REVIEW: Batman – The Dark Knight Rises prologue

Posted by under *mixed, Movies |

It’s Wednesday (actually Wednesday not like that fake Wednesday I started the day with yesterday). That means it’s comic book day, but instead of talking about today’s new books we’re discussing what is expected to be one of the biggest comic book movies ever to hit the screen, next summer’s Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Last night we had a chance to see a special presentation of a six minute prologue for the new film by Christopher Nolan and it left a lot to talk about. The IMAX screen we saw it on and some of the production choices left us a little less thrilled than we’d hoped.

A spoiler filled discussion of the prologue and The Dark Knight Rises in general follows…

UPDATED 12/20/2011: With the release of the first trailer for The Dark Knight Rises.

UPDATED 5/2/2012: Footage from the latest trailer released this week contained much of what we attempt to describe in this post. See below.

PTB: The prologue will run beginning this Friday with Mission Impossible 4 (I don’t care what they’re trying to call it, that’s what it is. Taking the number out screams “direct to DVD to me”), but only on 70mm IMAX screens like the one at Philadelphia’s Tuttleman Omniverse Theater at The Franklin Institute.

KevinMLD: The screen at the Franklin Institute is a giant dome that surrounds the entire theater. It’s crazy. Images warp around the curves of the dome and you constantly need to swing your head around to try to piece together everything that’s happening because the screen is bigger than your field of vision. While it’s highly immersive for nature documentaries, it just doesn’t work for action films.

PTB: It’s impossible not to compare this prologue to the one we saw in advance of The Dark Knight. For that preview, director Christopher Nolan presented the bank scene that opened the movie and here fans get to see an amazing aerial display that will purportedly open The Dark Knight Rises. The similarities don’t end there though:

  • They’re both a heist, of sorts.
  • Both involve crazy perspectives and men on wires.
  • Each culminates in a masked man revealing his very recognizable identity as a Batman villain
That doesn’t mean any of those things are bad, they’re just observations.

KevinMLD: The prologue is a complex action scene involving a plane. The action that takes place outside of the plane looks amazing. It’s really incredible work that’s just giant in scope and it’s made even better by the fact that it doesn’t look like it was created on a laptop computer.

The action that takes place inside the plane was far harder to follow due to the weird Omniverse screen.

PTB: It really is well put together visually. Both of Nolan’s prologue scenes give an idea of the villain’s plan going forward. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a word Bane was saying under his mask.

Everyone attending last night's screening also received a free t-shirt.

KevinMLD: I certainly think the prologues were intended to give us a sense of who these characters are in Nolan’s version of Gotham. I’m not sure how much we learn about any actual plans though. Bane seems to be a guerilla terrorist of some sort. He’s clearly kept himself ahead of the CIA until such time as it fit his plans to be caught.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say you can’t really understand a word that Bane says. I understood words. Unfortunately, very few of the words I understood were spoken in succession or were parts of the same sentences. It’s a real problem.

PTB: The music and sounds effects may have contributed to that, but we could have an epic battle between the hero and villain in this movie that’s completely unintelligible between Bane’s mask and Batman’s voice.

KevinMLD: I can already imagine the Community parody now… Assuming its still on the air. Clearly Annie will be Bane. But as for the music and the opening sequence of Gordon eulogizing Harvey Dent, it really adds to the feeling that this is part of the same story we saw in the Dark Knight. I didn’t get that sense as much between Batman Begins and the Dark Knight.

PTB: We haven’t talked much about this movie in general and seeing this prologue makes for a good opportunity. You had joked about titling the movie “Knightfall” as we were headed to theater, and it got me to thinking that “The Dark Knight Rises” doesn’t work for me in sequence with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I think it’s just throwing a verb onto the end of the last movie’s title that bothers me.

KevinMLD: I think it’s too soon to judge the title. It might make a lot of sense in terms of the film depending on what movie Nolan has actually made. It’s crazy at this point that as much as we know about surface details, we know NOTHING about the story. When it comes down to it, The Dark Knight ended in a pretty low place for Batman. He pretty much has nowhere to go but up, unless Nolan kills him… And Nolan does like dark endings.

PTB: From what you’ve seen, is this Bane more like what we saw on the pages of Knightfall and other Batman comics?

KevinMLD: It’s hard to tell from what little we’ve seen. Bane is a pretty unique character who sees himself as righteous. He doesn’t have some large criminal/terrorist empire under him. But one thing Bane definitely is supposed to be is smart. In that respect this is already a better version of him than we saw in Batman and Robin.

PTB: I know I’ve read some books featuring Bane, but the Jeep Swenson version from Batman and Robin is what I immediately think of when I hear the character’s name. I’m not sure he said a single word in that movie beyond grunting and growling.

Thomas Hardy as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

KevinMLD: Yeah that’s not Bane.

PTB: One of the things I was hoping for from this prologue was something to sell me on Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. All we saw of her was her big red lipped make-up face in the closing montage and it did little to convince me her appearance in the movie will is something to look forward to.

KevinMLD: The problem here is that we’re judging this film based on still having seen one confusing scene and knowing very little about the rest of the plot. I’m not that worried about Catwoman regardless of how much I don’t love her look. I’ve actually hated the looks of every major character in Nolan’s Bat-films except the Scarecrow. I despise his Bat-suits. As for Catwoman, were I to speculate, I’d guess she’ll be involved in closing out some of the threads of Nolan’s story focused on Gotham’s organized crime families due to her ties to the Falcone family.

PTB: I’m not judging the film there, just her look.

It seems like there are going to be a lot of characters and plot lines at work here. Nolan has made some great complex movies in his career, but I can’t help but worry that this might suffer from trying to fit too much in with lots of noteworthy names in the cast (Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Thomas Hardy, Anne Harthaway). I’m ok with them being among the citizens of Gotham but as soon as they become costumed vigilantes they take up more of the screen and it gets to be like the aforementioned Batman and Robin.

KevinMLD: The problem with Batman and Robin wasn’t the number of characters, it was the horrendous script and the whacked out director. Maybe it’ll be too many pieces on the board, maybe it won’t. It depends on what their roles really are. We really have no idea right now.

In Batman Begins Nolan balanced Bruce’s origin including his childhood, confronting Joe Chill and his time with the League of Shadows with Batman fighting mobsters, the Scarecrow and two Ras al Ghuls, while throwing in a riot in the Narrows and Mr. Zssassz (check spelling).

In The Dark Knight we had the mob, the Joker, Harvey Dent, the auditor trying to reveal Batman’s identity, Gordon’s faked death, the talk show host getting kidnapped and a boatload of Gotham citizens trying to decide whether to blow up a boatload of Gotham convicts… And I’m probably forgetting important threads. Nolan makes dense movies. You can’t expect that to change.

PTB: I don’t, but having Batman, Gordon, Bane, Catwoman and the possibility of Levitt and Cotillard competing for screen time as major characters reminds me of trying to fit Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Bane and my all-time favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze into the same movie. I’m not saying Nolan won’t make a great movie, just that those are a lot of characters.

KevinMLD: There is no doubt that a lot of name actors are involved, but I just think we would have thought the same thing going into The Dark Knight. Many of the roles in that case turned out to be minor supporting characters such as Eric Roberts, Cillian Murphy, Anthony Michael Hall and Nestor Carbonell.

In the end, neither of us were completely blown away by what we saw in the prologue but we weren’t completely turned off by it either. If you’re someone in the Philadelphia area who is absolutely determined to see the prologue with Mission Impossible this weekend, it’s probably worth the drive to Atlantic City to see it on a flat screen. If it means enough to you to actively seek out one of the very few theaters playing this clip, you’ll want to be able to follow the action better than we could.

UPDATE 12/20/2011: With the release of the first trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, we revisited this discussion in another post to see if it did anything to sway our opinions of the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

UPDATE 5/2/2012: Based on the interest in the latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, we decided to revisit things here and add a link. Interestingly, you’ll notice a great deal of footage in this trailer that we were trying to describe in our original post, particularly in relation to Bane and the airplane. Thankfully, Bane’s voice seems much clearer in this trailer than it was during the prequel screening. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8evyE9TuYk]
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