Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Dark Knight Rises'?

Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Dark Knight Rises'?

Jul 21, 2012

I never watch a trailer until after I’ve seen the movie, and I also attempt to avoid as much news as possible. Then I compare what I knew, to what you knew. Let’s find out if what we see in the trailer is what we get, and if there is any advantage to going in fresh. (There will be spoilers.)


What I Knew Before: This is the end of director Christopher Nolan's planned trilogy. He brought along Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, and half the Inception cast for all the other new juicy roles (Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard). I have avoided every trailer, and this one was difficult. I had to get up and leave the theater six different times to avoid the trailer. Any time that dark Warner Bros. logo flashed on the screen, I'd dash away. I also took it to a new level with my Entertainment Weekly subscription. Twice in the last few months, Batman donned the cover. Twice, I have had my wife tear out any Batman-related photos/articles inside the magazine. I didn't know what Hardy's Bane sounds like (though I knew Twitter had been talking about it forever). I didn't know what new toys Batman would be playing with, and I definitely didn't know any of the plot twists. I managed to go in fresh to the film I was anticipating the most this summer.

What I Knew After: Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. If you are looking to happily say good-bye to a great superhero series, you can do that. Or, if you're looking to find some missteps compared to The Dark Knight and the iconic villainous performance from Heath Ledger, you can do that too. Perhaps more importantly than that, there is nothing after the end credits. I feel like this is a public service announcement. Movie geeks can feel free to leave the theater when the end credits begin. In all likelihood you'll be desperate to use the restroom since the film clocks in at two hours and 44 minutes. In case you feel the need to study up, there is no reference to the Joker, while there definitely are to Ra's Al Ghul and Harvey Dent. I didn't see the film on IMAX, though there does seem to be a few action sequences that would take it up a notch on the bigger screen.


What You Knew: Millions of people have watched this trailer just on the Internet alone. Let's see what the marketing people behind The Dark Knight Rises are willing to give away. "There is a storm coming," says Hathaway. We get an image of Bruce Wayne with a goatee, and Hardy's Bane. The trailer shows exactly how a plane is hijacked, and everything is quiet until Bane speaks. For the record, I understand exactly what he said there. Then there is violence (guns, bombs and a football field imploding). Gordon-Levitt asks Hathaway if they killed him, and we know/assume they are talking about Batman. On-screen: HOPE IS LOST. Looks like Bane is going to pick on Batman for a long time. On-screen: FAITH IS BROKEN. Michael Caine's Alfred decides not to bury Bruce. On-screen: A FIRE WILL RISE. Catwoman explains that Batman is a giver, not a receiver, and it appears he's back for some more battling. Another montage includes the Batpod, Catwoman in a prison doing an odd flip, and a street riot. On-screen: THE EPIC CONCLUSION.

Normally I would have a little issue with a movie calling itself "epic," but dude, we do hope this conclusion is epic, right? At 1:54 we have our first Cotillard sighting! She's wet and kissing Bale. On-screen: TO THE DARK KNIGHT LEGEND. A black flying machine makes its way on-screen, a ton of explosions and finally, on-screen: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. The kicker? Hathaway: "My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men." Bale: "This isn't a car." Then there is one final scene with Batman's new toy flying away.

Trailer Truth: Here's the thing, when I first started avoiding trailers it was before I was a film critic. It was for movies I knew I was going to see no matter what (like The Phantom Menance). I just couldn't see the point of spoiling a range of movie scenes, compared to seeing it for the first time on the big screen. Most of you didn't need a trailer to sell you on the idea of watching a third Batman film. Without even trying, trailers can accidentally connect the dots, reveal the plot, and potentially spoil a twist or two. Why take the chance of somewhat lessening your theater-going experience? I say all of this not as an attack on The Dark Knight Rises, but on you spoiling your fun. Watching this trailer lets you know exactly what the airplane hijacking is going to look like, but you won't feel that same wonder seeing it play out on a gigantic screen.

The trailer also lets you know that Catwoman and Batman are going to get along for part of the time. The pacing is amped up in the trailer, and doesn't elude to the fact that there is a slow (not bad) hour in the middle. Thankfully, it avoids the purpose and character arc of Cotillard and Gordon-Levitt. I'm thrilled neither of their roles are teased. I won't rant (too much), but what gain is there on showing Batman's new plane (simply called the Bat)? The movie has Fox (Morgan Freeman) surprise Bruce with it. Why can't we be surprised? It's not like anyone is out there thinking, "Batman can float because of his cape, but not fly, so I'm not buying a ticket." The truth is, these trailers could show just about anything and it wouldn't affect ticket sales. The keys to reveal are Batman getting knocked down (by Bane), but getting up again. He's the Chumbuwumba of superheroes and we already knew that.

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