The Dark Knight Rises' awesomely complex viral marketing campaign

Fans unlock the stunning new trailer for Christopher Nolan's upcoming blockbuster one frame at a time by spotting strategically-placed graffiti all over the world

Fans are so hungry for any glimpse of "The Dark Knight Rises" that they tracked down more than 300 scavenger-like items all over the world just so they could see a new trailer.
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/ Ron Phillips )

A new trailer for the surefire summer blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises was released Monday night — and Batman's superfans worked hard to get it. (Watch the video below.) As part of a buzz-driving marketing campaign for the final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, Warner Brothers announced the trailer on the film's website, telling fans that to see it, they had to help the Gotham City Police Department locate Batman by tracking down hundreds of pieces of graffiti from around the world. For every piece of graffiti that a fan found and tagged on social media, Warner Brothers unlocked a frame of the trailer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, obsessively eager fans had the whole thing unlocked in a matter of hours. Here, a guide to the shrewd campaign — and the impressive new footage:

How did this campaign start?

A fictional file for a criminal investigation was posted Monday morning on It contained a warrant for the arrest of "John Doe aka The Batman," who is on the lam after taking the fall for corrupt District Attorney Harvey Dent at the end of The Dark Knight. The file included a press release explaining that Batman left graffiti drawings of bats around the world, imploring the public to take pictures of the graffiti and submit photographic evidence by Twitter or email.

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How did people find the graffiti?

Warner Brothers posted the exact street addresses of the more than 300 locations, including sites in Australia, China, Holland, and the U.S. After each piece of bat graffiti was located, a corresponding frame of the film's trailer was posted on All of the frames were unlocked by Monday night.

Haven't we already seen Dark Knight Rises trailers?

Yes. This is the third trailer for the film, which hits theaters July 20. The clip is being touted as the final trailer, and will also play before The Avengers this weekend.

How is the trailer being received?

With rapture. It's "honestly one of the most thrilling trailers I've ever seen," says Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend. The moody music and startling visuals should make you "grow the biggest goosebumps you've ever felt in your entire life." It's "eerily somber," says Jen Yamato at Movieline, all culminating in a "gorgeous, strangely poetic shot" of two bridges exploding in tandem. More impressive, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post, is the human drama that balances that scene. "It's not the sight of a bridge collapsing that compels; it's the image of young children on a school bus watching it fall."

Is everyone so enamored?

No. "It's kind of hard to get excited about it this week," says William Bibbiani at Crave. All of my attention is reserved for The Avengers, and having to feign enthusiasm for yet another Dark Knight Rises trailer is a mere distraction. Besides, the new clip doesn't reveal much about the film that we haven't seen before.

Does the trailer reveal anything new about the movie?

Yes. For one thing, "we can understand what Bane is saying," says Chaney, which is reassuring after early reports that the villain's dialogue was incomprehensible. We also see more of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's mysterious police officer character. But the most surprising aspect of the trailer is how front and center Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle/Catwoman is, says Adam B. Vary at Entertainment Weekly. We originally pegged Bane as the successor to Heath Ledger's scene-stealing Joker, but now it looks like "the film may be relying on Catwoman for its sparks of verbal wit."

Was the campaign a success?

It was a "brilliant way to get fans in a tizzy over seeing a trailer," says Yamato. And the campaign came at a good time, says Travis Leamons at Inside Pulse. The impressive viral marketing for Ridley Scott's Prometheus had been stealing all of The Dark Knight Rises' thunder. And judging purely from the speed with which fans rushed to unlock the trailer, says Mark Hughes at Forbes, the campaign seems to be a rousing success.

Check out the new trailer:

Sources: Cinema Blend, Crave,, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Inside Pulse, Movieline (2),, Wash. Post

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