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Posterized December 2015: ‘The Hateful Eight,’ ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘The Revenant,’ and More

Written by on December 3, 2015 

Title & image

I feel like I shouldn’t enjoy the title box on Empire Design‘s The Lady in the Van (limited December 4) and yet I love it. The mix of two fonts, two sizes, the extreme width of the whole, and the addition of “A True Story” inside the top border line all point to excess. Maybe it’s the strange hybrid of playfulness and strength or that it stands by itself against white space above the bright yellow van, but it’s a great, self-contained entity.

The poster on the whole is uniquely suited to a world of photo-heavy artwork too by letting the comedy of the van at bottom play unencumbered. There’s Alex Jennings breathing heavy as he pushes this vehicle while Maggie Smith looks on from the comfort of the front seat. It’s a brilliant encapsulation the second version ruins with hierarchy.

So what if Smith is the star? She doesn’t need to be so much bigger. And if you’re going to make the title all one font while stacking the middle “In The” you have to do something else with that initial “The”. It throws the whole design off just hanging by itself at left when everything else is nicely compacted.

Sometimes starkness isn’t always literal white space, though. Sometimes the photo itself can become a minimal background on which everything else can rest like in WORKS ADV‘s In the Heart of the Sea (December 11). Here’s a grand expanse of water that shows us the fearsome scale of “Moby Dick” juxtaposed with the small vessel holding the stars we’re to watch on their adventure. The line of the whale’s back perfect bisects the page and acts as an arrow from title to cast. Less is definitely more.

The firm’s next sheet with Chris Hemsworth swimming up towards the whale’s eye is equally captivating in its scale. How could you not be frightened and enthralled by this image? The text gets bigger considering it’s no longer a teaser, but the focus is still man versus monster like it should.

The Refinery on the other hand tries to put more in the frame by getting the whole cast involved underneath the creature’s tail fin. Credit to them for sticking to silhouettes on this one—the foreign poster prefers hamfisted portraiture instead—because it retains the fact that they aren’t necessarily the most important part of this story. The lens flare is a nice touch too by casting a fantastical, mythical filter of sunlight and awe-inspiring nature.

BLT’s The Hateful Eight (limited December 25) does a similar job as WORKS ADV in keeping the palette simple and the imagery vague. They go the illustrative route rather than photography and it lends a brilliant woodcut effect to match the old fashioned 70mm Panavision logo at bottom right. This thing oozes vintage appeal while ensuring our eyes move through the blue by latching onto each blood splatter until reaching the top cabin setting. Each silhouette is rendered an anonymous body about to engage in their violent game.

There’s plenty more mystery here than on the firm’s tease of a horse-drawn carriage trailing blood. The imagery on that is obviously jarring next to mainstream posters, but it doesn’t have the same texture or nuance. Even Leroy and Rose‘s photo-based entry has it by sticking to everyone’s back climbing up to the cabin. The red title pops off the otherwise greying snow and Samuel L. Jackson‘s dark coat proves an abyss to stare into. I don’t even mind the portraits at bottom because the cropping and expressions give each character.

And I’ll give special mention to Gravillis Inc.’s character sheet aesthetic. They take a boringly mundane practice and add some personalization by changing the backgrounds and the hash mark to demarcate each member of the title’s eight. I really hope there are no other actors involved in the entire film besides them.

Minimalist glory this month goes to The Revenant (limited December 25), though. Not only is the coloring of the sky great in itself, but it also carries down the whole frame into the landscape and tiny horse ridden by whom we can assume is Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. The frame’s soft in the corners for a Polaroid feel and the title/tag multiplies to let the background show through as though each letter cuts into the sky. Add the subtle crackle of fire to scratch its orange way across and this thing will get your heart pounding.

Trying to repurpose this look atop the actors unfortunately doesn’t quite succeed. I like the close cropping and the intense faces, but I think the designer would have been better off leaving the portraits whole. By cutting the tops off to showcase a horizon of trees loses some of that intensity. Rather than smacking us in the face, it gives an almost hopeful reprieve of light.


Atmosphere: before and after

These obviously aren’t before and after photos, but the fact that each one has identical Macbeth (limited December 24) title boxes save the “Coming Soon” and “2015” makes it hard not to compare them directly with each other. You wonder how much post-production effects were added after principle photography—did the firm only have access to untouched images and that’s why the teases are so pristine and bland? It is night and day between each pair as the second coupling brings the pain and suffering of Shakespeare’s play to the forefront. They are straight out of a horror film and that atmosphere is what sold me on wanting to see it.

It definitely wasn’t the very weird and unlikeable collage inexplicably contained inside the frame of Michael Fassbender‘s profile with additional mini warriors crawling down his shoulders. What’s actually going on here? I have no inclination to dig in and discover the answer because the bright white is too distracting. It almost emits a blinding light that makes everything in the middle fade into itself as a black shadow without definition.

That white is a killer. Just look at the warm coloring of another poster with Fassbender lamenting the tragedy surrounding him on a battlefield with fighters who are actually there. The mood is back and my want to enter the frame and watch the carnage has returned. I want to see this broodingly dark adaptation, not the bright and shiny one caught in sunlight with blemish-free faces.

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

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