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The Dark Knight Rises: Will incomprehensible mumbling prove its Bane?


Bane's "Grrr. Argh." isn't quite the same as when Joss Whedon says it...

Tom Hardy as Bane in 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012)The Swedish Chef from The Muppets

The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most anticipated films of 2012, along with the likes of The Hobbit, Prometheus, and The Avengers. After The Dark Knight’s incredible (and deserved) critical and commercial success, writer-director Christopher Nolan is returning, along with his The Dark Knight co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, and much of the cast. Moreover, Christopher Nolan has brought in his Inception stars Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy to round out the cast.

There’s only one problem, though: In the footage shown so far (the trailers and the six-minute prologue preceding Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in certain IMAX cinemas), no-one can make out what Tom Hardy’s Bane is saying. And seeing as he’s meant to be the main villain of piece, that could be kind of a problem.

Audience reactions to the prologue of The Dark Knight Rises have generally been along the lines of ‘awesome but incomprehensible’: similar to what one would imagine seeing Hamlet performed in the original Klingon would be like. One person summed it up in amusing fashion: “The Dark Knight Rises prologue was really great, especially when Bane spoke the soon-to-be-classic line: ‘Mmrbl ffrmrff hmrbblffm’”.

A recent rumour that Christopher Nolan had changed the sound mix of the prologue so that the background noise was quieter when Bane was speaking (though without any other changes) turns out to be inaccurate. Warner Brothers says that no changes have been made.

The question is, does this matter? Nolan’s stance is that it doesn’t, because Bane’s meant to sound like that; what matters is that you get the gist of what’s going on, not necessarily every word. THR quotes one anonymous high-level executive as saying, “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.”

Christopher Nolan’s decision not to significantly rework the sound of Bane’s dialogue is probably neither out of cynicism (in terms of getting people who enjoyed the film but didn’t catch most of Bane’s dialogue, which would be most of them, to see it again—c.f. his stated desire to make Inception a film whose complexity demanded rewatching), nor out of disdain for the audience (on the contrary, it’s probably out of a respect for their ability to keep up, whether this is reasonable or not), but more likely a form of directorial stubbornness. He’s known to be a perfectionist director, and so perhaps this is just an example of him sticking to his guns and refusing to compromise his vision; doing what he thinks is best for the film, which is admirable.

It’s interesting to compare with Serenity. One of the film’s few flaws is that you can hardly hear what the characters are saying, which is a shame since it features excellent and witty dialogue. (Incidentally, Joss Whedon pitched a sequel to Batman Begins, which was reportedly very similar in tone to The Dark Knight, but with an original villain instead of the Joker.)

However, Sylvester Stallone’s emotional speech as John Rambo breaks down at the end of First Blood is similarly incomprehensible for the most part, but it essentially doesn’t matter, because the audience gets the gist, and the emotion shines through.

I can see this becoming an internet meme: e.g. BaneCat says, ‘I cn hs chzzbbrrggrr?’ (And the film also has the potential for lolcat versions of other characters: BatCat, CatCat, etc.)

Comparisions with the Swedish Chef from The Muppets also seem apt. (“Whn I hv fnshd prprng th side dsh, thn I wll allow you to be a pie…”) Please, awesome Muppet marketing people, make this parody trailer happen.

Will this affect Tom Hardy’s chances of an Oscar nomination? (And/or maybe the film’s chances in other categories, such as sound editing, sound mixing, screenplay, or maybe even best picture (if it results in viewers being confused)?) Aside from this issue, it’s a film that should have relatively strong chances, since a) It looks amazing, b) Christopher Nolan’s previous film, Inception, garnered 8 nominations, c) there was widespread outcry at The Dark Knight being largely snubbed, attributed mainly to snobbery/snobbishness against comic book movies and blockbusters; a reaction which is seen to have been key to the move to more than five best picture nominees, d) even despite the film’s relative lack of recognition in other categories, Heath Ledger still won a (posthumous) Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his stunning turn in The Dark Knight, and e) Tom Hardy has proven himself a great character actor, with roles in the likes of the underrated Star Trek: Nemesis, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Though in awards nominations so far, he’s been snubbed for his role in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. For instance, the recently announced BAFTA longlist included five acting nominations for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, including three for Best Supporting Actor (which he would have been eligible for), but not Tom Hardy. Everyone is really good in that film, but he’s the only one who’s entertaining to watch.

In any case, everyone’s bound to watch The Dark Knight Rises when it’s released on 20 July 2012 (including in IMAX, which much of the film is shot in), though if Nolan doesn't fix the sound mix, Bane’s mumbling may cause grumbling.

See also:

The Avengers will be post-converted to 3D (and why it could actually work)

The Dark Knight Rises trailer hits the web

The Dark Knight Rises: trailer analysis

The problem with superhero masks in Hollywood movies

Gritty, realistic…fantasy?

Top 20 movie and TV voices of all time

The Top 10 coolest comic-book villains in movies


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#1 Nonsense Chris 2012-01-08 01:13
This whole "incomprehensibl e mumbilng" bullshit really needs to stop before it does some damage. These massive blockbusters that actually make an attempt at being a proper film are few and far between - we really can't afford to ruin them.
#2 In Nolan; We Trust Anastasia 2012-01-08 21:01
I doubt Nolan will f**k up one of the biggest films of his career. I could understand Bane perfectly, and I'm English! Don't fret everyone, In Nolan; We Trust...
#3 What?! James 2012-01-08 23:10
I really don't see what everybody's problem with Bane's voice is, I recently saw the prologue in IMAX and I understood most of his dialogue. Stop fussing and get ready to enjoy what is shaping out to be an amazing movie!
#4 RE: The Dark Knight Rises: Will incomprehensibl e mumbling prove its Bane? Russian Gangstah 2012-01-10 15:11
Author, you stupid idiot. I am from Russia, and fully understand Bane's voice. Ammurica's butthurt about english actors voice make me laugh.

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