Archive for July 15th, 2008


The Movie Merchandising Machine II: The Dark Knight

This weekend, while Chase and I were talking about The Dark Knight for this week’s 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, Chase expressed his surprise that we haven’t experienced a resurgence of “Batmania.” Back in 1989, when Tim Burton’s first Batman movie was released, we were absolutely deluged with merchandise: toys, t-shirts, posters, movie books, candy, special edition magazines, underwear, hypodermic needles, pencils (no. 2, of course), vitamins, adhesive bandages, hemorrhoid cream, radial tires, brass knuckles, cabbages, and even something called a “VHS tape.” With five* other Bat-movies on the big screen between now and then, one shouldn’t be surprised that the avalanche of merchandising has dried up a little. But a quick look around should prove to us that it’s still flowing a little.

I’d like you to meet my friends here — Lil’ Batman and Lil’ Joker. I got them out of boxes of Reece’s Puffs Cereal and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, respectively. There are two additional figures available, one more of each of them, with a different spring-loaded action feature. Toys in cereal are nothing new, but these have got to be two of the weirdest little plastic nuggets I’ve ever fished out of a box.

Action figures, of course, are available. You’ve got a depiction of the Joker that doesn’t really look like Heath Ledger, a depiction of the Scarecrow that doesn’t really need to look like Cillian Murphy since he wears a full face-mask, and about a half-dozen different Batman figures in different costumes that he never wore in the movie and, god willing, never will, but they need to crank out extra figures somehow to squeeze money out of the completists. There are also two far more impressive 13-inch figures of Batman and the Joker available from DC Direct, along with cold-cast porcelain statues and mini-busts, posters, school supplies… Are you hungry? Call Domino’s and order the “Gotham City Pizza.” (Which is an ordinary pizza with 50 percent more pepperoni. Apparently in Gotham City, people really like their pepperoni.)

The buzz surrounding The Dark Knight has been absolutely incredible. I’m hearing talk now not only of an Oscar nomination for Heath Ledger, but possibly best picture buzz as well. The movie is being compared favorably to such epic crime dramas as The Departed and The Untouchables. Some folks are even estimating a $150-million opening weekend, which would easily be a record. I always try to distance myself from hype. When you allow yourself to expect too much, a lot of the time a movie simply cannot live up to the idea you’ve built up in your own head. But something in my gut makes me want to believe it’s the real deal this time. I can’t wait to see this movie — Erin and I are planning to catch it with her dad this weekend — and I’m not going to let a little something like an avalanche of cheap toys (or far more expensive toys) dilute my excitement. I just can’t wait.

*Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins and the animated feature film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Don’t question of a geek of my caliber.

July 2008

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