'The Dark Knight Rises' Countdown: The Marketing of Batman Movies Over the Years, Plus All the Latest News

'The Dark Knight Rises' Countdown: The Marketing of Batman Movies Over the Years, Plus All the Latest News

Mar 08, 2012

Chris Clow is a comic book expert, retailer and contributor to Batman-On-Film.com and Modern-Myth-Media.com. When not geeking out, he is a Political Science major at Western Washington University. You can find his Dark Knight Rises Countdown column here at Movies.com every other Thursday, and his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Welcome back to The Dark Knight Rises Countdown, your one-stop roundup of news pertaining to the most anticipated film of 2012! The whole Gotham City front of film news might seem a little quiet, but that doesn’t mean that a few things haven’t managed to grab our attention and maybe provide some clues as to what might be waiting for us this July.

One of the interesting things to me as an observer of the Batman film franchise since childhood is the different merchandising efforts that have been made for each of the major films released since 1989.


The Build-Up to Batman Films

Although I don’t remember much from ’89 except for the fact that I saw the movie, every Bat-fan that was around back then always talks about the hype machine and the new wave of “Bat-Mania” that gripped the US in ways not seen since the onset of the 1960s TV series.

Batman Returns did a lot of piggy-backing off of the success of ’89, and I remember walking into movie theaters and toy stores and being inundated with that logo that I love so much. TV spots went crazy for that film, and who can forget the “parents controversy” over having happy meal toys connected to a film that was, in hindsight, definitely not for children?

The hype was dialed up again but was definitely leaner for 1995’s Batman Forever, and when it became apparent that Warner Bros. had a success on their hands, the direct consequence of that success seemed to be the terrible 2-hour toy commercial that was Batman & Robin. By 1997, the hype machine, sponsorships, commercials, toys, games, and even the chance to win a Batmobile were all in full effect. What was the result? A terrible film that managed to stop the entire franchise dead for eight years.

Let’s come back to this in a bit and touch upon what news we have surrounding the new film this year, shall we?

The Costume Master Speaks

Costume designer Lindy Hemming, who has worked on all three Nolan Batman films, took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss some of the pieces for the upcoming film with GQ Magazine. In a report filed by Jett at BOF on March 6th, these are the pieces handpicked by BOF’s founder that you might find most relevant.

“Bane was meant to look like a cross between a dictator and a revolutionary, I designed the coat myself -- it took a year. We took inspiration from a Swedish army jacket and a French Revolution frock coat and amalgamated the two. It was a pain to have made, because in LA shearling is not their sort of thing: there weren't the tailors who could work with the fabric.”

“[Bruce Wayne] (as played by Christian Bale) was in Armani in the last film and I used Armani again for character reasons. Bruce Wayne is himself playing a part: that of a wealthy man who owns an enormous company and so a luxury brand like Armani seemed the right choice.”

“There's very few changes [to Batman's suit]. The only modifications are to do with the story. But I can't tell you what they are!”

Actor Discusses Rises Role and Secretive Experience

On March 7th, BOF picked up a few words from actor David Gyasi (Red Tails, White Heat), discussed his audition and gave a little tidbit about his minor role in the upcoming film with DIY.

“I didn't get a script, so basically I had the audition in my head. I arrived on set, and Christopher Nolan was giving me the lines I had to say. He would literally say, this is what just happened, and this is what you're reacting to. I know absolutely nothing! I know that sounds like a cop-out, but I was there, and I worked with Tom Conti and a little bit with Christian Bale, but I was there on a need to know basis. I'm hoping that I'm still in the film, as I'm a fan of the films, so I'll be watching with vested interest!”

Sounds like a good, solid fan and actor to have in your corner! I’ll be looking at the final cut to see if Mr. Gyasi managed to make it, here’s hoping! Back to looking at the marketing of the Batman films…

The Hype Machine of the Modern Batman Film

By the time 2005 rolled around, Batman Begins seemed to have cautious optimism surrounding it more than anything. The marketing campaign for this outing seemed more subtle than it had been for previous Batman films, seeming to signal that WB was treading lightly and testing the waters for their Guardian of Gotham. I did my part with a t-short, the comic book tie-in, posters, a few collectibles, and even partaking in the video game that wasn’t half bad (it’s the only game in existence that lets you drive the Tumbler!).

While Begins was definitely a success, it wasn’t as pronounced of one financially as the 1989 film or Batman Forever had been before it (adjusting for inflation). The best thing that Begins had going for it was respect and critical lauding. I remember reading a review back in ’05 that seemed to be surprised by the fact that Begins was more than just a good superhero film, it was a good film period. The stage was set for the juggernaut of a sequel we’d get a few years later.

By July of 2008, anticipation for The Dark Knight had reached critical mass. People were curious to see Heath Ledger’s penultimate performance as the Joker, and were intrigued by the tone of the film that screamed more of Michael Mann’s Heat than any previous super hero fare. More importantly, though, the film had managed to gain quite a reputation through 42 Entertainment’s brilliant viral marketing campaign, allowing fans of any stripe to feel like citizens of Gotham City that was about to be under siege by the enigmatic Joker. Then, the day that July 18th finally managed to roll around, my phone gets a call with the audio from the front page of WhySoSerious.com, giving a corrupted “traffic update” signaling that the Joker, and the film, had finally arrived. And that, as they say, is history.

So far, for The Dark Knight Rises, we’ve had one major event of a viral marketing campaign that gave us free screenings of the film’s prologue in IMAX theaters all over the world. The film’s two trailers seem to have inspired a lot of hype in and of themselves, with hints showing that this will be the “end of the legend” and that this film will bring some final conclusion to this iteration of Bruce Wayne. Could this be death? Crippling, as the villain Bane had done in the comics 20 years ago? Nobody knows, but after the success of the last film, everyone seems to be talking about it.

Merchandising for the forthcoming film looks to be on the heavier side, with bobbleheads, plushies, and high-end collectibles all coming out. The film’s line of action figures and accessories is expected to debut sooner rather than later, and it would seem to indicate that this film may have one of the larger marketing pushes since 1997’s Bat-film outing. I can see how this would make some nervous, but I doubt we have Christopher Nolan letting toy companies sign off on the designs of Batman’s vehicles. Unlike some directors I can mention.

So, that’s where we are in a nutshell! It looks like this will be a pretty exciting time in the history of Batman cinema, and I’ll be very curious to see what the marketing and merchandising have to say going into the release of the film on July 20th.

Let’s move on now and take a look at next week’s four-color adventures!


Next Week in Bat-Comics: Batman and Robin #7, Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition Hardcover

Next week sees the release of the seventh issue of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s awesome Batman and Robin series, keeping the themes of family at the forefront of an already problematic relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damian.­­ I'm thoroughly enjoying this series, as the conflict between Bruce, Damian, and an old enemy from Batman’s past that tried to steal his son’s loyalty out from under him.

I will be providing BOF with a review for this issue sometime late next week, so be sure to check out BOF’s Batman and Robin review page sometime then to see my take on it!

Also releasing next week is an oversized deluxe edition hardcover of my favorite Batman story of all time, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Year One. I’m going to plug this story because of my love for it, but apparently Mazzucchelli has some problems with how his work has been presented in this latest edition. I’d recommend giving it a good look before deciding to add it to your collection, but if you’re looking for great writing and fantastic artwork, Year One should not disappoint.

That does it for this edition of The Dark Knight Rises Countdown! Be sure to check out many of the other great Countdown articles here on Movies.com, and be back here in two weeks when the next installment will be available for your reading pleasure! As always, if there’s anything you feel needs to be mentioned in a future DKR Countdown, please feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to consider any requests!

The Legend Ends in 133 Days when The Dark Knight Rises.

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