Sneak preview: The Dark Knight

The first 7 minutes were sensational. Even Sarah, who's a Marvel fangirl to the core, was excited by IMAX footage of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight. Eeeee!

joker

Simon really hates me right now. You probably do, too, because I’ve just got back from watching the first scene from The Dark Knight on a massive IMAX screen. And it was spectacular. It’s probably more distressing to see it than not to, because now I can hardly wait to see the rest of the movie and that’s a good seven months away. So let me share my distress by describing to you exactly what those first few minutes entailed…

The film opens on a city scape, all shiny glass-fronted buildings and glistening rooftops. This sequence, as well as five others in the movie, were shot on 70mm IMAX stock, so it looks awesome. Sharp, clear, beautiful. The camera slowly zooms in as a window in one of the skyscrapers explodes outwards; there’s a man in a clown mask on the other side.

A gang of masked men quickly assembles, running a zip wire between buildings (and there’s one spectacularly dizzying downwards shot as they zip across) and jumps into a cab. They’re in the midst of a bank heist There’s some brief conversation about the guy who organised the heist – they speculate on why he’s called the Joker – and as each man performs his unique function (cracking a safe, or interrupting an alarm, or whatever) another one shoots him and carries on.

One of the men at the bank suddenly pulls out a shotgun, and it turns out that this is a mob bank. Seems the mob isn’t very good at counting, though, because he soon runs out of ammunition. There are only two of the clown men left now, and they’ve obviously realised that they’ve all got instructions to kill each other till there’s only the Joker left. It seems there’s going to be some kind of mutiny, but then a schoolbus crashes through the side of the building, one of the clowns kills the other (and the one driving the bus) and the mob guy with the gun tries to bargain, pointing out that the Joker will only kill him once he’s delivered the cash.

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The one remaining clown removes his mask only to reveal – drumroll! – clown makeup beneath. He’s the Joker! Didn’t see that coming. He shoves a grenade into the mob guy’s mouth and intones that “Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you … stranger” before jumping into the schoolbus to make his getaway.

And then a succession of rapid-fire action shots follows: Batman on a bike, the Batmobile swinging into action, Batman on a rooftop, and the Joker shooting the shit out of everything. There are some gratuitous explosions and then the screen goes dark, with only a shimmering Batman logo left. It’s over, way too fast.

The American sneak previews of this footage were followed by a Q&A with director Christopher Nolan, but for the UK screening, producer Charles “Chuck” Roven turned up, instead. He wasn’t massively forthcoming with information – here’s what I learned:

– Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker is an entirely new interpretation of the character, entirely in line with Christopher Nolan’s vision of the Batman franchise. He’s a scary psychopath … but “he does have his light moments.”

– Five sequences were shot in the IMAX format. They’re all action sequences, deliberately planned to look especially great.

The Dark Knight is expected to receive a PG13 rating in the US, the same as Batman Begins, and they’re aiming to get a similar rating in the UK.

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– Other actors, who Roven wouldn’t name, were considered for the role at the same time as Heath Ledger was considered, but Heath was chosen for his “incredible range.” And because Roven had previously worked with him on The Brothers Grimm.

– “The Alfred/Bruce Wayne relationship is definitely alive and well in this film.”

– This is the first time that Christian Bale has ever reprised a role for a second film; he and Christopher Nolan have now worked together on three movies, and have “developed a creative shorthand” that helps them work well together.

The Dark Knight will see Batman/Bruce Wayne still dealing with the complex emotional issues he was dealing with at the end of Batman Begins; in other words, it starts where the first one left off.

– A sequence was shot atop the tallest building in Hong Kong, with Batman jumping off the top. This bit is actually set in Hong Kong, too; this’ll be the first time we’ve seen Batman venturing out of Gotham.

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– Although the film is called The Dark Knight, it’s an original story; Frank Miller’s Batman comics were used as inspiration, but this movie is entirely Christopher Nolan’s vision.

– The footage that was shown today will be attached to all IMAX prints of I Am Legend, so if you want to see it for yourself, you’ll have to shell out to see that.

– Currently, there’s no script written for a third movie, and there’s no villain in mind. Or at least, if there is, Charles Roven isn’t willing to disclose that information. Drat.

So… yeah. Roll on next summer!