Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises prologue

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So I’ve just walked back in the door from a kinda advanced screening for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and the good news is the movie rocks (check out Dave’s review here). But, for me, the even bigger selling point for catching the early session for Ghost Protocol was to check out The Dark Knight Rises prologue attached to the front of it. Make the jump to read the rest.

Pity the prologue wasn't this badass

For those who want the short version, I was very underwhelmed and rather disappointed. Considering the strength of the prologue for The Dark Knight, I was hoping for more. I say ‘hoping’ because I wasn’t expecting it to be on par with the awesome ‘meet The Joker’ prologue from Nolan’s last Batman film. For those who want the long version, read on.

First things first, something was wrong with the sound. For those who’ve read the nondescript round-ups of the various critics who’ve already seen the prologue, you’d know that they had a hard time understanding exactly what the hell Bane is saying. We had the same problem at my screening packed with the general public, but it seemed like the sound was playing in mono and missing certain dialogue channels so it felt as though I was straining to hear what anyone said, let alone the man I came to hear: Bane.

Here’s the setup, and please forgive the fact that I’ve undoubtedly mixed up the chronology of some of these lines. The prologue starts with a mini eulogy from Commissioner Gordon about the life of Harvey Dent, ending with the line, “I believed in Harvey Dent.” From here it cuts away to fullscreen IMAX glory for the rest of the sequence. A jeep burns rubber towards what looks like a makeshift airfield in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, and a discussion takes place between some government types and a middle-aged passenger as to the fate of three other captives whose heads are covered. You don’t need to be terribly switched on to guess that one of these dudes is Bane.

When they get to the airfield, fans of Game of Thrones should recognise Aidan Gillen standing impatiently as the man in charge of some super secret CIA operation. He balks at taking on board the hooded captives along with the middle-aged man of import, but when someone mentions that they have information relating to a certain mercenary called Bane, he quickly changes his tune. They take to the skies and Gillen starts threatening the hooded captives by sticking their heads out of the cargo plane and generally threatening their lives. It seems he has a rather keen interest in Bane that makes him embrace the Patriot Act.

The first two captives say nothing, before the ripped third captive starts muttering some dialogue. His hood is taken off to reveal… The Joker. Kidding, it’s Bane. His head is shaved, he’s wearing some sort of Darth Vader-type half mask that covers his mouth completely and he has some sort of heavy accent. Kudos to Nolan for sticking with the foreign origins of Bane, but considering how he’s essentially done his own spin on every other villain in the Batman universe, he could have instructed Hardy to opt for a more audience-friendly accent. The sound problems coupled with the accent and the inability to see Bane’s lips move meant that most of his dialogue went by the wayside. In truth, I think I picked up more than what most audience members did–going by the post-film discussions I overheard–but I still missed what felt like important chunks. Good thing Nolan has a lot of time to clean this up.

Anyway, back on topic, Gillen tries to intimidate Bane by threatening to take his mask off, to which Bane responds, “That would be very painful… for you.” Gillen seems oblivious to the fact that a larger plane has appeared above the cargo plane, despite its shadow and the fact that his men have clued onto this. The second plane opens a rear cargo door and little commando types start rappelling down to the plane. Back inside the main plane, Gillen continues to taunt Bane, asking him if it was his plan all along to be captured. Bane responds with a cool yes and points out that his plan was to take the plane out of the sky. The commando types start bouncing along the sides of the plane, taking accurate bursts of machine gun fire at the guards inside, which Bane takes as his excuse to break his bonds and start laying the smack down.

Those sneaky commando bastards have attached a bunch of wires to the side of the plane, and the second plane maneouvers in such a way that the main plane loses control, shedding its tale rudder/ailerons before rolling into a vertical angle and shedding its wings. This bit looks totally badass and feels almost like a rejected idea from Inception in terms of its epic scale, more so than something from a Batman film.

Back inside the main plane, everyone’s getting thrown around. The commando types on the outside blow the rear section of the plane off to gain entry to the dangling vessel and a body bag is lowered in. Bane states that he has to find out how much the middle-aged passenger told the authorities about him and who he works for. The middle-aged passenger insists that it is nothing, but Bane doesn’t seem to be the trusting type. The body bag is unzipped, and my brain may have been looking to add too much significance to the body, but I swear it looked like Josh Pence. Anyone who’s read spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises or is aware of the cast list will understand the potential significance of that character’s potential appearance in the prologue. A transfusion tube appears and the commando dudes collect some blood from the complaining middle-aged passenger.

One of the commandos attempts to grab one of the free lines still connected to the second plane and Bane stops him, assumedly saying some line about how the guy should sacrifice himself for the cause. The commando agrees and lets the cable go. Bane grabs the middle-aged passenger and grabs a line. Then comes the final line of the prologue that I actually half understood… in case that didn’t give it away, it was from Bane. “Now isn’t the time to be afraid… that comes later.” The wires holding the main plane disconnect, leaving Bane and the middle-aged passenger dangling behind the second plane as it flies off into the distance (I didn’t notice whether they had the body bag guy with them so, depending on that, it may help to conclude whether it was/wasn’t Josh Pence).

A short collection of random shots followed the prologue that I’m not going to discuss here. For the record, they were very cool and rather epic.

There’s no denying that the action and the epic scope of what Nolan was aiming for with the prologue ticked all the right boxes. But there was enough negative stuff in the prologue to make it seem vastly inferior to its equivalent from The Dark Knight, to say the least. I’ve already mentioned the Bane problems a few times and this has to be rectified. If you can’t understand the man, the only way he’s going to be threatening is in his actions and appearance. Considering how well Ledger nailed the dialogue and delivery of The Joker’s lines, I’d almost prefer a voiceless Bane to the one that I just heard (potentially misheard). The other main problem with Bane is that we can’t see his lips move. While Darth Vader and V adequately conquered this somewhat visual oddity, Spider-Man and Green Goblin did not. Granted, the very skilled Tom Hardy still has his eyes to emote with, I still found the lack of a viewable mouth disconcerting and further problematic to the difficulties in understanding him.

The other main problem I had with the prologue was that it wasn’t self-contained in the way that the one from The Dark Knight was. The Dark Knight prologue introduced the audience to a dark and twisted character in a humorous way (the running gag with the back-shooting clowns), without raising epic questions that would require explanation later on in the plot. For The Dark Knight Rises, though, we’re introduced to the bad reputation of Bane, which is fine, but the inclusion of the middle-aged passenger and, more specifically, the guy in the body bag with the whole blood collecting thing means that it didn’t have that sense of finality that prologues and epilogues tend to have.

I’m still psyched to see The Dark Knight Rises in 2012–especially given the final shot of the teaser at the end of the prologue–but considering how closely we’re all watching to see how worthy a follow-up bad guy Bane is to The Joker, this was not the best of ways to meet him. At least Mission: Impossible didn’t disappoint.

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