With record-breaking numbers of bookings already being taken for The Dark Knight’s forthcoming run at the BFI IMAX cinema in London and it’s sister screen at the National Media Museum in Bradford, my son and I felt pretty privileged to have secured a ticket for the preview screening last Thursday. With Heath Ledger having been nominated for a string of awards (some of which he has already won) for his performance as The Joker, the timing of the screening also seemed exceptionally poignant, falling as it did on the first anniversary of the 28-year-old actor’s death. Rather annoyingly the weather decided to add to the dark gothic atmosphere of the whole occasion by being absolutely miserable. So as we walked out of Waterloo’s freezing cold, rain-lashed concrete jungle into the IMAX’s foyer we felt we’d already got into the spirit of things, so to speak.
Now I should point out here that my teenage son and I were approaching the screening from slightly different perspectives. I hadn’t yet seen Chris Nolan’s much-lauded Batman sequel, so I’d put my film reviewer’s hat on and had weighty and important questions such as ‘Could Ledger’s Joker really be as chillingly good as everyone says?’ and ‘Would this film live up to the immense potential of Nolan’s Batman Begins?’ vying for space in my head. My son on the other hand confessed to me he had already seen the film five times (‘What…? No wonder you never have time to do your homework’) and just intended to chill out and absorb the whole IMAX Experience with added popcorn (although he didn’t of course say ‘chill out’ as that would be totally uncool).
As it happened, though, as soon as the lights dimmed and the huge IMAX screen (which is something ludicrous like eight double decker buses high) lit up with the first few shots of night-time Gotham cityscapes and Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader in full-on adrenaline-pumping Bat-mode our perspectives converged somewhat – or rather careered into each other head on at warp speed.
Much popcorn was consumed, my eyes popped out, all my weighty and important questions flew straight out of my head and I thought I might be suffering from vertigo for the first time in my life (be warned there are a heck of a lot of swooping Batman-eye views of Gotham’s skyscrapers). Luckily, the film had just enough talky non IMAX-shot scenes (mostly featuring Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine giving us some vital clues as to what the hell was going on) for me to remember to catch my breath and not end up with a permanent phobia. In other words, it was a total blast — and this from someone who doesn’t even like rollercoaster rides.
At the end of the night I only had two quibbles. The popcorn was far too salty (but isn’t it always) and it was still pissing with rain as we waited for the bus home on Waterloo Bridge. And frankly, by that time, I’d had enough dark windswept Gotham City atmosphere to last me till spring.
The Dark Knight is showing at the BFI IMAX in London and the National Media Museum in Bradford from 30 January .