The Dark Knight Rises has already opened in the theater of your mind, where it was roundly hailed as a worthy addition to the Batman canon by some of your more know-it-all, physically sluggish synapses. But last night it screened in a few actual theaters—or at least, the first six minutes did, giving fans some of the talking points they’ll need to get through the next seven months or so before it actually opens. And judging by the early reviews of the prologue, chief among those talking points will be this: You can’t understand half of what Tom Hardy's Bane says. Apparently having a giant mask over your face, in addition to being both wheezy and British, is somewhat of an impediment to clear diction.
“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,” The Hollywood Reporter says of those opening scenes, which take place in and around a heist on a plane. That sentiment echoed all across the Internet in reports from Movieweb (“You can't understand anything he is saying”), Entertainment Weekly (“Prepare to scratch your head at much of Bane’s dialogue, which had most everyone in Thursday’s screening asking each other how much, if anything, they could understand”), FirstShowing’s Alex Billington (“It's distorted, dark, like through a vocal box. I actually couldn't hear what he was saying half the time”), The Daily Beast (“Many of those in attendance at the IMAX event commented that between the character’s labored breathing and quasi-English accent, he was impossible to understand”), Ain’t It Cool (“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,”) and /Film, who complains, “His voice is synthesized and muffled in a way which is sometimes hard to hear over the score,” suggesting composer Hans Zimmer may have abandoned his usual gossamer touch.
Of course, it’s possible that all this early feedback is just what Christopher Nolan needs as he polishes the post-production, with Hitfix suggesting that “the mix on the sequence we saw tonight could use some tweaking, because while I believe Nolan's goal is to make it hard to understand everything Bane says, it really felt like I only picked up about 10 percent of what he said.” SuperHeroHype’s Silas Lenick also believes that the frustration was partly on purpose, saying, “Muffled by his mask and featuring a British accent, it's difficult to fully understand exactly what [Bane] is saying (but likely intentionally).” Yes, giving over half the movie to angry banter between Christian Bale’s Batman with a head cold and Bane’s asthmatic Brit with a vocoder would be quite a rejoinder to the pressure of fan expectations. Anyway, let your worst fears consume you!