"The Dark Knight Rises" Viral Campaign Begins—14 Months Ahead of Schedule

Slate's Culture Blog
May 20 2011 5:53 PM

"The Dark Knight Rises" Viral Campaign Begins—14 Months Ahead of Schedule

Principal photography has just begun on The Dark Knight Rises , the third film in Christopher Nolan's Batman series. And while the movie isn't set to premiere until next July, the marketing machine is already starting to crank to life.

This morning, the website TheDarkKnightRises.com went live sort of. All you see when you go to the website is a black screen, while an audio file of what sounds like a muffled crowd chanting in unison plays in the background. But fans who'd been trained by " Why So Serious? " the sprawling interactive game-slash-marketing campaign that launched 2008's The Dark Knight knew that couldn't be the end of it. Soon, someone posting to theforums on SuperHeroHype had run the sound through a computer program and gotten a visual representation of the audio spectrum which spelled out the phrase #TheFireRises . People recognized that as a Twitter hashtag, which led them to discover the new Twitter account @thefirerises ,which was posting links to this webpage , where they were greeted with the following fuzzy image:

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This mosaic-style picture of Batman's new nemesis Bane , played by Inception beefcake Tom Hardy, is apparently comprised of the Twitter avatars of everyone who's tweeted #thefirerises or followed @thefirerises. (You can see the full, unadulterated photo here .)

Okay, so this photo, it is not so exciting. Bane looks very muscle-y and menacing, but only the most diehard fans are going to get worked up about this little drip of information. But the game itself should be fun to follow. Large-scale, collaborative, interactive campaigns like "Why So Serious?"have been around since at least 2001, when Microsoft launched a similar game around theSteven Spielberg movie A.I. (Fora good history of these so-called "alternate reality games," check out this 2007 Wired piece about Year Zero, the campaign built around the Nine Inch Nails album of the same name.) I've been a passive participant in some of these campaigns sending the odd email to an in-game character, lurking in the players' wikis and even in this halfhearted mode, I always find them thoroughly entertaining. When they're done well, they really do feel more like games than marketing campaigns an overly nice distinction, perhaps, but one that makes me feel better about getting sucked into what's essentially an extremely well designed commercial.

Screengrab from www.thedarkknightrises.com/image.html.

[h/t to MTV.com , Underwire ]

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.