No change for Bane's voice in Dark Knight Rises
The current excitement is about the alleged changing of the audio mix in The Dark Knight Rises Prologue footage that is playing in most but not all IMAX cinemas before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Filmstalker review), something that doesn't surprise me if it were true and shouldn't surprise you, if you've read my write-up of the preview screening of the prologue footage.
As I said at the time it was almost impossible to hear Bane speaking, mostly I believe because we didn't have the benefit of seeing the actors lips move or any reflection of tone or intent in their face and with a heavily masked and altered voice you couldn't make out his words.
There's been a rumour that a new audio mix has been released for The Dark Knight Rises Prologue footage that is playing in IMAX cinemas before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Filmstalker review), reportedly because it's difficult to hear the voice of Bane.
I can attest that this part is absolutely true, the bit about understanding Bane. If you see the Prologue, and read my thoughts after seeing it, you'll know that it's how I felt coming out of the cinema. If I were to be truthful I probably caught 10-20% of what he was saying and considering he talks a fair bit during the sequence and I came away slightly disappointed in what I saw, I think it's hurting the screenings.
I didn't really get what was happening to the character in the plane, I could interpret directly what was happening through the visuals on the screen, but who they were or why I have no idea. Perhaps Bane explained what was happening, perhaps not, but I have no real idea what he was saying and even in the third row I had to really concentrate to try and catch the odd word in each sentence.
When I saw the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises I was concerned because the same distortion on his voice remains, and I'm starting to think that it'll be very hard to understand him through the entire film. It's something that many others have been picking up on too.
So when the rumour broke on Collider that an IMAX projectionist had been given a new audio mix for the Prologue I thought it only right and it was fixing something rather wrong with the footage, at least they had time to fix the audio mix on the film.
Apparently though that's not true, IMAX have sent out digital files but these are for some cinemas who would have been playing the footage on an analogue system and that this does not change the way Bane sounds or any of the audio track itself.
Add to that the fact that Christopher Nolan has said that he will not be altering the sound mix as he is quite happy with it, despite the comments coming out from the prologue screenings that most of the audience can't make out what Bane is saying and similar, but not as widespread, comments about Bane's words in the trailers.
In The Hollywood Reporter he said that:
"...it was OK for a moviegoer not to understand what was said at times, as long as the overall idea was conveyed."
Sure, I didn't understand most of what Bane said and probably didn't pick up an entire sentence, but I knew he was kidnapping someone from a plane and leaving a dead body aboard the crashing plane as well as someone else he'd brought along who seemed more than happy to die.
If that's really what you want the audience to take from the prologue then the audio is perfect.
Of course the problem there is that the audience may only gleam Bane's actions and intents through what we have just seen his character or people physically do on screen, imagine trying to build tension or suspense.
A studio executive proved that they've understood the intelligence of Christopher Nolan by 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."
Apparently he declined to be named, and quite rightly so. He doesn't dumb things down? Well making it so the main character is unintelligible is not making things more intelligent, unless it's deliberate ploy of the film that no one can understand Bane, his plans and his demands throughout the film with Batman and Gordon continually saying "What? Can you say that again Bane? Write it down maybe?"
Imagine you had watched The Dark Knight (Filmstalker review) and you couldn't understand 80-90% of what the Joker character had said and only inferred it through his actions on screen. Would the character have been half as effective? His interrogation by Batman or his speech in front of the gangsters would have been lost, and this is the problem Bane faces.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I couldn't make out what Bane was saying in the prologue, there were many others there too with the same problem, and the trailer is little better. We have to hope that the sound mix is improved, despite what they say, for the film release, otherwise Bane will be a dump muscle character doing things we just don't understand.