"The Dark Knight Rises" and the art of the teaser poster

Today's new "Batman" image had us wondering: What are some of the most intriguing hype-creating cinema pics?

Published July 12, 2011 9:05PM (EDT)

"The Dark Knight Rises" teaser poster.
"The Dark Knight Rises" teaser poster.

Today the Web is buzzing about just one image. It's a pretty cool picture -- looking up at a crumbing city skyline that is falling away into the shape of a bat -- but without knowing the context of the photo, most people would be left wondering why the Internet is in an uproar over the pic.

Of course, the teaser poster for Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" (the second of its kind, after the Bane photo) is obvious to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last year. Teaser posters, which often come out way ahead of the film itself, can be self-explanatory, or totally baffling. They're like puzzle pieces leading up to the movie itself, and with the hyper-aware Web culture that grabs on to every leak and spoiler, they can be used to raise a film's buzz to a near-deafening screech.

Nolan is in a league of his own when it comes to enigmatic images, which usually give nothing away (not even the name of the film) except the release date and a creepy, brain-burning photo. Remember the early posters for "The Dark Knight," which leaked online almost six months before the movie was released?


Or Nolan's early "Inception" posters – also featuring a cityscape, although this time covered with water – back when no one knew anything about the movie?


Other teasers contain just enough information to make you wonder what the hell movie is about ("Cloverfield," "Shutter Island"):


Then there are those teaser posters that aren't so puzzling: The images they show are at once iconic and stark (this type works particularly well for reboots and franchise films) and provide a tantalizing glimpse at what you can look forward to.


Finally, there are the character posters that put a face to famous characters, like Gary Oldman as Sirius Black in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," young Anakin Skywalker in "The Phantom Menace," or the first glimpse of Michael Fassbender as Magneto in "X-Men: First Class."



Have I missed any truly great movie marketing? What has been your favorite teaser poster over the years?

By Drew Grant

Drew Grant is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @videodrew.

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