"Six months before a movie’s release might seem a little early to show parts of a film," director Christopher Nolan said to a small audience at a movie theater in Universal City on Thursday night. "But I wanted to show the film in the way it was shot, and the way it was meant to be seen…to capture the grandeur of movies."
In perfect illustration of his point, Nolan introduced the Dark Knight Rises prologue, which he shot with an IMAX camera, dwarfed by the garguantuan square of the AMC theater's IMAX screen. After noting the format was invented a year before his birth in 1970, Nolan describes the resolution-amping system as "far and away the best imaging—nothing can touch it."
In other words, IMAX is to Nolan’s Batman landscape what 3-D is to James Cameron’s world in Avatar: the optimal visual technique that achieves what you might call the "bespoke" blockbuster. A painstakingly hand-crafted movie that’s also a popcorn-inhaling, tent-pole spectacle. And unlike Cameron's digital universe, Nolan's realm is made to feel 100% real. Just as he did with the last Batman flick, Nolan and his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister shot the prologue with an IMAX camera format, eschewing CGI wizardry for stunt-heavy acrobatics.
The result in this prologue is vertiginous, glorious, and thudding with menace. The opening sequence of the previous Batman featured an 88-story skyscraper. The Dark Knight Rises prologue appears to have been shot thousands of feet in the air, where audiences can expect to encounter this installment's villain named Bane (played by Inception's Tom Hardy) and a plane that gets its wings plucked cleaner than a chicken.
To that end, Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, asked journalists not reveal specifics of the scene. Turns out that won't be a problem: Thanks to villain Bane’s mask and an airplane engine in surround sound, the dialogue between the bad guy and his immediate foe (played by Aiden Gillen of Game of Thrones, The Wire fame) is as inscrutable as Hannibal Lector eating a peanut butter sandwich.
But the head-scratching dialogue might be just another savvy step in the already cryptic marketing campaign, which included the recent release of fake CIA documents of a character named Dr. Pavel (also featured in the prologue). If you've seen Inception (or Memento or...) you know Nolan doesn’t tend to be a stickler for clarity. But with shots so crystal they practically "ping" when your eye hits them, he doesn’t need to be. The prologue will be released next Friday in select IMAX theaters to run before Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. The full-length flick, which Nolan says he's in the throes of editing, is out July 20, 2012.