THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Prologue Reaction - What's With Bane's Voice?

Reporters love the Inception-like grand scale of the footage but apparently the big news is that American reporters are struggling to understand what Tom Hardy is saying....

The Dark Knight Rises prologue has screened for selected U.S. press at the IMAX theater at Universal Citywalk in Hollywood and a bunch of websites have a description up of what we can expect to see from the first six minutes of footage from next summer's film. Remember the prologue is attached to IMAX prints of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol from Dec 16th in the U.S. and a week later in the UK. Most sites are reporting that Warner Bros have asked them not to go through the prologue moment by moment but instead talk about it generally. Though a few websites have basically ignored this request as WB probably assumed they would. In a nutshell: the prologue begins with Harvey Dent's funeral attended by Gordon, then fasts forward to an introduction of Bane on a plane where a heist takes place (not unlike the grand entrance for The Joker in the last movie) before hints at the huge threat that engulfs Gotham in this story. Most seem excited about what they have seen, many reporting that it feels more like Inception because of it's scale than a Batman movie but one common concern seems to be over Tom Hardy. A combination of his "British accent" (remember these are American reporters) and the muffling caused by his mask apparently makes it extremely difficult to understand what he is saying. Many journalists are reporting that they can only understand maybe 1 in every 3 dialogue lines he has in the prologue and that it could cause a significant problem for Nolan if that is representative of the whole film. Producer Charles Roven and a WB spokesperson have tried to contain the hysteria over it by saying the sound mix showcased is not final. Reports below... Superhero Hype have the most detailed reaction;
Even though the opening shot takes place immediately after The Dark Knight and features Commissioner Gordon speaking at Harvey Dent€™s funeral (and is shot in 35mm), the footage moves immediately to IMAX and the events that transpire during the hostage situation discussed in the viral documents. There, we€™re treated to a hostage transfer and the reveal of Bane aboard a private plane and an ensuing fight that takes every advantage of the IMAX frame. Think less The Dark Knight and more Inception or, even closer, an IMAX version of a James Bond film. Though the response from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive, there was much discussion about Bane€™s voice. Muffled by his mask and featuring a British accent, it€™s difficult to fully understand exactly what he is saying (but likely intentionally). At the conclusion of the footage, there€™s a rapid montage of shots, all in IMAX, that feature a lot to excite fans, the most intriguing of which is Bane carrying a shattered half of Batman€™s mask.
Here's the AICN reaction, again mentioning the difficulty of understanding Tom Hardy speaking as Bane;
Nolan introduced tonight's event, and he extolled the immersive virtues of the IMAX format before plunging us into footage - which starts in 35mm widescreen with Gordon eulogizing Harvey Dent. Then we're being whisked across a field. And a few minutes later, aboard a plane, we hear Bane speak for the first time in a horrible, strangled tone. Tom Hardy's Bane is a substantial, but strangely broken man. He's a bruiser, but not exactly massive. He also struggles with his elocution, which may be intentional, but nevertheless resulted in lots of puzzled post-screening discussions. Honestly, I caught probably half of Bane's dialogue, and every colleague I spoke with had similar difficulty understanding him. I hate to cause problems for Nolan at this stage of the filmmaking process, but if Bane sounds like this throughout the film, it could be an issue. The footage concludes with a montage of shots that gives us a pretty good sense of what Batman is up against (and how Gotham City might tear itself apart). This is going to be a huge movie. No one gets to make a film on this kind of scale anymore. Except for Christopher Nolan. He's brought a physical, David Lean-esque scale to the superhero genre. July can't get here soon enough.
The Hollywood Reporter;
The sequence was grand in scope, expanding the Batman world outside of Gotham City, and it was filled with a lot of tension and dread. The impact was strong, not only from the images on screen but from the score, which was reminiscent of Nolan's The Dark Knight and Inception. (In fact, the plane heist opening synchs thematically with the bank heist opening of The Dark Knight.) The crowd, made up mostly of the entertainment press and such executives as DC's Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns, left the screening definitely impressed. Some did point out one pickle, however: the sound. It may be early in the sound mixing process, but a lot of key dialogue, particularly that of Bane, who speaks via a mask, was unintelligible.
They also managed to catch up with Nolan at the post-screening reception and he responded about the problems of Hardy's voice;
When Heat Vision asked Nolan at the post-preview reception about the perceived problem, the director admitted that because of Hardy's accent and because viewers can't see his lips, there may be problems in hearing the dialogue (though he did say additional sound work would clear some of it up). And he admitted that sometimes in his movies a viewer may not grasp all the lines. But to him, the visuals are as important to the storytelling as any dialogue. "Otherwise, it's just a radio play," Nolan said.
And on speaking about why 70mm IMAX only;
Nolan introduced the movie praising the IMAX film format, saying it was launched the year before he was born but is "the best imaging format ever created." The reason for the preview, which will only appear on about 42 IMAX screens, is to give the movie and Batfans a sense of what the experience of Rises will be in this format. Since only a handful of giant IMAX screens exist, the preview will "give (moviegoers) time to find (them)," Nolan said. Nolan also said he wanted to bring back a sense of grandeur to movies, which he said was "being chipped away" by various forces. That grandeur was imprinted on him as a child and "I struggle to recapture that," he said.
/film also discuss the Bane problem but does praise Hans Zimmer's new score;
One of the big complaints among attendees was that it was hard to understand what Bane was saying. As you know, the character wears a mask, and his voice is synthesized and muffled in a way which is sometimes hard to hear over the score. Oh, and what a score it is €” Hans Zimmer may have outdone his own Joker theme. It starts off very simular, building tension, and takes a large bass-y Inception-style turn. I can€™t wait to hear more and see more. This was only 7-minutes! I can€™t wait to see the rest of the movie.
A few other reveals... Emma Thomas said her early estimate is that The Dark Knight Rises will have 4o-5o minutes worth of footage in IMAX. Astonishing... that's double The Dark Knight and double MI:4. No wonder he is making sure you see the prologue in that format. Chris Nolan has not yet worked on editing the rest of the movie, his sole focus since completing principal photography has been on finishing up the prologue. Confirmation, seemingly for the first time, than The Dark Knight Rises will be released next Friday, on the same day as the IMAX prologue hits U.S. theaters. This will mean the trailer will be attached to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Collider were under the impression it won't officially be released online on the same day, maybe a week later. So if you are in the U.S. - you've got a busy weekend in store for you next week. The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20th, 2012 and remember if you are in the U.S. you can see the prologue from next week, and in the UK on December 21st.

Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.