Saturday, December 17, 2011

The fire sputters! About that Dark Knight Rises IMAX prologue...

It should be noted that I wasn't a huge fan of the bank robbery prologue for The Dark Knight four years ago.  It was the traditional trailer that got be uber-excited.  I will concede that the bank robbery sequence worked better in the film than it did as a stand-alone preview (as gorgeous as it looked, the dialogue was a little wonky and it was 'just a bank robbery').  Having said that, the seven-minute sequence that allegedly opens The Dark Knight Rises is actually somewhat terrible.  Whether or not it was a rush job (as I've heard), the sequence fails in several seemingly basic ways that leaves a very poor first impression about the otherwise unseen film.

As you've no doubt heard, Tom Hardy is mostly impossible to understand as Bane, but what you probably haven't heard is that Hardy's accent and relatively loose delivery makes him sound quite a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin.  On a more general note, pretty much all of the dialogue is terrible, with on-to-nose exposition and implausible exchanges that feel like a bad kid's cartoon.  Aiden Gillen (best known for being awesome in Shanghai Knights) is the focus point of the piece, and he fares worst of all.  His CIA operative gets the worst dialogue and struggles to convincingly deliver it.  Moreover, the expository verbiage actually hints at what might be a pretty huge spoiler, all in the name of explaining things about Bane that really don't need to be explained at this stage in the marketing campaign  (Why does he wear a mask?  Who cares?).

But even if we forgive the acting and writing, the scene shockingly fails as an action sequence.  I won't reveal what actually happens, but I will say that it merely operates as a pumped-up variation (in structure and content) on the Dark Knight prologue, as if someone ordered Nolan to 'do what you did four years ago... but do it BIGGER!'.  But while that film's opening was somewhat pedestrian in content (it's a bank robbery... that's nice), it was at least shot and edited for maximum coherence and clarity.  This more ambitious sequence is so tightly and confusingly edited that it's genuinely difficult to follow.  Combine incoherent action editing, aggressively obtuse cutting around the violence (has nobody told Nolan that you CAN have onscreen violence and still get a PG-13?) plus expository exposition from Bane that we can't understand, and the scene is a jumble of random images that don't make a lot of sense and barely tell a story.  The edit is so jumbled that Gillen seemingly gets no 'last scene'.  Nolan has had issues with choppy editing on both previous Batman films, but this is the first time I literally couldn't follow the sequence or place what was happening to whom.

Obviously this is just one sequence, and I care far more about how the Bruce Wayne/Jim Gordon material plays than how the picture handles its villain. But this is the first time I'm genuinely concerned that the film might not work.  Every director stumbles eventually, and it could very well be the case that Nolan should have let The Dark Knight's finale operate not as a cliffhanger but as a new status quo.  The prologue, as it stands, is such a failure on a seemingly basic level that I have to wonder why Nolan thought it was fit for release (or maybe he didn't care, knowing that fans would overlook the flaws).  We'll know more when we see the regular trailer (for what it's worth, I did enjoy the climactic 'sizzle reel'), as said 2-minute trailer will probably debut online around on Monday morning.  Yes, I've watched a bootleg trailer, but I won't post or comment until I see a genuine online version.  Please share your thoughts below.  Have you seen the IMAX prologue or the regular trailer (preferably in a theater)?  What did you think of them?

Scott Mendelson            


Mohamed Al Saadoon said...

I just recently watched the IMAX Prologue and I rather liked it. It was a very exciting action scene and I had no problem following the action but I do agree that Bane's mask obscures his speech so much that I could barely understand him. All I could remember him saying is when he asked why shoot people you're going to throw off a plane and "It will be very painful....for you" As for Aiden Gillen....he just looked completely out of place there. He was supposed to be a high ranking CIA agent but aside from the scientist or whoever he was picking up, he looked like the least threatening person there.

Bl said...

SPOILERS: I just can't understand your view that the action is incoherent. I thought it was very coherent and exciting.

Has it occurred to you that that maybe everyone in the scene is hard to hear because, oh I don't know, they opened an airplane emergency hatch and air is wooshing around all over the place? I saw this last night on IMAX and I understood Bane for the most part, and I'm pretty confident I'd catch all of what he said on a second viewing. Oh, and I actually liked his accent.

You're complaining that the "marketing" people are revealing information about Bane too early? Really? That's your complaint? No. Seriously.

corysims said...

If you compare it to the Dark Knight prologue, it is a bit of "been there, done that" quality to it. But, I can't agree with the notion that Hardy's voice was incoherent or the action didn't have clarity to it. Out of all of the dialogue by Hardy, I didn't catch one line. The rest was pretty much clear to this viewer once I got a beat on his accent.

It is a chaotic scene, no doubt, but the action seemed reasonably clear. I give Nolan credit for the attempt. It's an ambitious sequence.

I do think that it establishes pretty well the type of character Bane is and what we're going to expect. The sizzle reel was a nice capper.

As for the trailer (which I viewed in front of Sherlock Holmes) Scott, you're in for a real treat. All kidding aside, it's better than the trailers for Begins and Knight combined. It's dark, eerie, and somber. The National Anthem has forever been altered with how Nolan and company use it in the trailer. The social relevance you were hoping for with this film is spelled out clearly in this trailer. It's rather shocking considering the development of the script took place as early as late '08.

There's a beautiful, sad moment with Michael Caine that took me by surprise. An interesting plot point about Jim Gordon is reveal within the trailer that's a nice touch. Hardy menaces in the shadows in the trailer. Bale seems a bit broken and contemplative through out. I had doubts about Hathaway's version of Selina. Not anymore.

There's a ridiculous money shot that's not quite finished but it's insane in it's imagery.

All of this is built on a great track by Zimmer that builds and builds.

I can sort of see how "some" might be underwhelmed by the prologue. Not with the trailer.

Geha714 said...

The prologue looks rushed out; too much editing. Maybe it will be fixed for the final film. I didn't understood half of what Bane says. That's a major problem but it can be fixed on post-production. The sequence is pretty ambitious though. The idea was better than the execution. Aidan Gillen was totally miscast. He acted the same way he did on "12 rounds" with John Cena, but a little subdued.

However, the trailer delivered the goods. Two great money shots (the first one sold me to the film already) and the whole feel than this will be epic in tone and scope. The catwoman element was an element of doubt, but it starting to fit in. The music theme is stock in my head so it's really working.

The Dark Knight Rises is in a very difficult position, given the massive success of its predecessor, but I'm really optimistic. I believe in Christopher Nolan.

Last but not least, I think this movie should have called "The Caped Crusader", given the whole narrative of the film. I know that the word "cruzade" because of historical and political reasons can create problems at the time of promoting the film (The appaling views and recent terrible comments by Frank Miller, even if he isn't involved in this film at all, doesn't help). The dark Knight Rises sounds good, but The caped crusader sounds even better.

Michael said...

Scott, as you can see in "Bl"'s comment above, you've opened up a big can of worms by disparaging this film so strongly. So driven are Nolan's fans to want to like it that they'll work overtime to justify any and all apparent flaws in the material. It was borderline when they did it with The Dark Knight, but with this film (which has appeared increasingly on the nose with each media release and was doomed from the start by an awful title)
it's just sad. Nolan could remake Batman and Robin and the fans would go to extremes to justify it.

Usemeplz said...

I'm waiting it. 2 movies (2005,2008) about Batman I consider to be the most thrilling in its genre. I hope that final part will be as good as previous ones.

Cyraen said...

I was heartily disappointed in the preview. I agree that the action was shoddy and the opening, though exciting, didn't make me feel invested as a viewer.

And I can't get past the big back-breaking elephant in the room: I could not understand wtf Bane was saying.

As a viewer, I was totally alienated and, ultimately, fearful that Nolan, for the first time ever, is going to fisappoint me with this film.

gamera87 said...

What is "on-to-nose exposition"


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