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By Chris Thilk | June 15, 2005

Warner Bros. has not had an easy time restarting the Batman franchise. So much ill-will was generated by 1997’s “Batman & Robin” that riots the likes of which hadn’t been seen since revolutionary France sprung up across the nation. So the studio had to be sure they were doing it right the next time. The success of Marvel Comics’ characters on the big-screen made it impossible to ignore the characters WB owned by way of corporate underling DC. An adaptation of Batman: Year One was nearly greenlit at one point. So too was a live-action version of the animated “Batman Beyond.” There was also speculation of “Batman Vs. Superman” as a way to jumpstart both characters but Supes was eventually given his own flick as well.

Instead, we get a movie loosely based on Year One and directed by and starring two guys best known for work in non-mainstream films. Honestly, I would have been happy with anyone aside from Joel Schumacher directing but Christopher Nolan is a great choice. He’s shown a knack for dealing with psychosis in his earlier movies. Christian Bale’s casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman too extends a career playing characters with…ummm….issues.

The Posters

Warners has released about eight different posters. Initially they were silhouettes, showing Batman against a brownish sky or standing (presumably in the Batcave) in the center of a single shaft of light. Later posters all used the rust-brown color scheme and profiled Batman exclusively. The one exception had Bats carrying Katie Holmes out of a pile of rubble. This may be my favorite since Holmes’ breasts really get top billing in the poster. Really, they look like the friggin’ Alps. It’s fantastic graphic design.

What Warner Bros. managed to avoid was too much of a good thing. With so many posters being released the possibility of over saturation was real. Fans could have started saying, “Oh, another Batman poster. Big deal.” They avoided this because: ^ 1) All the posters were cool ^ 2) They were mainly uniform in look and feel 3) ^ There were no big plot spoilers on them ^ 4) They didn’t fall prey to BFH (Big Floating Head) syndrome. I love each and every one of these.

The Trailers

Just like with the posters, Warner Bros. went for the “more is more” approach, putting out over a dozen different trailers and TV spots. The teaser barely showed Batman himself (most notably when he says, “Here.” If you’ve seen the spot you know what I’m talking about). Instead it, and most of the follow-up trailers, focused on the trials Bruce Wayne goes through to become “a symbol” and the characters that will support and oppose him throughout the movie. Only brief glimpses of the villain, the Scarecrow, have snuck in as well as Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon.

(As an aside, the casting of Oldman as another cop has me very excited. What are the odds we can get a scene of Gordon sniffing cocaine in the men’s room here? As a deleted scene on the DVD? Come on, give me something here!)

Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson get a lot of screen time as the characters who, it seems, equip Bruce Wayne with the materials, physical and mental respectively, to take on crime in Gotham City. A lot of the shots in the trailers are reused from one to the other but each spot is edited together with just a slightly different angle and that’s what keeps them fresh. Again, there’s not a bad one in the lot.

The Website

Carrying over the rust-brown color scheme, Warner has put together a solid, if not ground breaking website for the Dark Knight. The usual array of downloads, production notes and a plot synopsis and such are available. Let’s skip to the good parts, shall we?

“Video” is chock full of all three official trailers as well as four TV spots. These show just how cool the movie can be and I think it’s great that Warner Bros. put them all here for viewing. The “Photo Gallery” is incredibly extensive, showcasing about 40 stills from the flick.

My favorite part might be the “Comics” section. You can view here the comics’ origins of Batman, Ra’s Al Ghul and The Scarecrow. It’s this kind of section that Sin City could have used but which Dimension didn’t feel like completing. It’s a great way to put these properties online. My one gripe is just at a missed opportunity: Why not link directly to the DC online store where you can buy comics collections featuring these characters?

My one other major problem with the website is the inclusion of registration for e-mail updates. I know that studios count on collecting demographic information on their visitors but it’s really time to end this and such a high-profile release like Batman would have been a great time to set a precedent. Include RSS feeds for updates and ditch e-mail newsletters. Now. I’m serious.

Cross Promotion

I just want to include one thing here. Back in May, during the season finale of “Smallville,” fans got a look at some exclusive “Batman Begins” footage. This seemed natural to me since the audiences for Batman and Superman are, to a large extent, going to overlap. What I’m surprised at is why there hasn’t been more of this. Why not Batman cartoon marathons on the Time-Warner owned Cartoon Network? And why haven’t I heard confirmation on rumors of an initial Superman trailer in front of “Batman Begins”? Leverage the advantage you have, people. I just don’t think WB has taken all the opportunities available to them.


No campaign has got me this excited about a movie in a long time. Not even the Star Wars prequels had me as assured that the movie was not only going to be a faithful adaptation of the comic character but also just a good movie. Thumbs up on just about everything about this push to the folks at Warner Bros.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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