Back in December, the marketing team for The Dark Knight Rises built up the hype about something called “Operation Early Bird”, which turned out to be a bunch of special sneak peek screenings of the highly buzz-worthy six-minute prologue for the film. The prologue was and still is playing in front of IMAX showings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but Operation Early Bird gave thousands of people, myself included, a chance to view director Chris Nolan’s work almost a week before the rest of the general public. I saw this back on December 13th, so this insight is coming to you all a bit late, but I can say for those of you that still haven’t had a chance to see it…
OH. MY. FREAKING. WORD.
If that six-minute snippet doesn’t get you hyped for July 20, I don’t know what will. In a filmmaking sense, it is enthralling in every way. The visuals are impressive and for a six-minute opening, the clip is pretty epic in scope. You get to see (and hear — more on that later) the primary villain Bane, and learn a bit about his story and the way he goes about things, in much the same way that the prologue for The Dark Knight introduced us all to Heath Ledger’s Joker. In all, it is a highly entertaining piece of footage, and it kept me thinking about where Nolan will go for days and weeks. Over a month later I’m still thinking about it. But there seems to be one problem, and it will be on everyone’s mind until July.
Bane’s voice. It is semi-muddled by his mask and the inflections that actor Tom Hardy has put into his dialogue. The sound editors seem to be aiming for some sort of wheezy/metallic-y combination, and that has trouble many people who have seen the prologue or the trailers. Let’s face it: we don’t want to spend almost 2 and a 1/2 hours in a movie theater, watch a bunch of impressive and entertaining special effects, and not understand what it was all about.
Wait. Didn’t I just describe half of the moviegoing experiences that we have nowadays? Oops! My bad. But back to the conversation at hand. Will Bane’s voice be a burden for the film? That depends, I suppose, on what the final product is.
There will likely be at least some further tweaking of the sound mix, which will help things a bit. And I have to think that part of the problem is in the IMAX setup. IMAX theaters contain loud (LOUD) speaker systems, with lots of bass and amplification that doesn’t exactly benefit an already muddled voice. Maybe they should turn down those speakers a tad. Jeez, I’m starting to sound like my mother.
That being said, I will add that I didn’t have all that much trouble interpreting what Bane was saying throughout the prologue. There is one line that flew by me (“They expect one of us in the wreckage, brother!”) at the time but I understand now, but the rest I got. And if you compare his voice in the prologue to how he sounds in the accompanying trailer that’s been out for over a month now, I think that validates my IMAX opinions further. Bane is very clear (both audibly and in meaning) in the trailer. So if the sound mix gets tweaked just a bit, I think we’re in business.
Christopher Nolan, however, has stated that he likes Bane’s voice in its current state; he wants viewers to have to pay attention to the movie to get a real understanding of what’s going on. At that statement, I want to applaud, because it means he is doing his best to draw audiences into the film to gain a deeper understanding. But, at the same time, it’s hard to stay tuned into to a 150-minute movie when you can’t understand the dialogue of one of the main characters.
Now, a bit about the experience itself: boy, was it a hassle to get tickets to this thing. So many people hit up the Operation Early Bird site that my browser was damn near crawling at a snail’s pace when loading screens. It took about an hour or two to actually get through the thing and get tickets. But, boy, was it worth it. It was awesome getting to the theater about 90 minutes early (yeah, I know: I’m a freak) and seeing 50 people already in line. To be surrounded by so many people who were also über excited to see these first six minutes of footage was really cool. And to top it all off, I get a sick-nasty T-shirt out of the deal. They hand out Batman “LEGEND” shirts and Bane “ENDS” shirt. Above is a picture of my “LEGENDS” shirt, and you can check out this link to see the “ENDS” shirt on some random dude on the Internet.
On the whole, Nolan’s six minute opening to The Dark Knight Rises was, in a word, epic. Epic visuals. Epic storytelling. Epic camera work. Epic stunt work. Epic everything. If the prologue doesn’t get you hyped for opening night, I really don’t know what will. I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who have yet to see it, but here’s what I can tell you:
The prologue is, essentially, our introduction to this villain, this terroristic baddie. Christopher Nolan has set up his story well, and from what we can glean from the accompanying trailer, chaos will ensue in Gotham once Bane rolls in to town.
Bane is big. He is fearless and hulking. He is exacting. He even has a sense of humor (“He’s probably wondering why someone would shoot a man before throwing him out a plane.”). But seriously, Bane is one scary mother-effer. And he will be a force to be reckoned with when we see him duel (to the death, perhaps?) with Batman on July 20, 2012.