Could Viral Marketing Poison The Dark Knight Rises?
May 27, 2011 By Barry Steele
The Dark Knight Rises, one of the most highly anticipated movies (at this point) of all time is released next year. Director Christopher Nolan is, by his very nature, a very secretive filmmaker. He likes to reveal as little as possible about his projects, which leaves his fans desperate for the barest snippets of information.
So when the first piece of major viral marketing for the movie was released, the Internet went into meltdown. In keeping with the marketing we have seen previously in Nolan’s Batman series, it was a bit of a game. A website was set-up with the name of The Fire Rises and featured a black page with chanting in the background.
Now, I have no idea how long the team behind this idea were expecting it to take for someone to solve, but it was mere minutes. Some bright spark ran the chanting through a visualiser, which revealed a hashtag, #thefirerises. This lead to a Twitter account called @thefirerises, and a process by which you could use the hashtag to reveal the first image from the forthcoming The Dark Knight Rises. We were treated to our first look at Bane, as played by Tom Hardy, and it was a pretty significant look, showing much of his facial apparatus and costume.
Clever stuff, and no doubt only the first salvo in a viral marketing war to be raged upon the internet community. My problem with these events is the timing. The Dark Knight is released in July 2012 – a full 14 months away. It is obviously important from a studio’s perspective to get people excited for a film, but the problem is, in this case, they are not trying to get people excited for The Dark Knight Rises, they are trying to keep them excited, and this is a level they are going to struggle to sustain.
Think about it. When did the excitement start? For some, it started the minute they walked out of the theatres after watching The Dark Knight. We have of course had Inception since then, so for many others it will have been the announcements of the project, and confirmation that Nolan would be directing it. Then came the casting rumours, the reveal of the movie’s name, and then the first solid casting confirmations. More rumours would follow, then more casting. Character names began to be revealed, and speculation was cut back once the main characters had all been announced. This process took place over the course of a year.
So excitement has been building for a long time. the problem is, once all these details have been confirmed, the long shooting period begins, and with a secretive Director like Nolan, there is very little information to come from the process. So after getting the fans all excited with character and cast information, Warner Bros were rightly concerned that it would all be pointless, as things went pretty quiet for the next 12 months.
To counteract this, we were given our first visual clue from the movie, even though some cast names are even now only just being revealed. To release this kind of marketing so quickly into the movie’s production smacks of desperation. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Rumour has it the first trailer for The Dark Knight Rises will be attached to Warner’s other tent-pole franchise, the final Harry Potter film. A trailer, just 3 months into production? It will obviously be merely a teaser, as there will clearly be precious little footage to cut from, so you have to question what the point is?
There is a danger, in these circumstances, of escalation. You release a picture, then a trailer, and there is still twelve months before the film’s release. What do you offer next? There is no way, after this effort has been expended to keep up audience anticipation that things will go dark, so to speak. So there is a very real danger that more puzzles will be offered, and solved, and more precious information will be released. Now, the internet community is pretty smart, and will jump on every tidbit they can find, to try and extrapolate how what is being revealed fits into the Batman continuity, and subsequently the upcoming film. The marketing wizards may think they are being clever, but there will always be someone more clever on the outside, and there is a real danger of something big slipping out.
In this new age of social networking and millions of blogs, with the best will in the world it is impossible to stay spoiler free. Remember, of course, that Nolan himself is probably against all this information being released, and there is always a possibility that if too much information is gleaned by the public it could be a distraction to Nolan from the task at hand. Nolan is pretty powerful nowadays, but the studios will always believe they know best, and this could give rise to some inner conflicts.
I may, of course, be over analysing it all far too much. Only time will tell what the PR gurus have in store, if anything, for us over the next few months. Fans will see the recently released image and teaser trailer, if there is one, as just reward for their continued interest and commitment, and by no means do I think it isn’t deserved. I just hope the right level of caution is exercised by all involved, as it would be a damn shame if we all go into Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film knowing just that little bit too much.
The filmmaker’s work always involves some twists and turns, making it more of a risk with his pictures than with many others. The biggest laugh of it all is that such intense marketing isn’t even necessary. The Dark Knight broke box office records, and when he Rises he may well break more. I will, of course, try and avoid spoilers as much as possible, and my biggest hope is that The Dark Knight Rises, when it finally does hit our screens, is something truly special to behold.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann