Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises prologue: A (mostly) spoiler free review...

Last night I was among the small mass of people (mostly the type of people who seem to all but get aroused by a story that involves a man dressed as a bat - yes, I am on of those people) who got to see the special premiere screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises" prologue. Four years ago Warner Bros pulled a similar trick showing the bank heist opening of "The Dark Knight," and it worked beautifully, building up strong word of mouth BEFORE Heath Ledger passed away. Does this do the same trick? Well, let's get to it...mostly spoiler free...

"It doesn't matter who we are. All that matters is our plan.
No one paid attention to me until I put the mask on."

"If I take that mask of you, will you die?"

"It would be most painful..."

"But you're a big guy?"

"...For YOU."

That is, dialogue wise, as spoiler filled as I'll get. Anyhow, let's talk about Christopher Nolan for a bit. Here's a guy who possesses the storytelling skills of Alfred Hitchcok with the big budget action sense of James Cameron or more appropriately old-school like Guy Hamilton, this makes him a very dangerous threat to anyone releasing a movie around the time of his. Let's face it, when arguably your worst film is "Insomnia," you're pretty amazing as a filmmaker. Like most great directors though, it's the team behind him that's just as, if not more so, important than the director themselves. Director of Photography Wally Pfister meshes with Nolan's "let's do it in camera if we can" philosophy, he's the type of DP that is more often than not playing the role of camera operator too, getting on their knees in the fight scene, dust in eyes, capturing it themselves. You have editor Lee Smith, one of the greatest masters of non-linear story-telling through non-linear editing. Then there's lil' brother Jonah, big brother's secret weapon, a master of story and dialogue. You add these elements to the strong casts Nolan puts together, you see why Warner Bros. looks upon their golden goose as a filmmaking God. But still, the question remains, does "The Dark Knight Rises" prologue deliver?

In a word: yes. In more words: holy crap, yes. Action wise, the opening sequence is the most stunning scene Nolan has yet to deliver, including the spinning hallway madness from "Inception." Like that hallway scene, it's amazing because it's all done in camera, theres no CG work (besides erasing things like safety harnesses) in bringing this amazing action set-piece to life. Seeing it on a six-story Imax theater, where the crystal clear 70mm images fill the screen, is a sight to behold. I'm sure you've heard by now it involves a "plane heist" of some sort, and I'll leave it at that, it involves an amazing action sequence in the air with planes, carnage and the memorable introduction of Bane, a character who as a kid always flip-flopped with Scarecrow as my own favorite Bat-villain. Tom Hardy shaved his head and certainly bulked up
for the role, and he's bringing a mixture of massive movie monster with intelligent villain to the role. One more thing I'll say about the scene, it sort of echoes the Chinese extraction scene from "The Dark Knight," as sort of an opposite though. Where Batman left cleanly, Bane leaves carnage. It builds up the character as an equal in mind and strength but the exact negative in moral madness to Batman.

The score is just as memorable as the haunting swelling found in that opening bank heist from "Dark Knight," utilizing a take on the chanting I'm sure you all heard in the teaser trailer for
"TDKR" from the summer, thumping alongside the action on-screen as well as your heartbeat. The sound mix is thunderous, which leads to the one thing that does need work, Bane's voice. The voice itself is hauntingly chilling, a scary version of Henry Killinger from "The Venture Bros," and while I love the voice itself, the Imax sound mix did drown out some of his dialogue. I heard most of it, but I also heard enough complaints to know they need to revamp the mix some. I don't think further ADR is required, I just think they need to do a re-mix and pump it up.

So in the end, does it top the Bank heist? Action wise, it most certainly does. I still think the actual reveal of the Joker may have been better, just because it's the Joker and you know what to expect in a way, with Bane, there's a lot more mystery involved in what Nolan is doing with an already mysterious character. All I can say really is go see it, hopefully in an Imax screen as big as the one I saw it in (the largest in the southwest) because the "wow" factor is tops.

"Did we start a fire?"

"The fire RISES"

After the prologue they give you a minute or so of a montage, almost mini-preview, of shots (much like they did with the "The Dark Knight" prologue) and it really seems the action on this one will top them all. The glimpse of Catwoman and the Bat-wing/plane/copter was a lot of fun, as was the last shot of it, which echoes the most recent poster we've seen...Oh, and at the screening they gave us a cool t-shirt too, built around Bane's mask and the phrase "End," which you can check out at the top of the page.

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