The Dark Knight Rises wowed moviegoers this summer, concluding Director Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy with all the large-scale action they had come to expect from the franchise. Now, the Blu-ray has arrived, and while it gives a chance for fans to relive the comic book movie over and over, even more importantly, it pulls back the curtain on Nolan’s risky filmmaking style.
Nolan doesn’t make his movies like anyone else in Hollywood. He shoots large (much of the film was shot on IMAX and although a TV can’t mirror it, the picture is significantly crisper than any other blockbuster) and he shoots practically, striving for realism even in the most ridiculous of stunts. We checked out the special features to give you a taste of what the Rises Blu reveals. We walked away being even more impressed than we were before:
Nolan is all about reality, so to pull off a mindblowing stunt that would up the ante from The Dark Knight, the director and his crew traveled to Scotland for the opening’s spectacular plane sequence. “You search the world, where you can drop pieces of an airplane to the ground,” Assistant Director Nilo Otero says in the special features. “It’s not as easy as you think.” Typically action movies head to barren deserts to let loose massive pieces of explosion debris, but the Rises production obtained permission to drop the body of an action C-130 airplane down into the green lands of Scotland. Working with Stunt Coordinator Tom Struthers, the film also had actual stunt men dangling from in sky as they made their way down to the C-130. VFX were used to meld it together, but amazingly, the pieces are all real.
Bringing Batman to the Sky
For Dark Knight Rises Nolan wanted to add a new vehicle to Batman’s arsenal, but one that would still be able to fit in the world he created. Thus, the creation of The Bat, a plane modeled off the design of the Batmobile, that Nolan and his crew were able to pull off practically to a surprising degree. While computer graphics were necessary to create the illusion The Bat could zoom through the high rises of Gotham, stuntmen on the film built a variety of lifts that allowed the vehicle to move on its own. When The Bat is sailing through the streets, it’s actually sailing through the streets, held up by two cranes and a thick cable. For the final chase scene, The Bat was lifted by a truck (later painted out of the frame) that allowed it to shift back and forth in the sky. It couldn’t actually take flight on its own, but The Bat you see is no illusion.
Blasting into Wayne Enterprises
Here’s a big bit of multi-step movie magic: to pull off Bane’s break-in to Bruce Wayne’s Applied Sciences stash, effects artists had to piece together three separate elements. One was Bane’s Lair: a full scale set that reached 100 ft. tall. The one flaw of the set? It had no roof. So when it came time to blast open the top and drop a full sized Tumbler into the ground, effects had to be used (but don’t worry, Tumblers were definitely destroyed). They first dropped a Tumbler in the Bane Lair set. Then they filmed the same scene with a replicated, miniature version of the set — this time with a roof! Then, stunt performers were filmed in front of a green screen, later added to appear as if they were dangling from the miniature set. Hours and hours of painstaking computer wizardry later, and we have a heck of an explosion.
The Sharks vs. The Jets Times a Thousand
Along with wanting everything to be shot in camera, Nolan also attempts to take his cues from films of yesteryears. “Looking back to the silent era of motion pictures. Those guys knew how to create production value and scale from the human element. Crowds of people.”
Under that mantra, Nolan set out to assemble an impossibly large cast of extras for his final fight scene. Set in the streets of New York, over a thousand men and women were employed to fill the giant IMAX frames and duke it out behind Batman and Bane. And every person had to be choreographed to protect them from actually being injured during the fight. As Otero notes on the Blu-ray, a person can’t just show up to set and do a stunt. Many of the extras fall into the pavement in the initial rampage, with the other 999 extras following right behind them.
The most shocking bit of savvy editing in the sequence is a scene where Bane kicks Batman onto a set of stairs. The first half of the scene is filmed in NYC, where the extras are duking it out. But with a swift kick, Bane sends Batman flying to… Carnegie Melon University? That’s right: the steps are in a whole other location. Matching the lighting was reportedly a nightmare, but the transition is flawless.
The Trilogy’s Grand Finale
To send The Dark Knight trilogy out with a bang, Nolan converged two of the great action tropes into his final set piece: the ticking time bomb and the chase. The sequence has a ton of moving parts, from three Tumblers with modified guns, The Bat swooping in to pursue the reactor bomb, Catwoman constantly dodging debris on Batman’s two-wheeler, and of course, an enormous truck that smashes through concrete to a lower level of road. The last act was one of the toughest for the production, but through an intricate set of rails and coordinated stunt driving, the team sent a full-sized auto crashing through stone.
For a slew of behind-the-scenes details, check out The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray, which is available now.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
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