Posters of Prominence: “The Dark Knight”
Following the success of Batman Begins, anticipation was running high – to say the least – for the sequel. Begins and Memento had made me a big Christopher Nolan fan, but even I was among the skeptical when it was announced that Heath Ledger would be playing the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Heath Ledger? Mr. Brokeback Mountain gay cowboy? As the Joker?
Like many, I tried to reconcile this with my preconceived notions of the Joker. Not an avid reader of comic books, my familiarity with Batman and his Rogues Gallery stemmed from the previous films and that fantastic ’90s animated series (which I watched rabidly in high school). I was not well versed in Mr. Ledger’s work. I’d seen Brokeback. I’d seen 10 Things I Hate About You. I was not convinced.
Then came that fantastic teaser trailer. I heard his voice, and I knew:
Then came the posters that launched one of my favorite campaigns of all time, and I was utterly convinced that, not only had Christopher Nolan made the right choice, but Mr. Ledger was going to knock this role out of the park.
I knew. And while it is not necessarily my favorite poster in the campaign, that feeling of knowing is best encapsulated in the poster that is the theme of this article. The Joker, standing behind frosted glass, his features unclear. That crazy tilt to his body, those hollowed-out, black eyes in that skull-like face. The immortal tagline – “Why So Serious?” – scrawled in blood on the glass. One gets an immediate sense of who this character is: This is not Jack Nicholson‘s Joker; this is something entirely more sinister, more dangerous, more unpredictable.
The Dark Knight featured an immense poster campaign, many of the individual pieces playing with not revealing the Joker’s features to us:
Several of the posters dealt with the mayhem the Joker would cause. And of course, the Joker’s appearance could not remain a secret until the film’s release, especially when there were more fantastic trailers for Warner Bros. to put out. A few of the posters did show us the insanity behind Mr. Ledger’s eyes:
Batman himself (played by Christian Bale) was not treated equally. He dominated the Batman Begins poster campaign, but here, even when featuring in his own posters, the specter of the Joker pervades. And even the Batman logo is shown to be shattering, splintering, a subtle hint that the Joker’s insanity will push Batman to the breaking point:
Closer to the film’s release, the campaign took an interesting turn, having “the Joker” deface some of the already existing posters. It was another interesting step towards underlining the anarchy the character would represent:
The posters for The Dark Knight campaign were created by BLT & Associates, a company that has released posters for many big movies. They’ve done a lot of character posters like The Dark Knight teaser for tentpole movies (including a lot of comic book movies):
L-R: Alien Vs. Predator, Star Trek, the upcoming Captain America, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man
The Dark Knight, however, is easily some of their best work. Whether you agree with The Dark Knight being the #1 film on Flickchart or not, you have to concede that BLT & Associates created a fantastic poster campaign. Almost without exception, all of the posters are eye-catching, and excellent. (For good or ill, it also created the recent trend in movie posters to include all manner of flashing sparks whirling about the characters.) But that teaser does the greatest job of capturing the deadly spirit of Heath Ledger’s Joker. I had had my doubts. But I saw that image, and I became one of Mr. Ledger’s staunchest supporters.
But I was still unprepared.
Even now, three years later, Mr. Ledger’s performance sends a chill up my spine. And even now, I look at these posters, and am reminded of one of the last great works from an immensely talented actor, taken from this world too soon.