Here we are with another debate about an audience's ability to comprehend dialogue in a genre movie. This time, though, it's not a British sci-fi film with thick accents and unfamiliar slang that people think should be subtitled for dumb Americans. It's The Dark Knight Rises, a Brit-filled comic book movie with weird voices and a predominantly undecipherable villain. Makes me wish every film was as silent as The Artist or as poetic as The Tree of Life, and I don't even really like those films. At least with them nobody complains about not getting all the dialogue right away.
I get that a superhero action flick tends to have more important plot-driving lines than an art film, but if we want our Batman movies to be made by clever and visionary filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan, shouldn't we have a better acceptance for when they're not easy, mindless entertainments? I like that Bane (Tom Hardy) is so far a great puzzle with his mix of Darth Vader and "Joshua" from WarGames (or Mr. Belvedere, a half-speed Buffalo Bill and a NYC subway announcer, according to Vulture's listed ingredients). But as reported earlier, viewers are too confused and Warner Bros. is now worried, yet Nolan doesn't want to compromise his idea for the character and our experience of him.
Why is this such an issue after only six minutes has been seen from a feature film? I hate the idea of test audiences, but shouldn't the studio wait for later crowds to judge the film in full? Or, maybe some people need to wait for the Blu-ray and watch with captioning? I am mostly on the side of Nolan because I regularly have attention issues when it comes to audio and I miss bits of dialogue in every film here and there. So I'm used to what I experienced with the DKR prologue. If it really turns out that Nolan is truly just trying to get us all to go see the film ove and over to piece it together, as a financial ploy, I'll change sides.
What are people saying about the need to fix Bane's voice in The Dark Knight Rises? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:
In a poll at IGN, presently 55% of readers would prefer to hear Bane than "pedal faster" and catch up.
I dare you to say something like that to your grandma when she adjusts her hearing aid and asks you to repeat yourself. "I'm not dumbing things down for you, nana! Get on your stupid high-wheel bike! But wear a helmet, because I love you. And don't pedal so fast, because of your hip, you know." - Hubert Vigilla, Flixist
We completely understand Nolan's desire to make the audience work a little, but not being able to understand the film's main villain will certainly pull an audience out of his world, diminishing the film's overall impact. Sure, not being able to understand the villain or his actions (on multiple levels) is part of Nolan's master plan here, but don't you feel like it'll hurt the film more than help it if we can only make out every fourth line of dialogue? - Erik Davis, Movies.com
While this doesn't happen often, I actually disagree with Christopher Nolan on this point. It would be one thing if Warner Bros. was trying to get the filmmaker to change Bane's dialogue because he uses too many five-syllable words, but this is a simple matter of understanding what a major character in the movie is talking about. While I was entranced by the scope and action in the prologue, the inability to understand what Tom Hardy was saying was distracting and did take away from the experience. - Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend
As much as I'm on the "In Nolan We Trust" train, I think he's wrong here. He can't know what makes something uncomfortable for people. Like he might not think we have to hear every word, but even if he believes that, there are plenty of us who will be driven crazy if we have to keep straining our ears to try and understand what Bane's saying, even if it's not "important" that we do so. - Paul Tassi, JoBlo.com
Yeah, this isn’t Inception. If some guy with a rag stuffed in his mouth tried to start talking to you, you wouldn’t think, “This man is brilliant. I must keep up with his muffled, incomprehensible speech otherwise he’ll think I’m stupid.” And if the point is to just to convey the overall idea, then why even have Bane speak at all? It’s going to be funny and strange if he can speak to characters who understand him while the audience is scratching their heads and hoping for some closed-captioning. - Matt Goldberg, Collider
Hey, Christopher Nolan, we can SEE that he’s wearing a creepy mask, OK? The effect of him wearing a creepy mask won’t be ruined by being able to understand his dialog. - Gabe Delahaye, Videogum
Trying to discern what Bane is saying in the film would not make me feel I am participating, it would simply make me wonder why all the other characters interacting with Bane do not keep saying “What did you just say?” This would lead to me being pulled out of the film every time Bane mumbles something. - Live for Films
So the audience has to work even harder and try to figure out what Bane said throughout the entire movie? We are suppose to understand what motivates the villains, so if we can’t, why have Bane speak at all? I like Chris Nolan, but This is going to be one of those rare cases where the characters in the movie understand each other, but audiences are asking themselves “did he just say what I think he said?” - Mike Lee, Fused Film
In a way, having the villain difficult to understand gives audiences a different kind of feeling, almost like they're a character stuck in the middle of this chaos. Not knowing what Bane is saying or doing could easily keep people on the edge of their seat. [...] Perhaps the problem even lies with the audio at theaters and this mishap is merely exposing how poorly supervised the technical specs of any given movie theater have become. Personally, I've heard from some seeing the prologue several times that Bane was barely understandable in one theater, but then crystal clear on a repeat viewing. That sounds like a much bigger problem to me. - Ethan Anderton, First Showing
I think the main issue with Bane in the prologue is all the background noise. The scene takes place on a loud airplane and Hans Zimmer’s epic score is pounding in the background. I think if the background noise was toned down a bit and Bane’s volume was raised, this would be a none issue. - Chris, Batman-News.com
The complaints about Bane’s dialogue are pervasive, but whether the film will have the same issue throughout is impossible to gauge at this point. I can say that Christopher Nolan has had a pretty good handle on the series so far, so there’s reason to trust that he knows what he’s doing with this one, too. - Russ Fischer, /Film
There's one other question that is raised by this: how much does the filmmaker owe the audience? Should we expect to be able to understand everything that's being said in a film? Looking at Nolan's previous work the question extends to 'Should we be able to make out every action in a fight scene?' I think a guy like Nolan, who is coming off two huge hits, should be able to make his own version of a blockbuster - but should that blockbuster still be at least semi-approachable by the audience? - Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
What exactly would “rework it completely” even entail? Re-recording it and dubbing it back in like a kung fu flick? Boost the mid-range, drop out some background noise, and call it a day. Some of the stuff was hard to understand, but so be it. That just means fanboys will have to see it four or five times instead of two or three and end up liking it more. Trying to understand what he’s saying is half the fun. Why do you think I’ve listened to “Informer” so many times? I just assume Bane is going to make me boom boom down. And I like that. - Vince Mancini, Film Drunk
@EricDSnider: Twitter on ATTACK THE BLOCK: "Too bad if you can't understand them!" Twitter on DARK KNIGHT RISES: "We can't understand Bane! Fix it!"
@NonAnamorphic: I want to make the people whining about Bane sit and watch THE GUARD, then see if their opinion changes.
@DamonLindelof: All this talk about what Bane's saying fails to recognize that Bruce/Batman speaks not a word. #TheDarkKnightGetsLectured
@Phil_on_Film: I think he should hire another actor to re-dub it. My picks: (1) Werner Herzog, (2) Woody Allen, (3) Derek Jacobi.
@CraigSternberg: Someone should record Bane singing Slayer's "Dittohead" and see if Warner Bros is still concerned.
@cmBatten: To the people complaining about Bane's voice in TDKR - get over it, he's not Michael Clarke Duncan. I don't mind it, he's a jacked genius
@jasonwhyte: There are two types of people in this world: those who can understand Bane, and those who can't. Those who CAN are better than you.
@A_Cote: props to Nolan. Fan's aren't the one the studio trusted with millions of dollars and the responsibility to direct
@shaun_brown: Utter fanboy nonsense. I've watched prologue, trailers - nothing wrong with it. Kudos Nolan.
@danbullock: Love, love the quote from Christopher Nolan about Bane's voice "You've got to pedal faster to keep up." Respect.
@Carpie2112: If the prologue is as bad as it gets (the scene is very loud) then Bane's voice is just fine. I'm more worried about the football field...
@FUZZBUG12: Seriously, WB, you're worried? You know it's gonna make money!...
@drewturney: Even if Nolan changes Bane's voice, nobody is going to admit they got it wrong.
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.