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Nolan: ‘Dark Knight Rises’ finds the future in IMAX, not 3-D

All of Hollywood is reaching for 3-D glasses but Christopher Nolan sees a different vision of innovation.

“The title of the new film is ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ and we will be shooting and exhibiting the film in 2-D,” Nolan said of the third Batman film, which is planned for a 2012 release and will now be held up as a victory for the assorted foes of the stereoscopic trend for “event” films. Nolan hasn’t been shy about expressing his disdain for 3-D but he also has zero interest in taking on the mantle of some anti-3-D crusade. It’s too hard to predict the future landscape of studio feature filmmaking and Nolan doesn’t want to paint himself into a corner; more than that, by nature he is uninterested in polarizing controversy or grandstanding. Instead, the man who has become the Hitchcock of superhero cinema would rather take each film one at a time and make the best choice for it as far as format.

And for “The Dark Knight Rises,” that choice is not 3-D.

“We want the look and feel of the film to be faithful to what has come before in the first two films,” Nolan said. “There was a large canvas and operatic sweep to ‘The Dark Knight’ and we want to make a film that will carry on with that look and feel.”

Stereoscopic presentation would have significantly changed the feel of certain “Dark Knight” scenes, such as rooftop and aerial shots in Hong Kong that created vast and startling night vistas. “There’s an intimacy at times [with spatial illusion of the 3-D effect] and we didn’t want to lose scale…. Our ambition for the third movie is to complete a story that has begun,” Nolan said. “This is not starting over, this is not rebooting. We’re finishing something, and keeping a consistency with what’s come before has real value.”

The commitment to IMAX and high-definition cameras will enable Nolan to avoid the dim-image challenges that come with 3-D. He said it will let him take the third film in the series into a new stratum as far as image quality and the scale that can be achieved with that quality. “We’re looking to do something technologically that’s never been done before,” Nolan said. “Our ambitions are to make a great movie.”

Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)

It won’t be mandatory to see the film in IMAX; however, to “see the benefits of the extraordinarily sharp, high-resolution” images.

It’s interesting to watch the way 3-D is being handled by the different studios. With the announcement of two new “Avatar” films by the end of 2015, Fox and James Cameron will be pushing forward into the 3-D frontiers in a big way, and Disney is on board certainly after the strong showing by Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.” But Warner Bros. has a far different experience now unfolding. The studio took major heat for the blurred and bungled 3-D conversion of “Clash of the Titans” (although the film was certainly a major financial success with $493 million in worldwide box office) and then Nolan successfully resisted overtures that “Inception” should be converted in a similar last-minute process. Warners also planned to release “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” in the stereoscopic  format next month but despite the advertisements and trailers already bearing the 3-D logo, the filmmakers and studio chief Alan Horn agreed that there wasn’t enough time to do the job right.

There’s plenty of time to do the conversion for “The Dark Knight Rises,” which doesn’t even begin filming until April, but Nolan said he was “able to make the case that pushing forward cinematically” isn’t defined by 3-D and that for the grim and massive visions of Gotham City, the best way to go was to use IMAX cameras and high-definition approaches that will be able to widen out even more. It’s a philosophical approach: Cameron is making a movie that makes people lean back, Nolan wants to make movies that make people lean forward.

“It’s horses for courses,” Nolan said, using the British expression for taking things case-by-case. It will be interesting to see if Nolan’s Superman film — which he and his wife, Emma Thomas, are producing and that Zack Snyder is directing — will be in 3-D, and I think there’s a very good chance that it will be, considering the very different visual imperatives of a movie based in gleaming Metropolis and featuring a character that is just begging to fly off the screen.

— Geoff Boucher

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