The Dark Knight Rises Prologue Grapples With A Bane-Sized Problem
Starting with a preview for critics last Thursday in Los Angeles, and continuing with a similar screening in New York last night, Warner Bros. has been slowly revealing the prologue for The Dark Knight Rises, which will show in front of all IMAX screenings of Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol this Friday. As director Christopher Nolan himself said when introducing the prologue last night, they mostly want to show off the stunning technical effects of IMAX, and how much the giant screen can boost the thrills of what's happening onscreen. The content, as Nolan half-joked, was just an excuse to get the press into the iMAX screening-- but of course, walking out of it, what everyone wants to know is not whether the footage looks dazzling (it does), but what happens in it.
We've been told explicitly by Warner Bros., over and over again, that we can't really tell you what happens-- though with just a 7-minute prologue, there aren't a lot of plot details to share anyway. But after last night's presentation everyone was talking about Tom Hardy's Bane, and not just with praise for the brutality and efficiency the actor conveys in such a short scene. Wearing a mask that blocks most of his face and distorts his voice, Hardy has a lot of lines of exposition in the short prologue… and you can't understand a single one of them. Imagine trying to listen to someone with a heavy accent, speaking from the other side of the wall so their voice is muffled and you can't even read their lips for clues.
Rumor has it that Nolan plans to tinker with the sound so that Bane is easier to understand before the film's July 20 release next year, but so far as I know the IMAX audiences who see the prologue this weekend will be just as lost as I was-- and that might be a problem. Yes, it's a prologue for one of the most anticipated movie of the next year, and yes, there are plenty of visceral thrills in it to get you more than excited-- at this point I think there's a Pavlovian response of glee when hearing Hans Zimmer's pounding score and seeing a big swooping camera shot that sets up the action. But for all the imagination and breathtaking action in the prologue, you're guaranteed to spend part of it scratching your head and trying to figure out what Bane just said. If you fully understand what's happened at the end of that sequence, I'll be mighty impressed.
So yes, in one way this is just a result of showing part of a film six months early, and we can probably count on not needing a Bane translator next summer. But I also assume a lot of this is intentional on Nolan's part, and by muddying up Bane's voice he's setting him as a distinctly different villain than The Joker, a nemesis we also met in a December-bowing prologue back in 2007. The Joker was all about speeches and jokes and rambling stories about his childhood, and even in that virtuoso opening bank robbery scene, we saw his ability to play mind games and talk his way into anything. Bane is in many ways the opposite, brutish and hulking and much more likely to snap your neck than try to talk you into something. Bane is unlikely to rely on his words very much, and I imagine even in the final product we'll occasionally have a hard time understanding him-- but hopefully only when it's his physicality, not his voice, that really matters.
Hopefully you'll all see what I'm talking about when The Dark Knight Rises prologue comes to theaters this Friday, and after that maybe we can have a more detailed discussion. And if we all write down what we heard Bane say, maybe we can put our heads together and really figure out the story there
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