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Posterized July 2013: ‘Only God Forgives,’ ‘Pacific Rim,’ ‘Fruitvale Station’ & More

Written by on July 1, 2013 

“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.

Welcome to the heart of the summer folks—where giant robots, faux Native Americans, retired CIA operators, and mutants come out to play. It’s a tough time of year for true creativity when most tent poles are bombastic sequels or remakes, but a couple intriguing morsels do sneak through.

There is one plus on the print medium side this month, however, and that’s the surprise effectiveness of a couple campaigns for two of the month’s biggest releases. I was ready to crown the design firm behind one of my favorites of the year thus far—Violet & Daisy—the easy July victor until I found myself unable to ignore one of the big boys too. But I’ll get to that at the end.

Sequels—young and old

In a month packed with sequels, it was those little minions from Despicable Me 2 (open July 3) that I anticipated the most. After the brilliant 3D teaser singing The Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” by putting “banana” and “potato” to melody while one blows his party favor kazoo at the audience, I’ll admit I really couldn’t have cared less about Gru and the girls. Just the thought of hearing those yellow things giggle again had me ready to buy a ticket.

The Cimarron Group knew what we craved and made sure to just put Gru’s trusted duo on a stark white background with the only reference to the film’s title lying in the Facebook link at its bottom. I like the foreign tease’s inclusion of a serum-infected guy too, but simpler may be better—stick with what the audience already knows.

Ignition Print tries to do the same with a bit more scenery inside the minions’ locker room, but there’s too much happening for it to be minimalistic and too little for it to be illustrative. The studio does better with the main poster and its thousands of workers—the only problem being that it makes Gru out to look more nefarious than we know he is.

For Smurfs 2 (open July 31), Pulse Advertising looks to stay equal to the task by also sticking with an iconic character devoid of superfluity. He’s a smurf and he’s holding up the universal sign for “two”—there’s your advert. Nothing more is needed until the marketing team’s bottom-line requires them to ask for some Smurfette.

And I don’t necessarily mind her sheet with one of the new Care Bear Cousins-esque offshoots that appear integral to the plot, but that doesn’t mean it’s needed. At least it’s better than the Paris-set poses of too many characters doing stupidly goofy things. I can’t get enough of toggling between two almost identical designs to find their slight variations, though, so they are good for that.

Sequels aren’t all for the kids, though—some are for no one. This brings us to ARSONAL’s poster for Grown Ups 2 (open July 12). It’s a fun concept that expands on the firm’s original idea of taking the actors’ actual childhood photos and showing them to the world. The difference now is that the images are from high school and Rob Schneider is either no longer their friend or died in the first (I don’t know, never saw it).

Where that sheet excels in concept, however, it’s no surprise the studio would request something lamer. The culprit here is Bemis Balkind and their desire to show how Photoshop needs no perspective. If you’re going to switch from three-quarters to straight on, try not to use the same exact images. Or better yet, don’t do it at all.

But if you have no kids and consider yourself mildly intelligent, the wide release sequel for you this month is Red 2 (open July 19). I’m not sure who designed my favorite of this bunch, but I really like the comic book look taking the product back to its roots. The silhouettes are easily identifiable if you’re familiar with the first film and the cast list above, the colors add heat of the flames, and the wide expanse of white space top right makes sure we stick to the architecture’s diagonal bisecting of the page and content below.

BLT Communications, LLC does a decent job as well by putting everyone’s backs to us while text dominates their space—and even their character sheets add some nice humor too. It’s just a shame their latest is so ugly with way too smooth skin on a group of actors’ faces pushing 60+ and their blatant collaging to save time from actually taking a photo of them all together is as shameless as ever.

Once again the teases always shine brightest.

Why so violent?

What is there to say about this sheet for The Act of Killing (limited July 19) other than head-scratching wonderment at what it could all mean? Dancing girls exiting the mouth of a giant fish at a harbor to meet a black suited man in a top hat? I know it’s most likely a film still, but one can’t help wonder what other crazy things are happening if this is the image chosen to represent the entire film.

The yellow sans serif text pops nicely off the grainy, almost VHS quality image; the bright pink of the girls steal your eyes’ attention; and the foreboding clouds can’t help but beat the weird juxtaposition of darkness and frivolity. Aurélie Huet’s French iteration is all about the actual murder with its yellow skulls and weaponry, but besides its unabashed use of a hyphen to split “Killing” doesn’t captivate like that fish.

I will say I’m going to take Werner Herzog’s one-line review to heart and file this as a piece to see.

For actual depictions of violence, however, look no further than Guillermo Del Toro’s newest foray into monsters, Pacific Rim (open July 12). With an uncredited retro war enlistment sheet leading the way, Art Machine, A Trailer Park Company follows with a slew of Transformers lookalikes.

With tiny details like “Printed in the USA • 2029” at its side and the clunky fonts chosen for utility rather than attractiveness, this recruitment imagery is exactly what you’d expect from the war machine. We have the good guys’ crest at bottom right, a fleet of helicopters overhead, and some sort of laser beam action emanating from the giant metallic beast’s eyes—something I don’t remember seeing in trailers yet.

Art Machine then delivers multiple versions of what we can assume are movie graphics showing little but the scale on display in terms of the robots and their tiny controllers. They’re all cartoony without trying to be so—going so far as character sheets that feel like an international Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em tournament. This is probably why Sergio Grisanti’s IMAX works so well going straight to animation in a fun bit of anime destruction with a great alternate rendering of the logo’s glowing rift.

On the actual horror side of things—because, let’s face it, those Godzilla things in Pacific Rim are horror unto themselves—comes Gravillis Inc.’s update of their V/H/S design for the aptly named V/H/S/2 (limited July 12). Like the original’s use of videotapes aligned on their collector’s shelf with white labels to form a skull, this time around sees the insides unwound and hanging like meat in a butcher’s shop.

It’s not as effective, but I do like the fact Gravillis stayed true to the conceptual idea in order to keep a cohesive connection alive. The “/” between each letter is annoying—especially if you’re trying to search through IMPAwards.com—but that’s not their fault. I will give them credit for the inspired tagline, though: “Who’s tracking you?” I desperately hope the idea of “tracking” on a VHS tape wasn’t lost on the writer who thought that one up.

And that leaves us with Killing Season (limited July 12) as far as the violence goes. In all honesty, I can’t really say much about the poster because I can’t stop laughing at the markered beard of dirt under John Travolta’s chin …

So, the title font uses some kind of Constructivist aesthetic, Travolta and Robert De Niro not facing each other makes me think they’re going “one on one” against some unseen force (so two on one?), and … nope. Sorry. Just saw that facial hair again.

Check out more of the rundown on the next page >>

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