SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers concerning the forthcoming motion picture "The Dark Knight." If you don't want to know how this movie begins, do not read this article.
Gotham Times press pass in hand, CBR News paced cautiously by the more than 500 devoted Joker fans lined up near Los Angeles' The Bridge Cinema De Lux Thursday night to see just a few minutes of "The Dark Knight," the passionately anticipated sequel to 2005's hit re-launch of the Batman film franchise, "Batman Begins." Each fan came prepared with a phony Gotham Unified School District I.D., which was their passkey into the screening, supplied to them by The Joker himself via his website whysoserious.com.
Ryan Parrott had earlier in the week followed the Joker's clues to a local bakery, where he hoped to pick up one of the now infamous Joker cakes. Although he arrived too late, he did get there in time to see the L.A. cake being handed to another fan. Determined not to be late again, Parrot and his friend Brett Simmons were the first two in line for the Joker-sponsored event on Thursday, having arrived at an astonishingly early time of 11:00 AM.
"It was pretty much just like any other day, just at a different location," Simmons told CBR News, explaining that he cleverly spent the time completing schoolwork he would have otherwise been doing at a coffee shop. Very Batman.
The Bridge's IMAX cinema was quickly filled to its capacity of 327, and several painted Joker faces could be seen up and down the rows. Batman and Joker T-shirts were plentiful, and some fans even passed the pre-screening time reading comic books by the light of their mobile phones.
Finally, the lights dimmed and large Warner Bros. Studios, Legendary Pictures and DC Comics logos appeared on screen, each one passing through a dark blue, liquid-like bat emblem on the giant IMAX screen.
SPOILER WARNING IN FULL EFFECT!
The film opens with a staggeringly enormous shot of the Gotham skyline at midday. In this one piece of photography, the IMAX format proved its worth. The viewer feels as though he's about to fall out of the sky.
We focus on a wholly innocuous building, specifically on a plain glass window -- that explodes! Two Joker-masked criminals proceed to fire a harpoon and zip-line out the window and onto a roof across the street.
Nearby, other Jokers gather and discuss their imminent heist and how many ways the take will be split. One of them says he's heard "the guy who planned this" is "crazy" and "wears makeup." Another henchman is aghast that the Joker isn't participating in the heist. He says, "The guy's crazy if he thinks he's getting a cut."
The street-level Jokers enter an enormous and ornate bank lobby and begin firing their guns into the air, telling everybody to put their hands up and heads down, and strapping live grenades into the hostages' hands!
Meanwhile, on the roof, one of the two zip-lining Jokers works on disabling the bank's alarms. "There it goes," he says -- at which point the other Joker shoots him in the back of the head!
Down in the bank, the unnoticed manager -- played by William Fichtner -- loads a shotgun he keeps in his office and begins firing at the masked robbers! "Do you know who you're staling from!?" he yells while firing, missing each time. His remarks indicate the bank is mob-controlled, and he says whoever hired the masked goons is in serious trouble -- before being shot down by one of the Jokers.
Later, in the vault room, the surviving Joker from the roof works with the more-secure-than-expected vault door while another Joker looks on. "Where's that alarm guy?" asks the lookout.
"I killed him!" laughs the safe-cracking Joker. He then announces he's got through the door -- at which point he's shot in the back of the head by the Joker behind him!
This Joker walks into the vault and fills several large bags with stacks and stacks of cash before meeting the remaining Joker in the lobby and pointing a gun at him, too. "I figure The Joker told you to kill me as soon as we loaded the cash," he says, having detected a pattern in the plan.
"No, no, no. I'm killing the bus driver," the last Joker answers, moving cautiously to the side.
Cue a big yellow school bus crashing violently through the bank's wall and running over the gun-toting Joker!
"School's out! Time to go!" laughs the surviving Joker, before a similarly masked bus driver emerges and helps him load the heavy money bags into the bus -- at which point the driver is shot, too, leaving just one Joker-masked bank robber and one cut, split one way.
The not-quite-dead mobbed-up banker stirs and admonishes the remaining Joker, saying that criminals in Gotham used to work under a code; that there was respect. "What do you believe in!?" he screams.
The masked criminal turns and removes his mask, revealing on the several-stories high IMAX screen a pasty white face, darkened eyes, red lips and an enormous, grotesque scar across his face.
It's The Joker.
"I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger," smiles The Joker, before stuffing the banker's mouth with a grenade attached to a line, which itself is attached to the back of the school bus.
The Joker drives out of the bank, pulling the line out of the grenade in the banker's mouth, causing it to... release smoke. The banker whimpers just before we see The Joker join an endless sea of yellow school busses in the streets as the police pass ignorantly by on their way to the scene of the crime.
What followed was a brief montage of shots from "The Dark Knight," including a number of crashes, explosions, and numerous glimpses at the Batmobile and Batpod in action. The crowd cheered in response to a shot of The Joker -- looking fiercely insane, like something out of a comic book -- spraying tommy-gun fire into the Gotham night.
The montage climaxed with an eruption of applause as the IMAX screen displayed a 62' tall Batman standing on the edge of a rooftop, his hand on his head, before cutting to a very emotional James Gordon swinging an axe into the Bat-signal, shattering it completely.
After nearly eight hours of waiting to see eight minutes of footage, Simmons and Parrot remarked, "That was very cool."
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