The stunning opening six minutes of the next Batman movie The Dark Knight were revealed in IMAX yesterday to a crowd of lucky London journalists.

Though the Batman Begins sequel is not released until July 2008, its explosive opening is to be screened before IMAX presentations of upcoming action flick I Am Legend, with audiences given a thrilling first look at Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker.

In one of five action sequences in the film shot in IMAX, the film opens with a dizzying tracking shot across Gotham before a slick bank robbery orchestrated by the initially-unseen villain kicks into action.

And after presenting yesterday's footage to the London audience, producer Charles Roven confirmed the versatility of the Brokeback Mountain actor was the key to his casting as the cartoonish killer.

"Heath has shown an incredible range," he said. "If you look at the films he's done, whether they've been totally successful or not successful, wholly realised or not realised, his work has always been great."

Roven explained that The Dark Knight will continue the brand of "hyper-reality" pursued by director Christopher Nolan in 2005's Batman Begins and will transport the Caped Crusader outside of Gotham for the first time on film.

But despite a vertigo-inducing shoot atop Hong Kong's IFC2 tower, the producer said star Christian Bale had no reservations about pulling on the Batsuit again.

"He was very, very enthusiastic to be involved. It's the first time he's ever repeated a role and after Batman Begins and The Prestige, it's the third time he's worked with Christopher [Nolan]. They've developed a really great creative shorthand."

The Dark Knight opens in the UK on July 25th 2008.

08/12/2007 12:20:51