Like a reckless act of slasher vandalism, the scattered cards and splattered blood stains on the latest poster for The Dark Knight foretell a violent clash of sinister forces. In spite of the coarse prankster mockery of the scratched graffiti catch-phrases, the poster has an overlay of aged shabbiness that gives it a surprisingly archaic quality. Maybe it’s the vintage harlequin cards and somewhat seedy daguerreotype creepiness casting a frozen fog across Batman’s eyes. Or perhaps the static montage brings to mind the dark geometric neutrality of Braque‘s Cubist portraits or the eerie found-object assemblage shrines of Joseph Cornell. It’s a patchwork effigy reminiscent of the obsessive opening credits of Se7en or a postmodern photocollage by David Hockney. Whatever your own subconscious associations, it looks like the deck is stacked against Batman in this twisted game of 52-Pickup. No surprise that this composite image recalls the shuffling of Polaroid memories and desaturated shades of slight-of-hand trickery that Christopher Nolan made famous in his previous films that don’t involve bats. Even in non-chiroptophobic movies like Memento and The Prestige, the densely layered design of Nolan’s baroque visual sensibilities are all about the shattering of perceptions into fractured shards of disordered illusion.
How does this series of brilliant one-sheets help set the stage for The Dark Knight‘s awards prospects this year? For me they’re a reflection in a splintered mirror of the flamboyant rococo noir universe created by production designer Nathan Crowley (who received an Art Directors Guild nomination for Batman Begins, the year Memoirs of a Geisha won.) Thick with his densely byzantine decor, the most Gothic Gotham City to ever darken the screen superimposes a shadowy flying buttress of menace against the Chicago skyline, and adds immeasurably to Nolan’s wicked vision. If Kevin Smith is right, and The Dark Knight turns out to be The Godfather II of superhero movies, I’ll be ready to root for Crowley to earn his first second Best Production Design nomination this year.