 5 days ago, Warner Bros. politely asked that they not deliver a blow-by-blow account of the film's opening scene. The same request was not, however, extended to us at this morning's London screening, and with a poorly-filmed bootleg of it having leaked just a few hours ago, it appears that the cat is well and truly out of the bag, such that we can freely discuss what has been screened and will be showing attached to the IMAX prints of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol from December 21st. The first thing to remember is that this is not The Dark Knight; with the Joker, Nolan was dealing with Batman's best-known nemesis, and in Rises, with Tom Hardy's Bane, has presented a villain largely unknown to casual fans whose only knowledge of him might be from Joel Schumacher's franchise-destroyingly bad Batman and Robin, in which Bane was little more than a sub-vegetative monster. Nolan's Bane, in these six minutes, is established as a monster of his own kind; muscular, but cerebral, eerie, determined, and influential. Below is as detailed a description as one could possibly manage to remember in those six frantic minutes. One interesting thing to note - if perhaps something of a nitpick - is that Christopher Nolan's wife/co-producer Emma Thomas introduced the footage and referred to Bane as "one of the villains", likely not a slip of the tongue but giving more voice to all those rumours about Marion Cotillard in fact playing Talia al Ghul as the film's second antagonist (it's unlikely she was referring to Selena Kyle/Catwoman, after all). The Legendary Pictures/Warner ident is an icy crack growing larger, no doubt reflecting the fact that the film is set during the winter. Nolan wastes no time, overlaying Commissioner Gordon's eulogy for Harvey Dent over the top. We cut to Gordon, continuing the speech from the end of The Dark Knight, closing on the line, "I believed in Harvey Dent", before we cut to black. The next scene opens on a field, with a car driving along. We get our first glimpse at the IMAX photography, which is as staggering as you might imagine, though lacking the propulsive kick of TDK's vertiginous opening IMAX shot peering across Gotham's skyline. A CIA agent (played by Aidan Gillen, best known as Thomas Carcetti in HBO's The Wire), is waiting with a plane to collect Dr. Pavel (who has been glimpsed extensively throughout Warner's impressive viral marketing campaign for the last week or so), and shows dismay that he has brought a few "friends", some hooded soldiers, along, to which Pavel retorts that they aren't his friends. A militia soldier who helped bring Pavel to the CIA says that the hooded men work for the masked mercenary Bane, and were trying to steal Pavel for themselves. The agent lets them all on the plane begrudgingly. Once on, the agent says their flight plan will only accomodate one of the hooded men, and the first one to speak gets to stay on. Bane, still disguised, speaks up in a incredibly peculiar voice, best described as an old British man put through a modulator or synthesiser of some sort. The U.S. critics weren't exactly wrong in saying it was hard to understand Bane; though more familiar with the accent, I probably dropped 2 or 3 of his lines and just about managed to make out the rest. It doesn't seem like an intentional thing on Nolan's part, so one wonders how he could have seen this footage and been satisfied with the clarity of the voice, though Nolan has said he will be fixing it in post. Bane says what's important is their plan. The agent then takes Bane's hood off and we see his face for the first time with the mask. The agent asks if he will die if the mask is removed, Bane says it would be extremely painful. Outside the plane we now see another plane flying above. Bane says getting caught was part of his plan, and that they had to know how much Pavel had told the CIA after he refused their own offer to work with them. At this point the main set-piece begins and Hans Zimmer's outstanding score really starts to kick in; the chanting that we heard from the original teaser trailer is extremely well-employed here, combined with some punchy drum work to give Bane what will surely be his own distinctive leitmotif. The agent asks Bane what the next step of his master plan is, and Bane says he will crash the plane with no survivors. The other plane belongs to Bane's own mercenaries, who daringly rappel from their plane down to the CIA's, clinging to the side and peppering the inside with bullets. Bane fights with the CIA agents and guards inside, while his team attach hooks from their plane to the CIA's, causing the CIA's plane to hang from theirs, as it would otherwise enter a pilot-less freefall. Bane's men then explode the rear end of the plane off with perfect precision, and Bane dives behind a seat while they enter the plane and kill the remaining CIA guards. Those who have said this scene has a James Bond-esque vibe are very much on the money; it's a crazy scene though not entirely outside the realm of plausibility either. The next part is the most intriguing, mysterious and possibly important; Bane's men bring a bodybag into the plane and open it up, revealing who appears to be - and has been feverishly discussed by those who have seen it - as Josh Pence, making some pretty heavy implications given his casting as a young Ra's al Ghul, suggesting that the Lazarus Pits may be involved later on in the film. The shot is so quick and unexpected, though, that it could very well be someone who merely resembles Pence. Even stranger, Bane and his men then connect some intravenous tubes to Pavel, presumably transfusing some of his blood into the dead person's body, as a means of probably faking his death. He leaves one of his own on board, presumably to account for the number of dead needed (as the revised flight manifest would be expecting one hooded soldier), and the man asks "Have you started the fire?", to which Bane replies, "The fire rises", a tagline associated with the film that has been kicking around for about 6 months now. Bane and his men, along with Pavel, then hook themselves up and explode the remaining cabin of the plane. This is the shot which best exemplifies the use of the IMAX format; above Bane and Pavel, we see the plane falling to the ground, and it's a heart-stopping moment. The final shot has the plane flying away with Bane and Pavel swinging below, something akin to Batman's kidnapping of Lau in The Dark Knight via the CIA's sophisticated Skyhook mechanism. The prologue closes on a teaser sizzle reel of various clips, detailed below: Batman pulling out his new weapon; the one featured on Empire's special front cover. Bane walking out of a building that looks like a City Hall with his soldiers guarding it. It's snowing as we've seen in the set pictures. Several prototype tumblers driving along - apparently the ones that Bane steals - while Batman's new hovercraft vehicle flies in pursuit. Several unidentifiable men rapelling into what appears to be the Batcave. Bane slowly walks up to Batman during the snowing City Hall scene and Batman lunges for a punch. Our first video glimpse of Catwoman; she walks past what appears to be a jail cell. Batman riding his bike through traffic. Our first look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Gotham PD officer John Blake, looking alert and cautious as he walks through a hallway. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in a police car, in an orange jumpsuit. A riot taking place between the police and unidentifiable people. It's raining and Bane presses the trigger on some sort of explosive device. We see sparks shoot out behind him. A vehicle of some sort explodes. And the final shot is certainly the most iconic and intriguing; Bane is holding Batman's mask as he walks along in the rain, and drops it on the floor. Needless to say the footage was well-recieved by the journalists here, and so it should be. It's a technically impressive opening, rendered with what appears to be little CGI - as is easily detectable on such a visually expansive format as IMAX - though the audio for Bane's voice needs to be tweaked so viewers don't spend the entire film concentrating on trying to work out what he's saying. No, it's not the knockout jolt that The Joker's bank heist was, but it's still a great opening sequence, and this teaser, particularly that final shot - which, when I saw the new poster, I assumed would just be a marketing gimmick and not an acutal scene from the film - leaves plenty to look forward to. The Dark Knight Rises prologue will be attached to IMAX prints of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol from this Friday in the U.S. and December 21st in the U.K. The full length trailer, meanwhile, is purported to drop in front of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows this Friday, and one can expect that the studio will release both online soon enough to combat the countless bootlegs that are going to appear. The Dark Knight Rises is released July 20th, 2012.
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.