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Posterized April 2017: ‘Free Fire,’ ‘The Lost City of Z,’ ‘Colossal,’ and More

Written by on April 5, 2017 

Scale goes a long way

The idea of a new Smurfs movie generally prompts eye rolling and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Smurfs: The Lost Village (April 7) earns them. With that said, however, you have to credit Proof for delivering a really nice teaser sheet to usher the property back into animation.

There’s a ton to like from the large space of solid blue doubling as a curtain separating us from their world to the playful logotype with eyes in the “R” to a colorful landscape of surreal wonders that reaches far out to gaze upon alongside the little blue guys themselves. The poster is a visual embodiment of the tagline and it even has me wanting to walk forward and discover what’s in store.

I don’t get that feeling with the version at right, though. This is less about mystery or wonder and more about over-the-top expressions to please the youngsters. It’s all googly eyes and overt emotions spanning intrigue to fear to cautious awe to full-blown excitement. And it does nothing but tell kids that the Smurfs are back and you should proceed to annoying your parents. Rather than lead the adults in, it shows everything to replace anticipation with indifference.

MOTTO‘s advert for Mine (limited April 7) plays with scale not through depth, but size. Here’s a human faced with the horrors of nature—a grain of sand about to be scooped up by a wave of those grains that have previously fallen. There’s nothing like that moment when awe-inspiring beauty is simultaneously nightmare. It’s one man against God’s wrath.

Even better are the international sheets from BIG JELLYFISH® that don’t rely so heavily on contrast and saturation. The first is very similar, but better for a few reasons. One: Armie Hammer is facing the storm, ready for it rather than resigned to it. Two: the uniform color makes it less angry, but more formidable as the storm is consuming rather than merely threatening to destroy. Three: the title has some subtle flourishes of blowing away, it’s faded thick font proving more relevant than the thin, sharp sans being used in America.

I like the second Spanish sheet too, but it is a bit much as far as Hammer’s face merging into the dunes. It’s rendered effectively, though, that lighter coloring working to compliment the fade. And I hope we can all agree the final domestic poster pales in comparison to the rest. A confused soldier partially blocked by a ripped flag? This isn’t drama, just a Hail Mary in hopes Hammer’s star is bright enough to sell tickets.

These two films bring us to B O N D‘s The Lost City of Z (limited April 14, wide April 21). Not only do they bring that sense of nature’s wonder, they also deliver it within a scene that makes us want to journey inside. It’s a breath-taking view that our eyes move through with light cutting a path in the darkness. We focus on the bonfire (and circle of people around it) at bottom left, but only briefly before traveling up. Where it goes becomes the mystery we seek to solve.

I also have to applaud the title layout because it isn’t your usual span words across the page. The designers have created a shape with purpose, one where the articles are readable but clearly less important that the rest. Having two words of four letters each is the perfect result for a compact box, the articles serving as borders separating them from the large “Z”. The font is old fashioned in shape but modernized with its thin bevel work to provide three-dimensionality. And while I haven’t seen the film yet, I do hope the title’s composition into a cross is intentional.

The second sheet by Creative Partnership is nice too because it retains its mystery with a sharp contrast between bright forest and dark cave. Charlie Hunnam is shrouded in shadow and we can feel the beginnings of an adventure. The others sadly lose this effect. Whether three windows of actor faces (Creative Partnership) or Hunnam removed from the environment that got us interested in the first place (B O N D), their lack of atmosphere hurts their appeal.

Closing out the section is Palaceworks‘ fantastic Colossal (limited April 7). They’ve gone the reverse of the previous three, deciding to scale down rather than up. This film isn’t about the giant monster towering above humanity, but the humans willing to do monstrous things to each other. It’s about becoming the thing we fear and allowing ourselves to destroy everything in our path.

The firm goes back to childhood and our youthful enjoyment of pretend to represent this notion. Think kids putting those little squishy gumball machine toys on their fingers going all “Rawr!” in adults’ faces. Now replace the child with a thirty-something lost in a quarter-life crisis. They put it on their middle finger and flip off anyone who gets in their way. They may not be colossal in size, but they’re surely a colossal *******.

Its simplicity is what shines, although it may admittedly work better for those who’ve seen the film already. Regardless, it’s captivating enough to make people give it a second glance, something that can’t quite be said about The Boland Design Company‘s version with illustration by Tim Biskup. The image is uniquely position to turn heads, but there’s no room for interpretation where content is concerned. I do love the logo font, though—Pacman “C” and all.

A bottle of bullets

This original teaser for Free Fire (April 21) by B O N D is a legitimate candidate for end of year glory. It’s attractive in its design whether we’re talking colors, font (love the slant add-on to its sans serif), or composition. The mass of arms flowering out with guns drawn gives an idea of the all-out chaos the film delivers while also depicting the period specific wardrobe worn by its characters. My favorite part: the shotgun is held by two different men to make the final count five guns and six people.

Jay Shaw‘s alt poster with a Pop Art Xerox aesthetic is a great compliment to the minimalist character sheet campaigns I’ll be mentioning shortly. The colors are muted just enough to not overpower with unnecessary vibrancy, the font is fun and of the era, and the gun finger is a perfect encapsulation of the tone. B O N D’s expansion on their tease isn’t quite as good now that actors are shown in full, but the circle format gets at the conundrum of dissolving sides and self-preservation motivating everyone. And who doesn’t love a pulpy Japanese sheet assaulting you with color, actors, and bullets galore?

The firm I really want to highlight with this film, however, is Empire Design and their two stunning series.

The first depicts each character as target practice cards, the scoring ovals intact with a grid at the top to keep track. At theatrical poster size you could literally take one to the range and set it up to shoot. So it’s both pretty visually and real world-ready to engage as those onscreen do. I liked these when they were released and thought how they supplied a nice textured portrayal of old school print methods to place them within the film’s setting. Who could have guessed the design team would outdo themselves with their follow-up.

That second set is nothing short of gorgeous. Black and white photography (which could have gone dirtier through halftones for added effect), simple yet stylish typography, and a single polygon used as a one-size-fits-all prop. The blue quadrilateral is a wall to come out from behind. The red is a wall to rest against. You can hide, support yourself, or steady your gun. Whatever the photo angle provides, the color field can be adjusted to work with seamless precision. And each is singularly unique yet also very much a piece of one cohesive whole.

Hell on Earth

Can we talk about The Void (limited April 7) now? Here’s a film with a marketing team that knows its audience. A throwback to practical effect horrors of the 80s, it targets the type of fanbase that follows MondoTees’ Twitter feed to get the latest poster or vinyl release of whatever cult favorite is due a rebirth. So why not treat this 2017 release in much the same way? Act as though it’s a revival by providing the deliverables your audience wants to see.

The result is a series of three pre-release sheets by Phantom City Creative, Gary Pullin, and Graham Humphreys with a teaser sheet from Gravillis Inc. and a pull-quote heavy final.

To me PCC’s is the best. The symmetry, the unsettling mass of tentacles escaping the now iconic triangle, and the heavy title font drawing us in like a black hole. How great is the decision to go off-white too? It ages it a bit and softens things ever so slightly in order for us to glide into the center as though through a hazy nightmare.

Gravillis seems to have liked it too as their teaser is a riff with human figure and blue aura. Their logotype is on point with the “THE” carved into the “V” in a way that isn’t afraid to crop off as much of the letters as needed without reducing legibility. The symmetry is retained, the content a bit flashier and “bigger budget.”

Pullin and Humphreys leave the triangle portal motif behind to focus on the monster/human hybrid image of parasite and host in mid-transition, in monochrome and full color respectively. They use their own particular illustrative styles to set each apart from the other and will appeal to those seeking a little less of an exacting composition as me. There’s definitely something for everyone and it’s not just for show either—the film deserves the attention.

What is your favorite April release poster? What could have used a rework?

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