The Avengers are coming this Friday, and being the lone supporter for Marvel at the Maus I am extremely excited. But as of last night that excitement has been put on hold, thanks to a brilliant viral marketing campaign, resulting in the latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan has made it loud and clear the whole time, let me make MY movie and trust that the results will be spectacular. Everything that has been shown has been better and better, and this last trailer has just cemented the fact that the caped crusader will undoubtably own this summer. A few years ago, I wrote a piece on the marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, that of course never saw the light of day. So now with this new film an the help of the Maus I want to take a look at the progression of marketing materials released for The Dark Knight Rises. It's an extremely intelligent and well executed campaign, just as meticulously thought out as Nolan's films. I'll spend the majority discussing the questions the final trailer raises(rises?)
First off we have the mysterious thefirerises.com with its ominous chanting(which now know means "the fire rises") that ultimately led to the reveal of this picture of Bane. Essentially giving us nothing but an overwhelming desire to know what they were chanting and a glimpse at his vision for Bane. The picture led to some ridiculous controversy online, with fanboys complaining the look of Bane was wrong, and that Hardy didn't bulk up enough. Ridiculous, all of it. The picture made one statement, thy Bane is a physical force, he is brute strength personified. We see this thread continued throughout the marketing campaign.
Then we have this poster. Incredibly ominous and the perfect tease for the scope of the film. I remember seeing this and being blown away, but couldn't help thinking is Gotham really going to fall? At the time I thought this was much more of a metaphor, but now we all know the calculated destruction that is about to hit Gotham. The poster ended up being an accurate foreshadow of the tragedy to come.
Right on the heels of the poster came the first trailer. Giving us little more than clips of the past two movies, we see Gordon much worse for the wear on a hospital bed talking about the need for Batman. The last few frames in which Bane walks in from the side to a retreating Bats showed us a small taste of Bane in action.
So at this point we have a mysterious website with chanting, a few glimpses of Bane, hints that all I lost for Gotham, and even the downfall of pillar of heroism Gordon. All of which carry the same theme, that this is the end. Whether just the literal end of the series, or the end of our hero we are not sure yet. But a sense of finality is carried through each piece of marketing. I love the way they treat Bane, because at this point all we really know is that he is a force of nature. We still don't know anything about his character(that comes next) We know he is intimidating but we aren't sure if he's the calculating behemoth from Knightfall or the mindless brute from some of the late 90s issues. As frustrating as it is, I love that Nolan peels back layers. None of his trailers ever give away too much, in fact at this point we have no real image of Selina Kyle, and here he builds anticipation the same way he builds tension. It's an incredibly well thought out campaign and refreshing that none of his trailers are really built off money shots or one liners. They are deliberate and build towards a wondrous crescendo that leaves you breathless. And then he blows your mind again.
After the teaser, we are treated to a trio of bat goodness. We got a new poster, a prologue, and a full length trailer. The poster gave us more gloom and doom as it had the strong image of Bane walking away with the Cowl, broken, in his hand. Continue that sense of finality, the poster has been one of my favorite images so far. It seems to really capture just how high the stakes are in this film. Hawk wrote a great piece on the prologue here, so I won't go into that or the issues with his voice. The trailer really began to give us an idea of what kid of movie we would be seeing. Not only did the trailer bring us our first glimpse of Selina Kyle and a sense of the character, it also showed us an aging Bruce Wayne. It was only after this trailer was released that we learn the film takes place ten years after the events of The Dark Knight. So we see Nolan continuing to peel back more and more layers. We even get a short glimpse of Levitt, as well as learning what the chants mean. For those of you that saw the prologue you know just how destructive Bane can be, this is further enhanced in the trailer as we see the now ubiquitous shot of a football player outrunning a collapsing playing field. At this point no sign of Josh Pence as a young Ra's Al Ghul. This is such masterful planning, whereas something like the Avengers plays at giving you fanboy moments to get you excited(works for me) this is so much more calculated. There is a feeling and an emotion being created, and Nolan just hammers it home that this is the end. It's an incredibly delicate balancing act, making an almost narrative structure out of his promotional materials while still giving us enough to get us excited.
Now we come to a few days ago and what pops up but an incredibly awesome viral marketing campaign. thedarkknightrises.com has a full dossier on the vigilante known as Batman. It provides various locations in which you can find evidence regarding an underground movement today supports Batman. All over the world people took pictures of simple bat signals and sent them in, frame by frame revealing the newest trailer. The Bat franchise is no stranger to viral marketing campaigns, having full sites dedicated to to voting for Harvey Dent, or The Joker taking over The Golden Apple in Los Angeles. This one was incredibly interactive, giving everyone their chance at being a detective. Then the trailer was revealed, and Nolan's vision became crystal clear. He was ending this story by taking us as far as possible. The stakes were high, no one is safe. He isn't trying to outdo his own film, he's made something different, something epic and grandiose in scale. And by doing so he has seemingly done the unthinkable, it appears he has made a better film than The Dark Knight. Now we won't know for sure until July, but this trailer, like everyone before it reveals just a little more and has me salivating with anticipation.
So before we finish I want to talk about a few questions the last trailer raises. Again, rather than answer questions about the movie, this trailer raises questions to get you thinking about the narrative you all will be seeing soon.
Supposedly Levitt is in charge of Gordon's task force to catch Bats. Doesn't this trailer give you the sense that he's on Bat's side? Does he share a similar relationship with the detective as Gordon? People at first were speculating that Levitt was going to be a Dick Grayson figure, I still say this is highly doubtful, but this last trailer which prominently features Levitt makes me curious to his role in Nolan's world.
So Selina is the antihero from the comics? It seems as if at least at some point Selina partners up with Batman. She seems to have some history with Bane as the line "you should be just as afraid of him as I am" seems to suggest. This has always been my favorite character trait for Selina and I hope Nolan the type of complex character she can be.
Where's Josh Pence? And what role does Ra's play in this film? We know he's in it...is it simply a flashback? Does Bane work for the League?
The Batwing is badass.
Bane is going to blow everyone away. You know how Hardy dealt with following in Ledger's shadow? By not worrying about it. He has created a scary brute force of a villain in Bane, hopefully he carries the presence we see in the trailers is there the whole time.
Is Marion Talia? I love Talia, and Marion is perfect casting, I say this is still possible but not a sure thing.
Gotham really is going to crumble, that first poster seems eerily accurate after all.
I can't wait to come back and talk to you all about these questions and more when I see you in July. I love movies, and Nolan is crafting intelligent challenging films disguised as blockbusters.
One last thought - damn I hope Cillian is in this for a brief cameo, or more.