With over $1 billion and counting since its huge release at the start of May, The Avengers has gone from strength to strength, and is already the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time. An amazing return for a film that was expected to be 2nd, perhaps 3rd in the year’s highest grossing lists, and now it looks set to be the biggest. Possibly.
Box Office Potential
Of course, this being Summer 2012, one film is still to be released that is sure to run The Avengers close, and that is Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy… just kidding. It is of course the return of the Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight in Christopher Nolan’s final piece of his trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, which is unleashed upon the world in 46 days on July 20th. The question of whether or not the film can stand up to The Avengers’ box office feats is one that has had various different answers. The Marvel / DC 'war' that has been going on since May notwithstanding, The Dark Knight Rises does have its work cut out for it.
So, box office-wise, TDKR doesn’t stand a chance against The Avengers, right? Well, in my honest opinion it's doubtful it will beat the opening weekend set by Marvel, but that doesn’t mean it can’t beat it in other areas. Even without 3D, IMAX will be the way to experience TDKR, with almost an hour of footage being shot for the film. Already midnight showings across the US have sold out, and with the IMAX tickets due on sale any day now, it could quite easily beat the records set by Avengers, even if it means it may miss out on the biggest opening weekend record. But there is still a HUGE demand for this film, with people everywhere talking about it even more as the days count down to its imminent release.
What it lacks, however, is 3D. The great (and ridiculously priced) film fad of the 21st century. We all know the score by now - £10 odd for your tickets, £2-£3 more just to see the film in 3D and extra cost for glasses (in many cases, even if you own a pair!). Add all that up, and it went a long way to helping The Avengers with its domestic opening weekend, and its huge foreign box office the world over. It also set a record for the biggest grossing IMAX opening ever, with over $30million generated from that, as well as $19million from its midnight openings in the US. A huge feat.
What may also let TDKR down in the record stakes is the lack of Heath Ledger / Joker. Ledger’s death DID help the huge box office success back in 2008, even if no-one really wants to admit it. After his death, there was a big chunk of female filmgoers who rushed to see the film for Ledger’s final full role as The Joker, who normally wouldn’t have thought twice about it, especially if a Zac Efron / Twilight / crappy Sandra Bullock film was playing in the next theatre. In addition, he was playing The Joker, a villain that has a certain class, a certain draw that makes people flock from all over the globe to see him. This time, Nolan and co. have plumped for Bane, a villain that Batman & Robin aside, isn’t hugely know around the world like Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face. But this is Nolan’s world, and with Tom Hardy in the role, I’m sure everyone will seek out Bane stories in the months to come.
The trump card for the film, though, could yet be the appearance of Catwoman. Played, somewhat controversially, by Anne Hathaway in TDKR, she is another one of those Batman villains which everyone has an interpretation of in their heads. Many believe Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal is the Holy Grail of Catwomen (sorry Halle Berry), and many a fanboy cursed when Hathaway was cast, as well as her lack of “proper” Catwoman costume and “proper” Cat-ears, but I think she is going to surprise everyone, just like Ledger did. So far, they have kept her origin / character as firmly under wraps as the ending (see Gary Collinson’s article about the “alternative” ending theory here…), which can only help the film’s hunger for success. She is a huge draw for Bat-fans, both men and in particular women alike, and as long as her arc is kept under wraps until July, Hathaway’s portrayal may yet have a say in the outcome.
But having said that, the one thing that separates Avengers from TDKR is its story: This is the end. “The Epic Conclusion of The Dark Knight Legend”. The end of a trilogy that has redefined the comic-book / superhero genre, and without it, The Avengers arguably wouldn’t have had quite the same level of success as it has had. Thousands of blogs, websites, forums and magazines have speculated just how the film will end, and it’s for that reason that we could yet see TDKR displace The Avengers at the top of the tree. Will Bruce Wayne die? Will he survive and give up the mantle? Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt Batman? Whatever the ending, it’s one that, like Return of the King before it, will have millions dabbing the tears from their eyes.
Marketing – Countdown to release
With less than two months to go until TDKR is unleashed upon the world, the marketing has kicked in to gear big time. When the first full trailer was released last Christmas, it set an Apple record for most hits ever; with over 13 million people viewing the trailer in the first 24 hours, a feat that only, surprise, The Avengers broke a few weeks later, when its final trailer was released.
In recent days, that first full trailer was awarded best blockbuster trailer at the Trailer Awards, and it’s hard to disagree with. Spurred by the now famous chant that has become synonymous with the marketing, it gave us some great footage of some of the major beats of the film, in particular then awe-inspiring destruction of a football field, as well as Bruce Wayne seemingly imprisoned by Bane, who chillingly tells him that when Gotham is defeated, he'll give Bruce permission to die. Truly stirring stuff.
That was until the 3rd full trailer, which made its debut with The Avengers this summer. I have to say, it is perhaps the best trailer I have seen in recent times. The images, the messages, the implications and, more over, the magnificent piece of music from Hans Zimmer, all contribute perfectly to setting the tone for what it sure to be, to quote David Goyer, “lump in throat perfect”.
What Warner Bros. and the makers have done really well though is keep a lot of images under wraps, to the lament of a lot of fanboys. In the TV Spots released recently, they have mainly kept to the same images as the trailers before it , while introducing little snippets to keep everyone guessing, as well as keeping the themes and motifs from the final trailer fresh in everyone minds.
This past weekend, at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, Nolan, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were on hand to introduce new footage, which only fueled expectation further [see the footage here].
The only negative response from the marketing thus far from fans and critics alike was the reaction to the first theatrical poster (which can be seen at the beginning of this article). Lazy, sure. Photoshopped, probably. But despite its lethargic approach, the image of Batman standing below a burning Bat symbol with the films tagline “A Fire Will Rise” is designed to invoke the image that Bruce Wayne and Batman are in for a war. A war that maybe even Batman himself cannot stop. The newer character posters and banners which have slowly worked there way into the mass subconscious, continues the motif. In one set, protagonists all in black as rain lashes from one side as they break away on the other; the other continuing of the aforementioned war motif, no image striking the chord as well the banner of Batman and Bane on either side of each other, their armies behind them, waiting anxiously for the war to begin.
As much as The Avengers has been praised for its record-breaking run, there is only one movie that almost everyone is looking forward to seeing, and it’s this one. With IMAX tickets due to go on sale in the UK next week, 'The Epic Conclusion To The Dark Knight Legend' cannot come soon enough. Only 46 days left to wait…
Scott Davis - Follow me on Twitter.