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Posterized August 2014: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ ‘Sin City,’ ‘Starred Up,’ and More

Written by on August 1, 2014 

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.

2014 soldiers on and the poster selection just gets worse. Luckily the films themselves haven’t been as uninspired. Or maybe they have. After all, this summer is down almost 19% from last year.

In all honesty, I feel bad for the designers because they have so few original properties to work on. When you release sequels and reboots ad nauseam, it’s tough to think of something that hasn’t been done. And when studios are nervous they won’t see the returns they hope for, they simply pick the one-sheet with their star front and center. Hell, there’s a good chance that star only agreed to act in the picture if he/she was on the poster. When creativity is imprisoned, this is the result.

Blockbuster potraiture

The promotional material for the Expendables series has always focused on the characters. If anything, I have to respect the decision to stick to those guns no matter success or failure. It was cool when Ignition put all those action stars on the same wide poster for the first installment and Frank Ockenfels photography added some destruction, dirt, and sweat for Expendables 2. What Ignition has done for The Expendables 3 (August 15), however, is just plain weird.

Admittedly, weird isn’t necessary bad. I just can’t seem to gain any traction when trying to think up a reason for their decisions for these two design series.

The first goes back to the simplicity of 2010 with its black, white, and silvery grays, but Ignition doesn’t stop there. Maybe it’s because this is the final installment. (Is it?) Maybe the studio wanted to show a lighter side of the actors above their roles by posing them so the lights, tables, and cameras are visible. These are in effect the raw photos—and maybe humorous outtakes—an artist would otherwise cut out and place against a manufactured backdrop. It’s an intriguing move even if it honestly does nothing to sell the movie besides a friendly, “You like this guy, wanna buy a ticket?”

If this isn’t off enough from the franchise’s usual status quo for you, however, just take a gander at the above Pop Art-looking (Andy Warhol homage?) alternates. Kudos to the designer who thought this concept up and congratulations to Ignition’s art director for allowing it to be seen by the studio because I’m completely flabbergasted.

They are fun, colorful, gritty, and extremely off-the-wall. They’ll definitely pop off your local cinema’s display and I guess selling the story is ultimately a waste of time by Part 3. Might as well go for broke and ensure pedestrians have no choice but to look. Some may say it looks like a painter puked on black and white photography, but at least they’re remembering it enough to tell others.

I kind of like Gravillis Inc.‘s character sheets for The Giver (August 15) even if they are pretty much studio provided images. Sometimes as an artist you are handcuffed a bit and these effectively solve the problem with subtle visual clues creating interest.

My assumption the portraits are studio-issued comes from the fact that Blood & Chocolate / AV Squad have the same images of Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep idiotically floating behind the young, nameless stars because they needed to put someone recognizable in. The expressions conveyed attempt drama, yet the wide eyes of everyone but Bridges almost emit fear instead. Purposeful for the dystopia setting? Perhaps.

What I like about Gravillis’ layouts is their asymmetrical symmetry. The line of color always shoots down the middle and yet appears off-center because of how it aligns with the actors’ eyes. We want the faces to be centered and thus find the image slightly disconcerting—much like the story’s initial utopia gradually having its dark secrets exposed.

What I don’t like is that the actor-specific taglines at top are left justified despite the title font being centered. This means words sometimes cross the middle color line and sometimes don’t depending on the statement’s length. Where the discomfort from the image appears natural, however, this inconsistency of type plays like a mistake.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1) receives some of the month’s most uninspiring imagery since Hollywood marketing never allows itself to match the creativity of the actual Marvel comics. This could be because that aesthetic is more akin to Mondo-esque limited prints (see those next), so why waste the cash going above and beyond when fans would rather have those instead?

I do like the painterly quality of Michael Muller‘s photos within BLT Communications, LLC‘s designs, though. The space background on the full sheet is chaotic, the faces on the character sheets more or less fierce. And I wouldn’t use “unique” to describe any of them.

It’s too bad then that the Mondo art will never be seen at theaters. Heck, very few people who weren’t at Comic-Con will ever see them in the flesh at all. But that’s part of the appeal—I’ll admit it. I’ve won and lost many bids to be one of the lucky few over the years.

Francesco Francavilla‘s Star-Lord is one of the best. Stylishly black and red with very graphic shadows against the silhouette, its crispness is comic-like in the best way. Phantom City Creative‘s Drax is cool in concept although the coloring of Dave Bautista‘s skin makes him look like my grandmother’s curtains. Kevin Tong‘s Rocket comes in as the most “realistic” in that the little guy is fleshed out in nice detail with great perspective above the colored cell destruction beneath him. And Randy Ortiz‘s Groot proves the series’ most elaborate if only for the time it must have taken to draw the maze of his bark.

Do any of them give a sense of the movie as a whole? No. But neither did BLT’s. As for Tyler Stout‘s rendition of the gang—I have to admit I’m a bit tired of the style. I find Stout very talented and own four of his works, but I’d love to see him branch out from the line drawing collages.

With Rico Torres‘ photography back in the fold, Robert Rodriguez‘s Troublemaker Studios takes over the Sin City franchise from BLT to ensure A Dame to Kill For (August 22) sees an aesthetic that’s pretty much identical to its predecessor. You know, kind of like how the movie was to the comic book and how this sequel will be like the first. Good or bad, that’s what we’ve been waiting for—or at least what I was waiting for five years ago before forgetting more Sin City films were even a possibility.

I’m not exaggerating when I say identical either. Just look at Bruce Willis‘ gun-toting brooder from then next to Mickey Rourke‘s from now. How about Jessica Alba‘s? Can you even tell the difference? No, the only thing remotely interesting in these rehashes is the by now infamous “banned” sheet of Eva Green‘s breasts.

But wait, that’s not all. Something interesting does come out of the campaign after all within its second series of close-ups. They’re drawn in the same style, yes, but something is amiss with that actress who looks vaguely familiar. She almost looks like Alba …

Way to go for titillation rather than intrigue guys because not only is Alba’s Nancy going badass supposedly a big portion of the new movie, but seeing her stitched up face is light years more exciting than the gyrating body we’ve seen before. Rourke’s nose and chin in silhouette is cool for the fanboys that hold Frank Miller‘s saga as Bible and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s channeling of De Niro‘s Jake LaMotta is more dramatic than his card holding stare above, but neither compare to Jessica’s glowing, vengeful eyes.

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