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Unmuffle That Villain for the Good of the Movie, Please

Watching the new Dark Knight Rises trailer, I found myself drawn in right up until Bane spoke, and I realized that too much realism – in this case, the fact that wearing a mask over your mouth will make you potentially difficult to understand – can be a bad thing after all. Especially in a movie about a guy who dresses up like a giant rodent to fight crime. So why do it?

True, if there’s one thing that Christopher Nolan’s Batfilms are known for, it’s a stylized “realism” that foregoes so much of the traditional superhero scale and character work for something closer to the world that we live in, which not only draws viewers in by seeming more familiar, but also allowing the fantastic elements to appear bigger and bolder in comparison. Batman Begins set a particularly realistic tone, despite having an immortal villain (Immortality, weirdly enough, feels more grounded and real world than, say, a guy who dresses in a green bodysuit covered in question marks or someone who makes “waugh waugh” noises like a bird), with things getting a little more out there in The Dark Knight, what with more outlandish-looking villains on display.

And now we have The Dark Knight Rises, which looks – from the trailers released so far – to mix pieces of the DNA from both of Nolan’s previous Batmovies: The spectacle and scale of The Dark Knight (That amazing scene in the trailer where the football field collapses as the player runs!) with the more achievable, less visually-stunning villains of Batman Begins. Both Bane and Catwoman require relatively little suspension of disbelief (Pretty much as much as Batman himself requires, if not less), and considering the lack of Catwoman play we’ve seen so far compared with mentions of Selina Kyle, it’s clear that Nolan is planning to play that aspect up as he hurtles towards the end of his run with the franchise. Hence, therefore, a Bane who sounds as if he’s talking through a mask.

Thing is, we’ve become so used to unreality in our entertainment, to Spider-Man talking through his facemask without sounding muffled at all and everything similar, that this realism sounds… well, unreal. Or, at least, “wrong” enough to pull us out of what we’re watching and become too aware of the experience of watching it. Bane’s voice breaks the agreement between movie and viewer, intentionally or otherwise, and ruins the experience. It’s not that we can’t understand what he’s saying – It’s not necessarily easy, sure, but you can make it out if you try – but by having to try, the movie reminds you of your effort, your participation, and you’re suddenly no longer as able to just watch and enjoy everything as easily as you did before.

I can see why Nolan made the decision he did, in respect to Bane’s voice. But with all the outcry surrounding his choice, and with the negative effect it seems to be having on viewers, maybe he should think twice about how much realism a Batman movie really needs. After all, as someone once asked, why so serious?


  • dr. necessiter


  • Scarletspeed7

    Graeme gonna gripe.

  • Serpico71

    I seriously doubt Bane will be a gregarious villain, as Joker or Riddler.  Point taken though, as The Green Goblin was the most ridiculous, closed mask villain.  The real shame is that HaRDy is such a powerful actor, and covering his face takes away from that, – but with a 6 minute action prologue, and a 2 minute trailer, it’s just too early to say Hardy stays in mask throughout the entire 3 hour epic.

  • Mythos

    “Batman Begins set a particularly realistic tone, despite having an immortal villain

    Ra’s al Ghul wasn’t immortal (at least, until The Dark Knight Rises proves otherwise). As Bruce himself stated, Ra’s simply used deception to imply that he was an immortal figure. “Henri Ducard” was the real leader of the League of Shadows, but he fooled Bruce with a decoy.
    And Joker, well, he was just a thug with clown make-up. Some of his tactics and schemes were a bit too unrealistic (then again, so were Ra’s in the first movie), but the character himself had nothing sci-fi or supernatural. As Sal Maroni put it, it’s a guy in a cheap suit and make-up.

    Truth be told, I didn’t have much difficulty understanding Bane except in the bootlegs (yes, I admit it, I went to YouTube; in my defense, I don’t live in the US and the trailer wasn’t attached to the movie, nor was the prologue). Still, even with the crappy sound quality, I managed to understand him, especially in the trailer. But then again, maybe because I had to learn English as a second language I’m better used to deciphering accents.

  • RunnerX13

    I heard this internet gripe before the trailer was released, then watched it and thought is was fine, so no surprise that Spin Off feels the exact opposite way.

  • Todd Matthy

    He never said what we’ve seen is the final mix.

  • Josh Grant

    I honestly didn’t think it was difficult to understand Bane during the trailer. 

  • Marc Man

    You do realize that trailers are portions of the unfinished product and that Bane’s voice will be looped in the final version?  A writer reporting on these things should know that.

  • Rjay7351

    Seriously, quit bitching about the stupidest things.  My god that trailer was awesome and you wanna cry about a guy sounding funny with a mask one.  Dont watch Graeme.  You’re not worthy.

  • Tabularasa

    First off, Nolan’s batman films have never been realistic. They’ve been grounded and have avoided being cheesy or diving into the supernatural. But there’s nothing realistic about a billionare who dresses as a bat and hunts down criminals at night.

    Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with Bane’s voice. I heard everything he said in the trailer and in the prologue. People are making a big deal outta nothing. 

  • Alfredo Wilson

    I heard that the prologue was not the final mix. Also in the trailer I could understand Bane just fine.

  • pDUB

    actually, its no surprise that Graeme feels the exact opposite way.

  • notpDUB

    writer? reporting? not especially skills that characterize Graeme

  • Rockin1970

    You definitely are the most pessimistic columnist I’ve ever seen. For the love of God please, get a life.

  • Omegasaga

    No idea what Bane was saying in the trailer. none.
    watched it 3 times back to back.
    The scenery was epic.. but Bane himself is kind of UNMEMORABLE and kinda corny looking.
    Reminds me of the mutant leader of THE ROAD WARRIOR… and thats NOT a cool thing.

    DARK KNIGHT RISES  will be the matrix Revolutions of the series.
    an hr plus climactic city wide battle… blah blah yawn.

    Doesnt feel like batman at all.

  • Rjay7351

    Wow.  Some people just can’t be pleased I guess.  This movie will be epic.

  • Onatob

    yeah i understood it perfectly. also there was one line of dialogue in the trailer. stop being a bitch

  • Charles

    Oh yeah and Patrick Stewart in the dubbed version of Nausicaa sounds like a walrus with indigestion to me poor, rarely used ears.  Is he talking through a wax paper + comb harmonica, or from another dimension of time itself?  How are we, AS VIEWERS, suppposed to interpret these obvious discrepancies? There’s realism, and then there is the Swedish Chef on steroids, barking out syllable after syllable of incomprehensible portugeuse.  It’s almost metacritical when they now give us a Bane who sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and doesn’t has test tubes sticking out of his shoulders.

    I totally feels you agony, bro.

  • Thezoostation

    Most people who are part of the “outcry” are people watching crappy bootleg versions online with bad laptop speakers. I have no problems understanding almost everything Bane says, even in a bootleg recording. I am pretty sure that in a theatre, it’ll be much easier. Also, as said above, Ra’s al Ghul was not immortal in Batman Begins. 

  • Anonymous

    I think the outcry was more with the prologue, not the trailer.  Bunch of us saw it in IMAX (not bootlegs) and it is definitely hard to understand where other dialogue is clear.  It’s a struggle to keep up, which takes you out of the action. 

    It’s not just muffled, it’s kinda mechanical sounding.  I love the sound/inflection, just need to raise the volume a bit.

  • DavePress

    Oh my God, the idea of having to listen. The effort. My God! How horrible. Bitchy article is bitchy.

  • Stefer

    Is this a blog for Graeme to bitch because it isn’t reporting and it sure as hell isn’t interesting!

  • Sam Robards, Comic Fan

    It wasn’t terribly HARD to understand what he was saying, but it also wasn’t EASY.

    Unless you’re purposely trying to confuse/mislead the audience with audio tricks, there’s no good reason why you should have to strain AT ALL to understand what a character’s saying. And since I doubt Nolan wants the entirety of Bane’s dialogue to be purposely misconstrued, it just seems idiotic to not clean it up a little bit.

    On the trailer itself, I thought it was ok, but it didn’t change my opinion that Anne Hathaway was miscast or that Bane, outside of Secret Six, completely sucks.

    Here’s to hoping they can prove me wrong in July!

  • Jacob

    I had no problem understanding him at all.

  • game

    CLAY FACE >>>>>> BANE

    they saying this the last batman movie. CLAY FACE BETTER BE IN THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!

  • Jacob

    This isn’t the last Batman movie. >.> It’s NOLAN’s last Batman movie. They already announced a reboot after this.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? We’re getting ANOTHER reboot? Where did it say that?

  • Jacob

    A while back. Around the time that they were talking about Justice League and Nolan leaving the Batman movies. They said they were relaunching so that something like Superman and Green Lantern wouldn’t be out of place beside Batman.