Christopher Nolan on 'The Dark Knight Rises' IMAX prologue: 'You want to be thrown into a situation that takes your breath away'

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Almost exactly four years ago, moviegoers who bought a ticket to the IMAX presentations of I Am Legend were treated to a first look at the opening bank heist prologue of The Dark Knight – and, more specifically, its main villain, Heath Ledger’s mad anarchist, the Joker. Next week, starting Dec. 16, ticket buyers to select IMAX showings of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol will enjoy a similar presentation of the opening seven minutes of The Dark Knight Rises – and, more specifically, its mysterious new villain, Tom Hardy’s creepy masked hulk, Bane.

It is easily the most anticipated movie preview of the holiday season, and EW, along with a gaggle of Los Angeles journalists, got a sneak peek at the footage Thursday night at an event hosted by director Christopher Nolan. I have been sworn to secrecy on most of the details of what I’ve seen until the general public can check out the prologue too. But my colleague Jeff Jensen and I did get a chance to speak with Nolan afterwards about the sequence and the advantages and the challenges of shooting in the IMAX format. One thing is definitely clear: Any concern that Nolan would be daunted by topping The Dark Knight‘s scope and scale will be eradicated after audiences get a look at what he has in store for The Dark Knight Rises. Check out my general thoughts on the preview, as well as Jeff and my interview with Nolan, below. 

Okay, I can tell you that our introduction to Bane takes place almost entirely in the air, in a sequence that also features Game of Thrones actor Aiden Gillen and is unlike anything I think I’ve seen in its go-for-broke ambition. Nolan introduced the footage by singing the praises of the IMAX format, and expressing his fervent wish in using it to help bring back “the grandeur of the movies”; for these seven minutes, anyway, I feel confident in saying Nolan succeeds in doing just that. I would also suggest that anyone planning on seeing it in theaters do two things: Read these curious documents about a missing Dr. Leonid Pavel that were “leaked” this week to Wired and Empire. And prepare to scratch your head at much of Bane’s dialogue, which had most everyone in Thursday’s screening asking each other how much, if anything, they could understand. I did catch one moment, when someone asks Bane if he’ll die should his now widely seen mask be removed. Bane’s reply: “It would be extremely painful — for you.”

If that doesn’t tantalize you enough, here are some more thoughts on the prologue, and IMAX, that Nolan shared with EW:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Like several of your other films, this opening sequence just begins — we’re in it from the get-go. Why do you like to do that?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN:
You know, I probably haven’t thought it through intellectually, if you like. My feeling, particularly on an action film, is you want to be thrown into a situation that somehow takes your breath away early in the film. I think rhythmically — you know, I view these films as pieces of music — if you start with a bit of a bang, it buys you more time to then calmly move into the story and the characters. We have a lot of characters in this film, a lot of people to introduce, a lot of catching up to do with the audience. So I think it was important to really throw something big on screen and then take our time.

How much of the film did you shoot on IMAX?
We shot about twice what we did last time [on The Dark Knight], at least. Last time we were about 25 minutes [in IMAX]. Obviously, I haven’t cut [the rest of The Dark Knight Rises] yet, so I don’t know the exact running time, but I think we’ll be in the 45 to 50 minute range. Basically all the actions sequences, and some of the more large-scale other bits of the film that aren’t necessarily action. We even shot some dialogue scenes and some quite intimate dramatic scenes, which we haven’t done before. And so some of that will make its way into the film.

Did you ever contemplate shooting the entire film in IMAX?
I didn’t, because the cameras are so loud and so large, it wouldn’t really have been fair for the actors to make them do all the dramatic scenes that way. Although, I have to say, there were some very intense scenes that we did do in front of this massive camera that sounds like a generator or something, and they really did a spectacular job.

Would you ever shoot a film only in IMAX?
Oh, it would depend on the film. I don’t like to use ADR sound — I don’t like to record the dialogue afterwards. And so, unless they could make an IMAX camera that was quiet enough to shoot dialogue scenes, I think I’d always want to go to 35mm,  or 65mm like we did with Inception.

With this prologue out there, people who have been anticipating this movie for a while are going to scrutinize and devour it. Are you excited by that? Are you nervous?
I am excited about it. I’m only nervous about it in that the rest of the film isn’t finished yet, so we’re still in the evolving creative process. I wouldn’t want the reactions to skew that. We try to work in a vacuum a little bit.

How much are you finding the film in the editing room? Or do you pretty much know how it fits together in your head?
It’s always different in the editing room. There’s a lot of discovery and a long process of rediscovery.

Check back on EW.com next week for more coverage of The Dark Knight Rises.

Read more:
Warner Bros. finally confirms ‘Dark Knight Rises’ prologue before ‘Mission: Impossible’
Christian Bale on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’: He’s done with Batman, and he really really means it
‘The Dark Knight Rises’: Watch the official teaser here!

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