We waited with a herd of anxious Batman fans for the first public IMAX screening of the The Dark Knight Rises prologue that's running before Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol. It was seven minutes of action and intensity — with lots of good, and one big bad.
And yes, the supervillain Bane's voice really does sound weird. If you've already seen the footage, place your vote for what you think Bane's voice sounds like, in our poll! Spoilers ahead...
The whole thing starts with Gary Oldman's booming voiceover, giving a profound eulogy for Harvey Dent. The bespectacled Jim Gordon then appears on a stage, with pictures of Gotham's White Knight behind him (unmarred by the previous film's hideous burns) — and clearly Gordon is giving some sort of memorial or funeral for the slain DA. And with no pictures of his Two Face scars (not that there would be those at a meeting like this), it's clear that Gordon kept his promise from The Dark Knight that no one can know of Dent's fall from grace. The scene ends with Gordon stating, "I Believed in Harvey Dent." Note the past tense. So long Harvey!
Next scene. Cut to a field in a mountainous wilderness (filmed in the Highlands of Scotland), a group of white men in outdoorsy clothes drive towards a large plane. They're greeted by one pissed off Aidan Gillen (aka Littlefinger, Mayor Thomas 'Tommy' Carcetti) with a brilliant mane of black hair and a pissed off attitude (huzzah!). He looks at a slightly older man and states that he doesn't have any room for his friends, the camera pans pack to three hooded and bound figures. "They're not my friends," the salt and peppered haired man says nervously. It's Dr. Leonid Pavel from the recent viral marketing campaign! Clearly this is the CIA's Operation Early Bird that we heard so much about in the viral (where the US plans to "extract" Pavel from his Russian captors.) Gillen gives away the game by running around screaming that this is a CIA operation! After being told that the hooded men work with the masked man (whom I guess we're all supposed to assume is Batman, at first), Gillen mutters Baaaaaaaane, and allows the trio to board the plane (still bound and hooded).
Once in the air Gillen tries to play hardball, holding each hooded man outside an open plane door over the wilderness, firing off his gun, and screaming for them to tell him about Bane, "First one to talk gets to stay on the aircraft!" He's mad for Bane. Bane! Bane! Bane. But no one is talking. "A lot of loyalty for a hired gun," Gillen sneers (huzzah!). Then gruff yet fancy muffled voice comes out of the corner of the plane. I have no idea what it's saying. It's muffled and garbled — vote in our poll below for what you think it sounds like. And therein lies the problem. No one knows what the hell he's saying. It's all shwords from here on out.
Bane rises and says mwah wah wah wah wah, and someone pulls off his hood. Gillen looks at Bane's face mask and asks, "If I pull that off, would it be painful?" Bane says, "Yes." Gillen says, "But you're a big guy." Bane responds that it would be painful "for you." ZING. Gillen asks if Bane's plan was just to get caught, and Bane responds that the second part of his plan is to crash this aircraft.
Then, out of nowhere, an even bigger plane zooms in on top of the CIA jet. And oh shit, you just know this has all been a big Bane set up. I mean you don't really know — because you can't understand a word he says, but it's pretty obvious that Bane was in control from the beginning. Gillen realizes he's been set up, but there's really nothing he can do. People are already jumping out of the giant Bane plane and attaching lines onto the smaller CIA plane. Within minutes, the giant plane has flipped the whole CIA ship and ripped the wings off like a fly. All that remains is the passenger tube, which flails about clinging onto Bane's bigger plane by the previously mentioned wires. Bane wants the Doctor back, but first he needs to find out exactly what the CIA learned from the scientist. Apparently it wasn't too much, because next thing you know Bane is zip lining out of the plane (but not before injecting a crap load of the doctor's blood into a dead body they've hoisted onto the remnants of the CIA jet. Remember, all of this is taking place mid-air. It's an infinitely bad ass sequence.
Right before Bane zips off with the weary Doctor in his arms, he grabs one of his minions and stops him from exiting, saying something like "They expect one of us in the wreckage, brother." The minion doesn't even bat an eye. Happily accepting his death, he sits back down in the busted plane and asks his leader, "We started a fire?" Bane replies Mwah wah wah wah. And this makes him happy. Then boom, the lines are released and the bits of the left-over plane careen to the ground, while Bane takes off into his monster Bane plane. He tells the doctor that "Now is not the time to fear," and I lost the rest. As maddening as Bane's incomprehensible speech is, it really didn't take away from the insane action. But it will for the rest of the film, if it's not fixed — it most certainly will. I don't think anyone will be able to do 30 minutes of that muffled speech let alone 2 hours (if that's how long The Dark Knight Rises is).
Then there's some teaser footage! After the prologue, it's one fast montage with Bane in a shearling coat possibly in the snowy streets of Gotham, and then Anne Hathaway appearing both in full Selina Kyle/Catwoman costume with ears and a mask (thank goodness), and sans mask in a very orange jumpsuit. Has our cat burglar been busted? Then we see Joseph Gordon-Levitt is seen in a police uniform running away from something big. The crushed Batman mask is kicked away by someone — possibly Bane, it looked exactly like the recent poster. Batman and Bane fight in the snow (similar to the top image). There were a lot of things that we'd already seen leaked by outdoor shooting. But very little, none to be precise, of Morgan Freeman or Marion Cotillard. We suspect Marion is the big surprise payoff in the film, so that's understandable.
All in all, this was slick Christopher Nolan action, delivered on a hot plate of sexy espionage and daredevil trickery. But this movie will now live on die on one thing — will people be able to hear Bane? Don't get me wrong, I have no real problems with the tone of Bane's voice, I actually found the wild accent to be exceptionally theatrical, hopefully it won't get too silly or... well that would be bad. Then again, it would be nice to give Batman a break from having the most ridiculous voice in the Dark Knight franchise. Bottom line, I just couldn't hear him. Maybe it's an IMAX thing, who knows? But just to be sure, right before I ducked out of the theater, I asked the kindly stranger next to me, "Excuse me could you understand anything Bane said?" She shrugged and thought and said, "No, not really." And there you have it.
Cast your vote here: