In Hollywood today, product placement in movies, or the use of props and the filming of a scene that displays the company logo or product, is one of the hot topics in the film industry. The money paid to the studio or to the product’s company is reaching huge numbers for just a few seconds of airtime. Product placement is most often seen in lighter genres, such as romantic comedies and action films, and rarely in drama. However, in the recent “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, the Lamborghini is an eye-catching reoccurring product throughout the series, especially the Lamborghini Murciealgo LP640 in The Dark Knight. The placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight ads to the company’s reputation of designing a well-known, dependable cars that will make the owner a glamorous socialite, as well as enhancing the character development in the movie.
First, let me begin by saying that I know very little about cars. However, whether you or I know cars or not, anyone can recognize an expensive, luxury car, especially the Lamborghini. In Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, the authors discuss how company symbols convey authority and provide credibility that the movie and the product they are trying to promote is well done (456). Lamborghini is a well-known brand, thus the audience is likely to be familiar with the brand prior to seeing the movie. After the car’s appearance in each of the Batman films with Christian Bale, specifically The Dark Knight, the car’ popularity grew even more. In Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti discusses how movie stars and companies in Hollywood “attract the loyalty of both men and women” (257). Furthermore supplementing the ethos in the film, men and women who love Christian Bale and flashy cars flocked to the theater to witness the spectacle, therefore increasing ticket sales and the movie’s popularity. In addition to the spectacle of the car, the film and product can be strengthened by “visually [conveying] the image as effectively as possible” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 60).The audience realizes that this dependable vehicle is a luxury car, owned and driven by the wealthy in society. Many wanted to become Batman, or be like the fictional superhero, believing that if they drive a Lamborghini, they could be like Batman and save the world.
In addition to the audience’s want to be like Batman and drive a nice sports car, many men and women attached associations to the car in the context of the film. Martin Crispin Miller states, “most placements really flatter the product” (“Advertising”). Self-explanatory and true, the film and the product’s company have every right to flatter their product in the short amount of screen time. The film and the company have the intention of flattering the product, hence the point of the product placement.
The flattery of the Lamborghini can be seen in two scenes, in which the audience attaches associations. When Bruce Wayne arrives at a party, driving a Lamborghini convertible with two gorgeous women as his dates, the audience feels a desire and a hope to be rich and famous, stemming from the engrained, cultural belief that money will make you happy. Who doesn’t want to be rich, free to spend money and drive nice cars? Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz state that arguments seek “to rouse an emotion that will make [the audience] well disposed toward a particular message” (40). After seeing Bruce’s dazzling arrival with everything anyone could want, the audience yearns to be rich, drive nice cars, and have two gorgeous women, or two gorgeous men, as their dates. The studio used the Lamborghini to make the audience like Bruce because they wanted to emulate him, thus using the product placement to enhance the character development.
Another association made in the movie is that the Lamborghini will bring the owner fun and laughter. When Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, asks Bruce if he will take the Batpod, to which Bruce responds the vehicle is not subtle enough, Alfred rebuts and asks if he will take the Lamborghini. Bruce does not respond, which Alfred takes as an affirmation, to which he mutters, “much more subtle.” Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz discuss how humor puts the audience “at ease, thereby making them more open to a proposal” (48). Evoking a chuckle or a smile from the audience, the viewers know that although the car will not be as noticeable as the Batpod, the Lamborghini will still stick out like a sore thumb, as, ultimately, neither the car nor the Batpod is subtle. The studio capitalizes on the notion that driving a Lamborghini will get someone noticed.
Lastly, the placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight adds logic to the argument that Lamborghini is a luxury car driven by superheroes, like Batman, and supports the already fictional plot. In the film, the audience is able to deduce that the film is fictional and a fantasy, created for the enjoyment of the public. The car is not fictional, but the idea of Batman is not realistic. More importantly, Bruce owning a Lamborghini reinforces the belief that the car is a glamorous vehicle only owned by the rich and that the car will make your life awesome. Everything’s an Argument states that “some of the assumptions in an argument will be based on shared values derived from culture and history” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 87). If the studio had Batman race the streets of Gotham in a mini-van, the public would have been furious, as culture has shaped the audience’s mind to imagine a superhero with nice cars. The car gives the fictional plot a believable vehicle equipped and fit for a wealthy, playboy star.
In conclusion, the placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight added credibility, associations, and logic to the movie. The car allowed the audience to recognize a vehicle made for a hero, but still a human being, as anyone can own a Lamborghini. The car brought forward emotions of longing and a want to be wealthy. Lastly, the car added reality to a fictional plot. Overall, the placement of the car in the film advanced the argument and helped the film, rather than hindered. The car beckoned to the men in the audience, as I know many of my guy friends lusted after the car and placed it as their screen saver. Not only did the movie become a top box office ticket seller, but the car and the Lamborghini Company gained fame.