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The Dark Knight: Prologue (IMAX)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
14 December 2007

When the Batman franchise was jump-started back in 2005 with Batman Begins it was a low-key affair in large part to stave off comparisons to the obnoxious, over-the-top attitude of the last two Batman movies in the 1990s.

Aside from a Super Bowl commercial, things were pretty hush-hush for Christopher Nolan's retooled Batman. The Web site started with only the new, spiky Bat logo. Then, later on, when one clicked on the logo, there was a second page – with a picture of the Tumbler (aka the Batmobile).

Gradually, more pictures were added. Then, with the film's release, a full-blown, Flash-based site was launched.

Batman Begins opened in June 2005 to a resoundingly positive critical reaction (it was even called a "batastrophic success" here in The Mattopia Times) and, after a relatively so-so opening weekend, it kept chugging along through the summer, successfully bringing back fans jaded by Joel Schumacher's cinematic atrocities.

No Joking Around

The Dark Knight

Now comes the sequel. Entitled The Dark Knight, it's the first Batman movie without "Batman" in the title. And it's already anything but a low-key affair.

In a nod to the Begins strategy, The Dark Knight's site is a simple page with the Bat logo. Click on it and it"ll take you to a campaign poster for Harvey Dent.

Ah. But there are now a full dozen Dark Knight-themed Web sites out there, a virtual viral network of battiness (check out the list below).  Most of them are pretty simple, some obscure (particularly a tribute site to one of the Joker's young victims) but Why So Serious? is a frequently-changing site that has gone from a bizarre Joker-produced crime puzzle (that included a complete rap sheet about the Joker from the Gotham PD) to a Rent-A-Clown site, a Jack-O-Lantern that wastes away in time for Halloween, to its current form as another sinister Joker-produced site.

All that leads up to today's big event: six minutes of Dark Knight footage precede IMAX prints of Warner's I Am Legend. The footage was actually shot in the IMAX giant-screen format, a first for a major studio production, and the very filming of these scenes was reason enough for Warner Bros. to crank up the marketing blitz months ago and widely publicize the production of the IMAX footage.

Why So Serious?

This "prologue" segment revolves around the Joker's newly-formed gang conducting a bank robbery. Such a scenario doesn't exactly scream "IMAX," but it is a thrilling way to tease the next installment of Batman at the movies.

The gaggle of thieves all wear clown masks and chat about what they know of their ring leader. But it's a clown-eat-clown world and, as part of the Joker's nefarious plot, each clown has been given instructions to wipe out one of the other clowns after key heist milestones are achieved.

Toward the end of this prologue, the Joker himself arrives. Forget the flamboyant, over-the-top Joker as portrayed by Jack Nicholson. This time it's Heath Ledger under the makeup. And, based on his brief appearance here, he is going to be one heck of a nasty, nasty villain. Yeah, it's going to be a hot time in the cold town next summer, when The Dark Knight – in its entirety – hits the theaters.

Following the bank heist, which turns out to be fairly clever sequence of events carefully choreographed by the Joker, the prologue turns into a trailer, including quick glimpses of Batman back in action and Commissioner Gordon taking an axe to the Bat signal. Oh the double-crossing that must have led to that event.

Stay tuned, Gothamites…

Ha ha ha ha ha ha
Heath Ledger is The Joker
Photo: Warner Bros.

Heather Ledger Memorial (updated 25 January 2008)

Heath Ledger died on Tuesday, 22 Jan. Needless to say, it was a major shock and quite a blow to fans around the world. As a movie reviewer, I can't say I've loved all of his movies, but I can also say he was indeed a mighty, mighty talented actor who kept getting better and more surprising with each new role. His turn as the Joker, based simply on the IMAX Prologue, promises to continue that trend.

I decided to check some of the Bat sites today (25 Jan.) and I must say Warner Bros. deserves some kudos for respectfully updating a couple of the sites that were particularly Joker-centric.

In the past weeks, The Dark Knight had been updated, replacing the Harvey Dent campaign poster with a Joker poster and trailer download. Now that site offers a nice memorial, stating, "We mourn the loss of a remarkable talent gone too soon... and the passing of an extraordinary man who will be greatly missed."

Over at Why So Serious?, the site's been updated with a black ribbon.

It's going to take some time to put this turn of events in perspective, but I'm also sure Ledger would say, "The show must go on."

The Dark Knight's Web (updated 17 December 2007)

If you know of any other official Dark Knight sites not listed below, let me know.

The Dark Knight

A Taste for the Theatrical

Why So Serious? (already on its third iteration)

Rory's Death Kiss (a reference to The Dark Knight's working title while filming in Chicago)

I Believe in Harvey Dent

I Believe in Harvey Dent Too (don't be fooled by the error message; somebody's having a laugh at Harvey's expense)

The Gotham Times

The Ha Ha Ha Times

Gotham Police Department

Gotham City Rail

Gotham National Bank

We Are The Answer

Remembering Gina

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