The forthcoming conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, isn’t really a movie anymore. It’s an ad campaign sprawling across time and space that might just metamorphose into a movie somewhere down the line. It’s a monotonous buzz slowly rising in volume as we approach July 2012. Hell, it’s a presidential candidate in a vote-with-your-wallet election, greedily nabbing up real estate in your head in order to make you forget you ever heard the word “Avengers.” (Does this make it the Sarah Palin of superhero movies?)
First a Bane image, then a teaser poster, then another Bane image, teaser trailer, and most recently the “Catwoman” photo you see above. Each one’s an event, even though it’s a fraction of a fraction of the movie itself. It garners endless speculation and whets nerdy appetites everywhere. Why is Anne Hathaway dressed like that? Did she steal Batman’s motorcycle? We want to know! But wait: if every single chunk of publicity bric-a-brac is accorded “event” status, will there even be any “event”-ness left when The Dark Knight Rises is released to theaters?
If you, like me, follow pop culture news sites on a day-to-day basis, you’ve seen each one of these no-context photos analyzed, appraised, critiqued, and celebrated, as if they were ambiguous scriptural tablets passed down from the heavens. As if piecing them together at the right angles could give us a little window into Christopher Nolan’s brain. If you’re like me, you’re probably also suffering from pretty severe teaser fatigue right about now. Maybe studio PR folks have found a way to speed up the “adoration, backlash, anti-backlash backlash” cycle of fandom by advertising for years in advance, so that the finished product is practically an afterthought.
That way, no one will remember a time before The Dark Knight Rises. Will it be good? we’ll ask in July 2012. Bad? Won’t matter: it’ll be a fact of life. Although I must admit, the ad campaign for The Avengers might be even more diabolically clever: releasing countless feature-length preludes like Thor and Iron Man 2 across this summer, last summer, and the summer before, converting movie theaters themselves into giant, revenue-generating billboards. With both upcoming movies, a droning onslaught of scoops and insubstantial teasers has drained away my curiosity as an a priori superhero nerd.
At this point I hardly care if I get to either movie in the theaters. The Dark Apathy Rises.