- 04 January 2012
- By Gerard Wood
If you've seen the six minute prologue to Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, you will almost certainly have an opinion about the quality of the audio track, or more precisely the clarity of the new villain’s voice. Bane is played by Tom Hardy, a fine actor with a formidable presence, but for this villainous role he is required to speak through a mask that covers much of his face, seemingly muffling his voice.
The action in the prologue is certainly spectacular but like many I found Bane’s voice utterly incomprehensible. The reaction from some quarters was bemusement and from others outright ridicule; while some claimed to have had no problem understanding Bane's voice, others argued that it didn't matter anyway, so long as the essence of what is going on is understandable.
Various sites “reported” that Warner Bros.' execs were extremely worried by the audience and fan reaction and approached Nolan, whose autonomy as a filmmaker is well-known and well-deserved, but that the director had refused to make any major changes to the audio mix. The explanation from one anonymous exec for Nolan's intransigence is that "Chris wants the audience to catch up and participate rather than push everything at them. He doesn't dumb things down. You've got to pedal faster to keep up." Frankly I’d want to remain nameless too if I spouted such nonsense. It’s one thing to challenge an audience’s intellect as Nolan has done with movies like Inception and The Prestige, it’s another to deny them the opportunity to understand what’s being said by providing muffled dialogue.
There’s been some debate about what the issue is with the audio track to the six minute prologue, whether it's Hardy's voice muffled by the mask or the ambient sound of the aircraft. While there is a lot of noise in the scene (it takes place in an aircraft that is ripped apart), consensus does seem to be that the other actors are nonetheless intelligible.
On Monday Collider ran a story revealing that Nolan had done a back flip and reworked the audio, not altering Bane’s voice as such but toning down the ambient sound. The story was based on an unreliable source it seems and Warner Bros. has since denied that any changes have been made to the audio. Even so, Collider’s story did lead to many interesting comments on various sites which ran with it. Some who commented argue that it's not important whether we understand all that Bane says, so long as the essence of the scene is clear (some all-knowing commenters even argue that this is in fact what Nolan intends); others, myself included, accept that there are instances in which incomprehensible dialogue is appropriate for a scene, but that in most cases, dialogue that is not comprehensible is pointless.
So what do you think? Have you seen the prologue? Could you understand what Bane said? If not, do you care, or were you content grasping the essence of the scene?
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