July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

St. Louis Science Center

Reviewed by David Mount

Seen on Fri July 27, 2012

The 1% should take heed. A very blatant message portends in this film directed by Christopher Nolan, the final in his trilogy about the fate of “The Batman”. A thrilling climax is in-store for those who have the fortitude to ride out this epic film, which at 164 minutes (2 hours 44 minutes) will have you inadvertently late for your next activity but the adrenaline rush of all the tension will make you unapologetic if you’re expected elsewhere.

Nolan’s cinematic focus in this finale was on social strife which is all too familiar to us today whereas the first two films were psychological in their attention to the nature of evil. With a setting in a modern-day island metropolis (there are over twenty filming locations used), the modern parallels are unmistakable: financial industry abuse, incompetence of politicians, cover-ups and spin, terrorism and distortion of technology. He definitely pushes buttons that activate the anger in all of us and you might even be tempted to applaud the screen version of “Occupy-Whatever-on-Steroids.”

The story begins eight years after Harvey Dent's untimely end, Batman taking the rap for his death, his reputation besmirched and his image stained in the public eye. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is finally drawn from his self-imposed exile in Wayne Manor only by the arrival of a new terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy) who looks like a genetic engineering experiment gone wrong with a deviant and demented, but brilliant mind to match. You will be caught by surprise by the subterranean twists and turns of this great script even with the foreshadowing whispered in Wayne’s ear by Cat Woman (Anne Hathaway) and the on-screen hints of a plot to take over Gotham City and turn an energy source for a sustainable future into a nuclear weapon.

Besides Hathaway, Bale and Hardy’s acting, there are performances a-plenty to commend including the new character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Caine as the faithful, but chiding, butler, Alfred.

How everything turns out is for you to watch yourself as I loathe given-away endings, but let’s just say this: this superhero fantasy based on a very popular character will probably have you begging for more. Nolan’s hit a homerun.

We saw this at the St. Louis Science Center on the overwhelming but impressive OMNIMAX curved, 40-foot high screen, with 15,000 watts of discrete 6-channel sound projected from behind the dome. The seating allows one to lean back against the headrest and watch from a semi-reclining position, necessary because the center of the screen is well above the eyeline of most viewers. I would think, although I’ve not tried it, that the optimal seating is from the very top of the theater, allowing one to see the majority of the screen without having to arch one’s neck to the limits of normal movement.

Some of the scenes in this film were shot with IMAX cameras that use film with ten times the area of a 35-mm film meaning a much larger image of the same quality can be projected. The projection system of the OMNIMAX uses a fisheye lens to project an undistorted image on the domed screen at 24 frames per second. That works out to more than 7.5 miles (40,000 feet) of film used to project this movie! (Those with a techie bent can check out the glass-enclosed projection room of the theater while waiting in line or just as you stroll through our city’s impressive science center. Things have changed somewhat since 1892 when Léon Bouly patented the cinematograph, a device capable of both recording and projecting a continuous reel of film onto a surface.)

My son said he had no trouble with the size and apparent closeness of the images but my partner and I found that even with the extreme size of the screen and the film format, that high-action scenes appeared blurred and hard to follow as one had to move one’s head to follow the action, rather than just one’s eyes as in a normal cinematic theater. Sometimes, in order to see the entrance of the action from the left, right or top of the screen, one needs to turn one’s head or arch the neck to look directly up. After seeing this Batman film on this screen, I am eager to go see it on a “regular” movie screen to see what I may have missed.

I don’t mean to imply a flaw in the OMNIMAX technology because I’ve seen other IMAX-produced films on other giant screens in similar theatric seating configurations and it truly is breathtaking. In my opinion, this type of theater configuration is best-suited to panoramic cinematography where the camera movement is slow and movement on the screen allows for comfortable visual tracking of the action. For example, I heard that Rocky Mountain Express, a documentary about rail travel across the Canadian Rockies was awesome in its cinematic drama and overwhelming scenic appeal. This assessment was from someone who actually took the exact same rail trip a couple of years ago and felt it was one of the most awesome live experiences of his life, so this IS a theater experience to be considered, even at the slight premium for the tickets ($15 rather than about $12.50 for theaters with “normal-sized” screens).

The OMNIMAX at the St. Louis Science Center is currently playing the following films (contact the Science Center for actual dates and times):
OMNIMAX Theater Showtimes

The Dark Knight Rises

Rocky Mountain Express

To The Arctic

Space Junk

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