The Dark Knight. We’ve all seen it. It’s probably on TNT while I wrote this, and will probably be on while you read this too. Chances are, most of the people that you know or have met, along with most of the people that those folks know or have met, have seen it. The Dark Knight is an exceptionally rare film in that it did so many things well that is almost isn’t fair. The story seamlessly combined comic book canon and original ideas to create a Batman experience that provided warm, gooey nostalgia cookies for any fan who grew up wishing they could be Robin (minus the whole parents-falling-to-their-untimely-deaths thing, I’m sure), while at the same time presenting us with something that we had never actually seen before. In basic terms, Christopher Nolan and Co. effectively incepted our love of the Dark Knight universe by presenting us with a story that we had never seen before, but somehow had always been there.
It wasn’t just the story, though—everything about the movie was truly special. However, there is one critical aspect to the success of the film that is oft neglected: the marketing. It wasn’t the sleek, edgy posters that adorned theaters, nor the toys that lined the shelves or borderline ridiculous Dark Knight “urban wear” youth clothing line, but rather the attitude of Warner Bros. toward the marketing of the film that would help it become arguably one of the most anticipated movies of all time.
You see, the marketing for The Dark Knight began before a single location for the film was scouted or a single line of dialogue was spoken, or even written. Hell, The Dark Knight’s marketing campaign began before Batman Begins had even begun (see what I did there?) shooting. The forthcoming second film in the series, The Dark Knight, is actually implied in the title of the first film of the series, Batman Begins. We all knew that a sequel was coming from the day that the press release for Batman Begins was released. Obviously, the use of the word “begins” implies both an origin and starting point; we were all but assured that the film would not be a self-contained Batman film, but rather the first of a series.
Okay, maybe that’s not the best starting point for the marketing campaign for The Dark Knight. Although, you certainly cannot deny that the ending of Batman Begins all but set in stone the existence of a forthcoming sequel. The area I’m most interested in pointing out is the viral marketing campaign—the sexy, amazing, glorious viral marketing campaign—for The Dark Knight. It was elaborate, it was interactive, it was well-planned, and it happened early. Without going through the entire timeline of the campaign (which, if you did not get to experience, you can read about here), it was primarily used to let people know one thing: The Dark Knight was on its way. The viral marketing for The Dark Knight, at the end of the day, was for the fans.
So here were are in April, and so-far, we have a teaser and a trailer for the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, which hits theaters in July, and I find myself asking: where’s the Bat? True, the Entertainment Weekly cover and profile was a nice touch, and it was nice to read Hardy’s take on the difference between Joker and Bane as villains. But at the end of the day, we are still without a second full trailer—the general public has still not heard the setup for this final chapter. Surely I’m not the only one who would be perfectly content with some shots of random action and stereotypical “don’t do it, Batman—he’s bigger than you!” type dialogue.
To be fair, unless you live under a rock, you know that another Batman movie is on the way, so I can understand Warner Brothers not wanting to spend money on a Super Bowl spot… But at the same time, shouldn’t they want to spend money on a Super Bowl spot? Why let The Avengers have a night to bask in the glory of Super Bowl spot supremacy? If you know how incredible the movie is going to be—and they do—and how much money the movie stands to make—and boy do they—then why not throw the fans a bone?
What it really comes down to is that I’m getting impatient. It’s not even May yet and July feels impossibly far away. Though the third and final trailer is rumored to be attached to Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, it feels like torture. But who knows? Maybe this is what Warner Bros. is going for? Maybe the best viral marketing for The Dark Knight Rises was no official viral marketing at all. Message board activity is busy as ever, rumors are running rampant (seriously—Batman dies at the end!), and every hardcore Batman fan is just about ready to commit themselves to Arkham or cryogenically freeze themselves until the movie arrives.
Maybe the WB, instead of being the slutty ex-girlfriend at a party looking a desperate mess while trying to get her ex’s attention, has opted to be the elusive ex that falls of the face of the earth and is nowhere to be found except your lonely memories, leaving you with little more than a sad desire to see them.
I miss you, Bats. We should grab a coffee sometime.