In 2007, director Christopher Nolan gave a gift to Batman fans around the world. Audiences going to see the post-apocalyptic Will Smith movie I Am Legend in IMAX theaters were treated to the first extended look at Nolan’s upcoming blockbuster, The Dark Knight. The scene was epic, allowing audiences to see The Joker in motion for the first time and get a sense of both the film’s tone and the filmmaker’s visual style. It was amazing, and some might say that in the years since the move affected the marketing for both Avatar and Tron Legacy, two films that gave fans an early look with special footage screenings.

Fast forward to 2011 and Nolan has done it again. Starting next Friday, movie-goers attending screenings of Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in specific theaters will witness a six minute prologue from the highly anticipated sequel, The Dark Knight Rises - footage that I was given the opportunity to see earlier tonight.

The screening began with a live introduction from Christopher Nolan, who discussed why he chose to film part of the movie using IMAX cameras – just as he did for The Dark Knight. Noting that the film has been in existence since the year before he was born, Nolan said that the 65mm film is the best imaging format available and that nothing can touch it. He also said that using IMAX reminds him of when he started dabbling in filmmaking as a kid, and said that he is always trying to recapture that experience. He stressed that the best way to see The Dark Knight Rises will be in the expanded format, due to the feeling of grandeur and the immersive feeling. He concluded his intro by saying that he has only barely started to edit the final film, but wants to encourage fans to find the IMAX theaters in major cities. Then the footage began to roll.

While I’m not permitted to give you a moment-by-moment breakdown of everything that happened in the movie (why would you want that? Just go see it for yourself!) I can tell you my reaction to the footage and I will start by saying this: the scenes are epic in scope and utilize the IMAX camera perfectly, it features a brilliant introduction of Bane, and has one fairly significant flaw that hopefully will be fixed before the movie is released on July 20, 2012.

Without giving too much away, most of what we see in the footage takes place on a plane, and Nolan does an extraordinary job taking advantage of it. There are more than a few aerial acrobatics in play, and because the frame is so big you can’t help but marvel at it. The audience never loses spatial awareness, which is stunning if not only because everything becomes chaotic quickly as shit starts to hit the fan.

Much like the Dark Knight bank robbery scene served to introduce the Joker’s particular style of chaos, the prologue does a phenomenal job of introducing the central antagonist of The Dark Knight Rises: Bane, played by Tom Hardy. What’s fascinating about the footage is that there are actually similarities between the two villain introduction scenes, but rather than feeling like a rehash, it actually serves to provide his arrival with a gut-punch impact. In fact, the footage makes me wish that they hadn’t revealed Bane’s look yet, if not only because it would have been the only way to make his first scene make a bigger impression.

As I mentioned earlier, the prologue has one significant flaw, and it’s that it’s a real challenge to understand Bane’s dialogue. As you’ve seen (look above for the first official still of the character), the beastly villain wears a mask over his nose and mouth, and while you can make out a couple words and the narrative is easy enough to understand, it’s definitely a problem. Fortunately, it’s an easy issue to fix. During the editing process Nolan can call Tom Hardy in for what are called additional dialogue recording sessions – aka ADR, looping or dubbing – and have him say the lines more clearly. Obviously we should still expect some distortion due to the mask, but one has to imagine that the final print will make Bane’s speech clearer.

Overall I was truly blown away by the footage and I have a feeling that when audiences go to screenings next week they’ll feel the same way. As always, for all the Batman coverage you can stand check back here regularly, and we’ll see you tomorrow when the first theatrical trailer arrives online [EDIT: Looks like we got excited a little too fast! The viral countdown has ended and you can purchase your IMAX prologue preview tickets now! Find all the details HERE.].

For more from The Dark Knight Rises, including the first stills, poster and teaser trailer, be sure to head over to our Blend Film Database

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