Dark Knight Rises: Action
The gripping action of “The Dark Knight Rises” is ignited in mid-flight, with the skyjacking of a CIA plane carrying a man named Dr. Pavel, who is obviously someone of value to the U.S. government, as well as others with less savory intentions.
This is where we first meet Bane, who proves what an ingenious and utterly ruthless villain he is. Just as Bane is revealed, a huge C-130 Hercules transport plane approaches from above, and four terrorists, suspended on cables, rappel out of the cargo bay. Landing on the wings of the CIA’s turboprop and shooting out the windows, they then tether the plane to the Hercules, rendering the smaller aircraft powerless.
Given Nolan’s preference for doing as much in-camera as possible, most of the prologue was actually shot in mid-air over Inverness, Scotland. From start to finish, it was a coordinated, multi-departmental feat of timing and precision.
Planning of the high-altitude prologue began months in advance, primarily to ensure everyone’s safety. Executive producer Kevin De La Noy attests, “A lot of what we do either pushes the envelope or punches right through it, but we’re always very careful because safety margins are put there for all the right reasons.”
Prior to filming in live action, the visual effects team, led by supervisor Paul Franklin, created an animatic—a low-resolution computer animation of the scene—so the different departments could analyze what would or would not work. Franklin says, “Through our initial pre-visualization, we could figure out what was going to be stunts, what was going to be special effects, and what would require visual effects. It really helped all the departments to understand what their part would be in the finished sequence.”
Tom Struthers went to great measures to eliminate risks to the aerialists who would be dropping from the C-130 onto the turboprop. The stunt coordinator recounts, “To my knowledge, it’s never been done—where four people flew out of the back of an aircraft on separate lines and land on another plane. So we did a great deal of testing with dummies and different kinds of rigs before we ever put an actual person up. We had emergency procedures in place to allow
them to cut away and parachute to the ground, which thankfully were never necessary. The guys who did it were fantastic.”
There were also preparations being done on the ground, where the fuselage of the CIA plane would eventually fall to earth. Everything was cleared from the area to ensure that there was no threat to people or wildlife. The weather also cooperated, giving the filmmakers clear skies.
When everything was in place, Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister caught all the action from a helicopter that had to match air speeds with the two planes. The best testament to the efficiency and expertise of those involved was that the entire sequence, which was originally scheduled to take up to nine days, was accomplished in two. “It was a ride for us, and I think it will be for the audience as well,” Nolan says.
The struggle unfolding inside the turboprop plane was filmed at Cardington, a converted airship hangar north of London. Corbould’s team constructed the fuselage of the plane on a gimbal, which was able to tip the aircraft from horizontal to vertical and rapidly roll it from side to side, severely testing the equilibrium of the cast and crew.
“I don’t know why on Chris’s sets we always end up tumbling around or turning upside down,” Pfister says, only half-joking. “Logistically, it makes for quite a challenge when you’re shooting it, but it also makes for a great bit on film.”
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