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The Batman Movie’s Marketing Campaign Is a Riddle

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Bruce Wayne and Bella Real, both in black, walk down a church aisle at a funeral.

“You wanna go to Little Caesars and pick up one of those bat-shapped pizza calzones after this?”
Screenshot: Warner Bros.

If you’ve already been on YouTube today, you might have been lucky enough to see a giant clip from The Batman. Warner Bros. has, somewhat mysteriously, decided to turn a large, almost three-minute preview of the movie into one of those ads that roll before the video you want to see. Randomly placing it in front of YouTube videos is an odd place to stick new Batman footage when there would be literally millions clicking on it if it were just a normal video—but it’s even odder that they chose this particular clip.

If you’ve missed it, here’s what happens. It begins at a packed funeral inside a church, which context clues indicate is for a cop that the Riddler killed. Mayoral candidate Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson) talks to a stone-faced, silent Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson). Bruce stares at the fallen cop’s son, then overhears Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) talking about how another police officer has gone missing. Then, there are 25 seconds of people mysteriously screaming outside the church until a car bursts through the church doors, graphically hitting some people before crashing to a stop at the far end. As cops surround the car with their weapons drawn, a figure eventually emerges—it’s the missing police officer, who has a phone taped to his hand, a bomb around his neck, and a sign that says “To the Batman” on his chest. A sly Bat-fan managed to snag the vid, if you don’t want to root out a video that happens to have the pre-roll ad:

It’s a bleak scene, and again, an odd choice to promote The Batman given that it doesn’t have… well, Batman in it (in costume, you know what we mean). In fact, other than a figure seen completely in shadows who shows up for a single second and is presumably Paul Dano’s Riddler, there’s none of the costumed heroes and villains that tend to get people excited for a superhero movie. Bruce Wayne doesn’t even have a line of dialogue. He’s just there at a cop’s funeral, sees a lot of people get hurt by a speeding car, and then another cop who will almost certainly die horribly on-screen. Honestly, the whole thing feels like the cinematic love child of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and Zack Snyder’s dour Batman from Batman v. Superman, except that The Batman also had to watch them get gunned down by a mugger in Crime Alley.

That’s not to say it’s bad, or that The Batman will be bad! People are, in general, very excited for what the movie seems to be doing with Robert Pattinson’s take on the Dark Knight. It’s just that this clip is so thoroughly bleak that it’s hard to imagine it will get people more excited for the movie, especially if they’re on YouTube to watch something as benign as a cooking video or something silly and kitschy and get that interrupted. The tonal disconnect would be wild! If nothing else, it would surely be a lot more palatable to see how grim-dark The Batman is if we got to see a guy dressed like a bat, or even a duct-taped riddle enthusiast. Instead, we get Bruce Wayne, silently staring at people getting hurt.

Of course, the tonal disconnect of The Batman’s marketing is already wild. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that the above clip comes from a three-hour-long movie that is also being used to hawk incredibly unappetizing-looking pizzas, nail polish, and Oreos.

Obviously, superhero product tie-ins are nothing new, and both Nolan’s and Snyder’s films were equally all over the place in terms of promotions—hell, Batman’s cinematic legacy is tied into the evolution of blockbuster movie tie-ins. I guess the issue is that, for now, The Batman looks like it wants to push the mainstream superhero genre into a more “real world” sort of dark crime movie like Silence of the Lambs or Seven than what we think of as a traditional, modern superhero movie, even the darker DC films. That could be a really cool thing to watch, and Batman as detective is not a side of the superhero that we’ve gotten to see much on screen before! But it’s just weird to think of this being akin to a character like Hannibal Lecter shilling Oreos.

Is it any weirder than Warner Bros. choosing such boring yet bleak clip to advertise the movie and then only letting random YouTube viewers see it? It’s all just a riddle that may be answered, when The Batman premieres on March 4. But probably not.


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