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Posterized August 2016: ‘Suicide Squad,’ ‘Kubo and the Two Strings,’ ‘Pete’s Dragon,’ and More

Written by on August 3, 2016 

“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.

There’s a good mix of independent originals and blockbuster remakes/sequels this month to satisfy young and old. How they’re all going to fend for screens I’m not sure—Finding Dory may finally have to bid us adieu until its home video release in October. So if you haven’t seen it or Star Trek Beyond, go quick. Suicide Squad (August 5) is going to be taking over very soon and I don’t think Batman v Superman‘s relative “failure” will affect its own longevity.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

One of the aforementioned sequels (Suicide Squad is technically one too, right?) is Mechanic: Resurrection (August 26). Did you know this was happening? I enjoyed the original Jason Statham vehicle (itself a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson movie), but never thought in the wildest recesses of my brain that it would warrant a second go-round—especially without Ben Foster.

When I saw this first poster I immediately thought of Taylor Lautner sliding down a glass skyscraper in Abduction only to discover it’s even more identical to the poster for its own 2011 predecessor. I remember the black and red graphic sheet with gun made of other guns, but not this repelling Statham readying to fire. The new rehash doesn’t possess the same amount of action—his staring up at a window trying to figure out how he’ll grab that other anchor with a gun in his hand conjuring giggles, not suspense. The logo block is at least improved with the removal of that awkward “The” inside the “M,” though.

I think I’d actually prefer the other sequel sheet by The Refinery if only because of Tommy Lee Jones’ goofy goatee. I kind of want to go just to see that thing in action.

BOND‘s poster for War Dogs (August 19) is equal to the copycat task by blatantly ripping off Scarface. The surprising thing, however, is that the update works. I love the pastel coloring and floating heads above black and white backgrounds with its scratchy, mirror-like (cocaine) texture. Besides the struggle to make the top text readable along the transition line, this thing is bold enough and familiar enough to grab your attention in the lobby.

It’s a heck of a lot better than WORKS ADV‘s alternate showcasing Jonah Hill’s cackle. The way the title is drawn with the actor names popping out brighter than the “War” makes it seem like the movie is simply known as “Dogs.” I guess it gets the whole “From the director of The Hangover trilogy” aesthetic across, though. Two buffoons shooting automatic weapons and laughing about it—tickets will sell themselves.

Another successful redux arrives from BLT Communications, LLC with Pete’s Dragon (August 12). If you’re going to crib off another family friendly film, you can do a lot worse than P+A / Mojo‘s Where the Wild Things Are. It’s a perfect glimpse of mystery, the giant tree in the foreground masking the reveal of both Pete and the dragon as it shares just enough to whet our appetite for its fantasy adventure.

The second poster from cold open delivers its own sense of the unknown in a way that bears resemblance to Disney’s original cartoon/live action hybrid. The cupped tail holding Pete is just similar enough to the bent tail supporting him in the 1977 version to make the nostalgic connection. We see the boy’s joy and the comfort and security the dragon supplies. We don’t need to be exposed to anymore than this before sitting down to watch the film for ourselves.

P+A’s own Disorder (limited August 12) has a distant relative in Concept ArtsFocus if only because of its desire to use pretty people with stoic looks to sell us style before the substance can even be exposed. That Will Smith vehicle used some grainy contrast to set it apart from the more polished photo-heavy sheets on the wall, but Disorder takes it even further. You can almost feel the bumps of shadowy dots speckling Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger’s faces.

What I really enjoy is the bold decision to put the text vertical. The designers do a good job rotating the words rather than putting them as one letter above the next (a design no-no). My preference would have been to take it one-hundred and eighty degrees more so we could still read left to right, but maybe forcing us to read right to left plays into the “disorder” aspect.

It’s a nice improvement over the older festival sheet when the movie was still called Maryland. That one has intrigue, but the stark white downplays the drama a bit. I like the new one because it’s darker and in close for added tension. These attributes seem to fit what the overall feel will ultimately provide.

Quite the characters

It never ceases to amaze me that a film like Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins (August 12) can garner the marketing appeal for a character series. Do we need three-sided monuments to Meryl Streep’s latest vehicle starring at us while we buy popcorn? Won’t a one-sheet with the three actors together be enough to let people know that a movie they were probably already interested in seeing is coming out? It boggles the mind.

I do like what Creative Partnership has done on the posters, though. The ornate framing, canvas cracks, and muted coloring make it all look very period specific while correctly juxtaposing the air of haughty taste against hammy expressions. Streep’s face is fantastic; Helberg’s hilarious. Just put the final advert through the same carefully selected filters and call it day. As is these character sheets end up working better than that cartoonishly bright abomination they made.

Ben-Hur (August 19) doesn’t necessitate so many posters either, but I understand that its budget warrants their creation. BLT got to make two different character series for this one: full body poses and up-close portraits. Some are alternate photos (Jack Huston) and others merely zoom in further (Morgan Freeman) to the same one. Add buzzwords instead of a tag and we’re thrown into this world … or so the studio hopes.

I won’t deny that Freeman’s face will sell tickets that may not have been sure things, but static shots don’t possess the same impact as an action piece. This is Ben-Hur, we need to see chariots and speed. The full sheet may not be spectacular (especially considering BLT gives it to us in stages with background extras and without alongside a generically metal-wrought title block), but it’s at least exciting. You hire director Timur Bekmambetov to supply visual wonderment and this one alludes to that fact where the others don’t.

Where Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19) is concerned, however, characters are the selling point. Kid films attract their audience by the potential toy lines they will purchase from store shelves and McDonald’s Happy Meals. You don’t hide the insanely detailed monkey for later; you show that thing in all its brilliance right now.

What’s great about these P+A posters is that Frank Ockenfels is credited with photography on those first two. To me this means that Laika let him come into the studio and pose their figurines for action shots to shoot. That’s pretty cool. Pixar can’t do that with their computer-generated pixels. Laika understands what it is that sets them apart and they utilize it to full effect.

Those first two capture the detail of the characters beautifully—something the next pair loses with burnt colors. The second couple is over-exposed in a bad way when compared to its subtler counterparts.

P+A truly excels on the combination shots that provide a sense of scale and environment. I love the profile entry with Monkey, Kubo, and Beetle gazing right and the tease with Kubo’s sword in the air. And the other three are glorious examples of the crazy aesthetic to expect. Laika has gone bigger with every subsequent film so far and this is no exception.

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