Hello g33ks, m33ks and anyone else who believed in Harvey Dent. This is my review of the launch of the main portion of The Dark Knight Rises viral campaign and the first 7 or so minutes of the film. I was an ardent supporter of the 42 Entertainment run Dark Knight event and loved their work on the Tron: Legacy ARG as well. Unfortunately, this time around WB has decided to run things without the go to guys for engrossing interactive advertizing. That isn’t to say they can’t pull this thing off, since they have a road map to follow from the last film… but there are signs that at least in the little touches they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
Operation Early Bird
The Dark Knight Rises began its viral campaign with a reveal of a photograph of the main villain Bane as well the sound of some haunting chant. When that segment was over it lead to the first teaser trailer for the film. Things went silent for quite a while until redacted CIA documents concerning a Russian nuclear scientist Dr. Pavel appeared. The information in the documents led to a twitter account for Pavel and the website www.OperationEarlyBird.com, where a countdown clock was revealed.
The clock’s countdown ended at 1pm ET on Friday Dec 9th. This was supposed to lead anyone on the website to instantly be routed to a map of the entire world. During TDK’s ARG you always had to reload the page or if you were automatically routed it was extremely rare that it would crash. It wasn’t perfect but a huge number of participants gave up on Operation Early Bird because they simply could not get the map to load.
On the main Dark Knight Rises page a series of coordinates were read by a woman and child in a loop. Once you got the map to load at the bottom of the page were slots for coordinates. Once the coordinates of a particular location were entered an IMAX theatre in that area went live on the map. You could then start the process of getting screening passes to see the prologue three days early and without paying to see Mission Impossible 4. Again this was not so simple a prospect, as you were required to join or login to one of the main screening websites in the USA or a similar site for the UK. The backlog for someone new to join was something in the neighborhood of 45 minutes waiting for your login to be approved.
Once everything was set and you picked a show for a particular theatre you were set to go until Tuesday and the screening. Or perhaps not. Several folks got false sell out notices, theatres had second screenings that did not appear when they should have and in one case at least one theatre may have temporarily disappeared. That said several folks with issues were able to get them resolved by getting on the phone with either the theatre or the screening site itself.
At the end of the day the map was showing nearly the entire country was sold out to the Prologue Screening and on the main Dark Knight Rises page the coordinates were exchanged for a new poster featuring Bane.
The Dark Knight Rises Prologue
So onto Tuesday evening. I arrived at the IMAX theatre with my friend, Luna Chase, to see the The Prologue. As many as four hours before the screening began there were people waiting in line but not enough to worry me about getting in. So we went off had some dinner and did a little shopping came back about 90 minutes early and there was a good sized line. I wanted to arrive as early as was reasonable to see the number of people that came out for the showing but I was absolutely certain that no matter how many it was there would be enough seats for 10pm. They hadn’t grossly over distributed tickets and like on Tron Night no one was crowded or uncomfortable.
The security line was somewhat annoying to get through but went along about as quickly as could be expected for a name check – stop 1, a time check – stop 2, and finally a scan for entrance -stop 3- security plan. I was expecting to have to turn in my cell phone as well but that was the only type of security stop they didn’t have. We were tossed free t-shirts and went into the theatre to find seats. While we waited agents of Warner Brothers or the MPAA were skulking around using their infrared scanner scopes to see if anyone was wearing secret recording devices. Then in a surprising move, the theatre allowed all of the second screening ticket holders to come in during the first screening when we were all seated b/c there were more than enough seats for everyone.
So at about 10:05 a theatre employee got on the PA system and announced the preview would be starting. I always prefer when they film some kind of packaged opening for these things because then at least the person doing the introductions will know what they’re talking about. It wasn’t really his fault, they obviously didn’t hire the projectionist for public speaking abilities but still. Anyway they spool up the preview and it is 7 minutes of full IMAX badassery.
For those interested in a non-spoiler filled description I will say that it features a similar introduction to our main villain as was done in The Dark Knight. You really get a feel for what kind of menace you’re dealing with but you’re also certain that what you’re seeing is only the smallest amount of his potential.
For a more thorough description of those 7 minutes read on below.
– Spoilers Begin –
The film opens with the end of Jim Gordon’s Eulogy for Harvey Dent. He explains how Harvey was the best man he’d ever known and the best man for Gotham City. They would have to wait a long time to find a new man to believe in like Harvey. He ends with, “I believed in him. I believed in Harvey Dent.”
We then move to a lush countryside aerial shot. Men in an SUV are driving toward a nondescript ‘airfield’ and they have several men in hoods handcuffed inside the vehicle.
When they arrive at the waiting plane they address the man in charge as a CIA agent and hand over Dr. Pavel. The CIA agent questions why they’ve brought him so many men when they were paid to only snatch one and they tell him these men work for, “the mercenary… Bane.”
The Agent asks the leader of the Grab Team if he knows why Bane wears the mask and he shakes his head no.
They grab the men and on the plane the CIA Agent explains to the Prisoners that he just called in his flight log and on it were his men, himself, Dr. Pavel and only one of the three hooded prisoners. The CIA then opens the door to the plane and holds a man dangling from the opening. He tells them that the first one to give good intel on Bane gets to live.
The first man remains silent so the CIA Agent shoots him. They grab the second prisoner and the third begins to talk. The voice is deep garbled and heavily accented.
Outside of the CIA Plane a second much larger aircraft pulls into position and four extremely skilled jumpers land on the wings on the CIA aircraft.
The CIA Agent asks Bane if getting captured was part of his great plan and Bane says, “OF COURSE!” Bane rips apart his metal restraints with almost no effort and attacks the lead CIA Agent. The Hijackers on the wings of the plane begin to fire inside killing or wounding all of the other CIA agents.
The Hijackers hook special ropes to the CIA Plane and the use their larger Hijack Plane to pull the smaller one apart. Bane maneuvers himself to the back of the plane and hangs on as the wings fly off and the plane flies vertically dragged along by the Hijackers.
The Hijackers on the outside plant charges which blow off the planes tail and they drop a body bag into the cabin. They then kill all the CIA Agents who are still alive and Bane goes to work, grabbing Dr. Pavel.
He opens the body bag which has what appears to be a dead man or at least a comatose one and inserts a blood transfusion tube into his arm. He then grabs Dr. Pavel and inserts the other end of the tube into his arm.
The Hijackers ascend back into their plane while Bane hooks himself and Dr. Pavel into the last harness. The Second Prisoner begins to hang on to Bane but Bane tells him that he must go down on the plane.
The Second Prisoner asks if they have “begun the fire?” Bane grabs his arm in reassurance and says, “The Fire Rises!”
Bane and Dr. Pavel ascend out of the plane as the cables are cut and it falls to the earth with the smiling Second Prisoner still inside.
We are then shown a few quick glimpses of sequences from the film, Bane hulking in the night ready to fight, Batman gliding on his cape, a full on shot of Catwoman, a fight with Batman and thugs on what appears to be the steps of City Hall or a Courthouse, Bane blowing a massive hole in the wall of a building (likely Arkham Asylum), a city street full of cops running to stop a wave of lunatics who are wreaking havoc all over the streets, three camouflage Tumblers, what looks to be this universe’s version of the BatWing, Joseph Gordon Levitt scrambling through a building with his gun, Selina Kyle in a prison jumpsuit being transported somewhere and in the final sequence of images Bane walking away from the camera holding a shattered Bat cowl and tossing it aside.
– Spoilers End –
To say it was a thrilling 7 minutes is an understatement. It was a fantastic opening sequence and second teaser trailer. It was really difficult to stand up from the seat in the theatre because my brain basically said stay here and demand they continue the film immediately. If I could say anything about the event I would have said that they should have shown everyone Mission Impossible 4 in IMAX while they were at it. Everyone was so hyped up that even the people in line who were against the collaboration would likely have gone home and given it good word of mouth reviews. Which is something a third sequel being shown in IMAX could probably use.
Outside the theatre there were people talking about Bane, and his significance in the comic books, Tom Hardy’s portrayal and his voice were discussed. There were survey takers from WB asking us what we thought of what we saw and they were getting overwhelmingly good responses. The only negatives were on Bane’s voice, it was really difficult to hear as you would expect in an action sequence on a plane with a mask over the actor’s mouth. Christopher Nolan is apparently working to tweak the voice so that it has a realistically difficult to discern quality while also being intelligible for the audience. So when the film comes out in July they hope to have the perfect sound mix. For me all of the major lines were understood by either the sound or the actions Bane took. Luna said she had a hard time understanding him but it didn’t take away from what we saw a great deal.
So, for the beginnings of a viral marketing campaign and a prologue screening I’m going to give this a thumbs up. But that’s not to let WB off the hook for several misteps with the websites, the ticket system and the 3 different security stops to get into the theatre. For many there this experience was a ton of fun, but for the other guys standing around in Citizens for Batman t-shirts you could hear them reminicing about the old events run by 42 Entertainment. We’ll see if WB can pick up the ball now that things are finally moving.
What do you think of the ARG so far? Did you attend a screening? Was Operation Early Bird a positive or negative for you? Comment below and let us know.
– Mr. Khon