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Open Thread: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and the Hollywood Hype Machine

Let’s put this right out front: nobody’s looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises more than we are. It led off our list of 2012’s most anticipated movies; we sing the praises of every new teaser they put out in our weekly “Trailer Park” roundups. This is a movie we’re really, really looking forward to. But you have to draw a line somewhere, and we think this might be it.

According to Variety, tickets are now available for the first, midnight IMAX screenings of The Dark Knight Rises — that’s right, six full months in advance. So if you’re one hundred percent certain that you won’t have anywhere to be at 12:01am on the night of Thursday, July 19th, you can hop on over to Fandango (here’s the link for my fellow New Yorkers — that IMAX screen at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 is a peach), plop down your $20, and have yourself a ticket right now. You might wanna choose the “print at kiosk” option, though, because the chances of misplacing the “print at home” ticket within the next six months are pretty high. Borderline astronomical, we’d say.

Oh wait, you can’t. The midnight screening six months from now is already sold out.

So, seriously, how out of control is the Hollywood Hype Machine these days?

It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. With a high-profile, high-expectation, high-budget franchise movie like TDKR, the flow of information and tantalization starts early and goes often — fans want to know, and studios are eager to fan the flames of anticipation for as long as possible (it’s all free advertising, after all). The announcement that it will be made, who will be back, what the title will be. Predictions of the storyline: which villains will be added for this installment? Casting announcements — new cast members, and possible unexpected returns. Teaser posters. Previews of teaser trailers. Official photos. Premature tattoosSoundtrack news, location news, handwringing over the sound mixand the movie is still six months away. (And yes, those are all our links. We’re not claiming innocence here.)

The point is, mere advertising is no longer what we’re talking about here; we’re in an era of advertising for advertising. We hear about trailer releases days beforehand — teases for teases. Back in December, Fox led up to the release of the sort-of-maybe-but-not-really Alien prequel, Prometheus, with a series of three thirty-second “sneak peeks.” This snake is eating its own tail.

Is it even possible, in this climate of non-stop entertainment “news” and media hyper-saturation, to just walk into a movie and be surprised? Last week, Avengers director Joss Whedon told us that The Avengers would be told from Captain America’s perspective. Great! Any reason we couldn’t have just found that out when we went to the movie? Did that nugget change anyone’s mind? “I wasn’t gonna go, because Iron Man is a dick.”

“No wait, look! It’s told from Captain America’s point of view!”

“Really? Thanks friend, now I’m sold. When does that motion picture come out?”

“May.”

“Great. Can we buy tickets now?”

It’s too much. They have a product to sell — and, again, in the interest of at least acknowledging the charge of hypocrisy, a site like ours is helping peddle it. But we’re also buying it, and at times, we just want them to stop selling it so hard. Look, Warner Brothers, we’re gonna go see Dark Knight Rises. We don’t have to have bullshit stories about how Anne Hathaway’s going to breathe fancy to remind us to go see it in six months; a couple of weeks of not hearing about the movie isn’t going to make us forget that it’s going to come out. And even if we somehow did, we’re pretty sure the millions you’ll spend on print ads and TV spots and trailers and taxi toppers and bus banners will remind us. Calm down.

(Then again, this could just be your author’s bitterness talking. I’m a little steamed that the midnight show is already sold out. Not that I definitely would’ve bought a couple… but it was awfully hard to see The Dark Knight there. Had to wait a couple of weeks. Ended up going to like a Sunday midnight show…)

What do you think? Is the hype machine out of control? Or is there enough of a hunger for this stuff?

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