Some minor spoilage to follow, you’ve been forewarned.

Fresh from seeing the first seven minutes of The Dark Knight Rises (and an accompanying thirty-second sizzle reel), I’m even more convinced that IMAX’s 70mm film format needs to be the future for big budget filmmaking. Crisp, immersive, vibrant; it’s everything that 3D promises and rarely delivers upon. That’s the positive.

I want to be clear in saying that seven minutes do not make a film. And while the totality of the images of onscreen made for a thrilling, albeit brief experience, I found myself walking out of this screening with one very major concern.

The prologue begins with a fleeting eulogy for the fallen Harvey Dent delivered by Commissioner Gordon before we’re whisked off to a far away land – our first introduction to the brutal genius of Bane. The sequence itself is a visual thrill, made all the more captivating thanks to the IMAX print. Bane’s all about the objective and seeing what lengths he’ll go to to achieve that objective is a clinic in badassery. He’s a cold, calculated beast of a man – practically unrecognizable from the steroid-tubed Bane of the comics.

He’s also completely and totally inaudible.

One could argue that, given the mask or perhaps even the loudness of the sequence itself, Bane is supposed to be hard to understand. My counterpoint is this: even if this is intentional (and given Nolan’s track-record of precision we have every reason to believe it is) it came off in this sequence like a gross miscalculation on the part of all involved. This isn’t a redux of Bale’s gravely Batman voice, this is beyond that – to the point where the true intentions of the sequence are lost in the confounding vocal performance of the actor center stage. Intentional or not, that’s a problem and it’s something I sincerely hope Nolan and Warner Bros. consider revisiting in post.

In its first seven minutes, The Dark Knight told the viewer everything you need to know about the Joker – an unstoppable constant of anarchy that was just as cheerful to put a bullet in his own guy’s head as he would be yours.  With Bane, such intentions are more muddled. A lot of that has to do with the global scale Nolan is staging this entry on – the majority of the prologue takes place far away from Gotham, setting up an elaborate threat that’ll have implications reaching well beyond Gotham City. To that effect, the prologue feels more akin to something out of a Bond film.

The brief sizzle reel after the prologue takes us back to Gotham, and we see the shit really hitting the fan. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman looks far better in motion than she does in those stills we’ve seen. I love the Julie Newmar-like approach that they’ve taken with the character’s look and I’m hoping we get a glimpse of how she fits in plot-wise in the upcoming trailer.  The final shot will harken back to that newly released teaser poster, and hints at just how much of a physical threat Bane presents to the Bat.

Overall I’m optimistic that Nolan pulls this one off. But I suspect there’s going to be some minor backlash in the coming weeks regarding the vocal stylings of Tom Hardy’s Bane.  Walking out of the theater, the majority of talk had nothing to do with the footage and everything to do with that goofy voice. Aside from the fact that you couldn’t understand him, this sounds like a character that would be every bit at ease in a monocle collecting $200 as he passes go.

Hopefully it’s not what Bane says, but what he does that defines him. Otherwise The Dark Knight Rises may have an uphill battle ahead of it – if not financially then certainly critically.