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Posterized July 2016: ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Equals,’ ‘Star Trek Beyond,’ and More

Written by on July 5, 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.

This month is the epitome of summer blockbuster season with a couple kids films, a couple attempts at old school epics, some comedies, some actioners, and a sparse few adult-oriented indies to provide a well-needed counter to the explosions and slapstick. We’re still inundated with sequels (four on this post alone) and reboots (two), but as long as we buy tickets they’ll continue coming — louder, brighter, and vapid.

So let’s try and give some love to the smaller films. Take the kids to a matinee this holiday weekend and then check out the art-house for your own sanity. It’s fun to watch big studio fare fail because we can laugh and laugh and laugh. But each one doesn’t seem to slow Hollywood down because there’s always potential to hit the mark. Give less money to the franchises and more to the mid-range auteurs. Someday “property” will become meaningless in comparison to creativity, right? Fingers crossed.

Summer: for kids and adults alike

One thing family-friendly sequels are good for is a paycheck on behalf of the marketing firms because most times the campaign has already been established ten years prior. I can’t believe the Ice Age series still has legs let alone the strength to endure fourteen years. Fourteen years! Think about that. Maybe the newest subtitle Collision Course (July 22) is finally predicting the end has arrived.

What more is there to do with this property as far as posters are concerned? Nothing. It seems lazy to just slap the characters in frame to stare at us with the title in the middle, but Fox and Blue Sky is probably so resigned to the fact that the film will sell itself that they can’t be bothered. All our favorites are back and Scrat is once again in peril. Now give me your money.

The Refinery can’t be faulted either because they know a fifth installment needs little panache. Smush the animals together for funny faces, put Scrat in an astronaut suit, and be glad you have a client as easy as this. They don’t come along often.

By contrast, The Secret Life of Pets (July 8) provides LA the opportunity to have fun. The premise concerning what our pets do while we’re gone is ripe with comedic possibilities and the obvious one — their sitting and staring silently at the door in wait for our return — is perhaps the best. Look how simple and brilliant this tease is. This is the picture of faithful servant regardless of whether being such is contingent on our being that little guy’s only source for food.

I like the second one-sheet too even though its showing the back of other animals doesn’t quite work with the same theme (and neither does having them on a roof’s ledge). The great part is the cat in the foreground slyly looking back at us — bored of this futile exercise the others have embraced and cunning enough to see through the artifice of the poster itself. It’s a tiny detail, but it’s hugely effective.

What about the character sheets, you ask? Well, they’re cute. Pun humor reigns and minimalism sustains. I don’t love the horizontal logotype (the vertical one is much better as the red box serves as a billboard above the “Pets” skyscrapers), but it’s a tiny gripe. The goal here is to advertise the eventual toy lines to come. Get those kids loving each pet before the lights even go down.

The Legend of Tarzan (July 1) does the exact opposite of Pets by having its subjects stare straight through our souls. I won’t lie: BOND‘s sheet with the titular hero and an army of gorillas is a bit unsettling. Are we supposed to assume he is as much a brutal beast that cannot be tamed like his jungle brothers? He’s looking at us with menace, after all. What did we ever do to him? We better buy a ticket so he doesn’t leap forward and rip out our jugulars.

Their profile version is so much better as a result because we are no longer being threatened. He and the gorillas are fiercely moving towards their true enemy and we can look upon the rage with excitement rather than fear. The film is targeting a moderate family friendly atmosphere — it’s going to need one to be successful — so dial down on the animosity please. You know, stop having them run towards us as though they’ll be the last things we ever see.

At least the sheet with Margot Robbie’s Jane gives their steely eyes a cause. They are protecting her (which is ironic when you see the film considering she’s the biggest bad ass of them all). They growl and snarl for us to move on. Okay. You win.

This same aesthetic does, however, work for Wonderland‘s The Purge: Election Year (July 1). These creepy demonic humans in masks are actually out to get us. We’re supposed to fear them because there are no heroes to be seen. We need to turn around right now and run because they are not fooling around.

This entry and its French counterpart (boy do I absolutely love the title “American Nightmare 3: Elections” as though the film is a documentary on Clinton vs. Trump) are the best because they put us in the world of insurmountable odds. If you cannot afford to stay safe behind closed doors, this is what you see: murderers and maniacs approaching slow because you have nowhere to go.

That’s not to say the tease from LA isn’t nice too, it’s just not as creepy without the foggy atmosphere of an ongoing assault. I will give the credit for the “I Purged” sticker advert, though. That’s pretty funny.

Do I know you?

Yes, I do know you. You look a little different, but the gist is pretty much the same. This is what happens when 20+ films are released each week, every week for decades. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating when it happens.

ARSONAL‘s sheet with photography by Sam Jones for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8) isn’t exactly a rip-off of Project X per se, but it definitely is using the same concepts. Passed out and drunk in the grass after a wild night out, where the latter leaves the victim alone to wallow in his own vomit the former includes a couple predators. This juxtaposition of the girls being the troublemakers while the boys think they’re the wild ones is key to the film’s appeal; the delivery is simply tired.

And is it just me or do the lipstick drawings on Adam Devine and Zac Efron look Photoshopped? I want to believe that this is a scene from the film and the boys did actually have these pictures scrawled in lipstick on their chests, but I’m finding it harder to do so the more I look.

Regardless, this poster is by far better than the Spanish version. Interaction always is when compared to obvious photo-manipulation. I’m honestly not sure what is real in this wedding shot because nothing but the faces appears to be untouched. Those glasses in the girls’ hands look vastly out of proportion, Devine’s eyes and mouth look plastered on a mannequin’s head, and Efron is either destroying his back with that posture or had his head titled without regard to the shoulders.

Our Kind of Traitor (July 1) is all kinds of redundant. I like the idea of the “gun text” layout, but can’t help seeing The Departed every time I gaze upon it. I hate the little hammer flourish on the bottom of the “T” and find the placement of trigger frame completely awkward. It tries too hard to be something unique without realizing it’s anything but.

As for the others, Leroy and Rose‘s white slanted collage mimics too many designs from the past to even begin to mention any. And the landscapes growing out of the photo boxes are distractingly irrelevant. Maybe Big Ben above Damian Lewis and the Kremlin below Stellan Skarsgård are okay because those two countries seem to be of major concern to the story, but stop there. Adding the other two loses the impact of what those locations mean.

Empire Design‘s work is the best of the bunch if only because it hopes to spin the monotony of photo strips into something new. It’s not much, but having the text cut across the diagonal photos horizontally gives our eyes resting points. Overlapping adds intrigue because we’re deciphering visual and textual language separate from the other at the same time. We aren’t just reading left to right blandly.

The next two are less “copycats” and more saddled by stylistic tropes because you cannot tell me you don’t think Wes Anderson upon seeing BLT Communications, LLC‘s poster for Captain Fantastic (limited July 8) and expect me to believe it. I won’t. It’s all I can see and I’ve seen many people stating the same online: quirky family portrait, quirky text (I adore the stamped, retro typography in different fonts, though), and quirky vehicle.

On a purely simplistic level it is pretty much Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums meets Little Miss Sunshine — both posters that BLT also designed. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just an unavoidable aesthetic comparison. It will help ticket sales for those who like the aforementioned films and hurt for those who don’t. People look at posters and say, “Oh look, a Wes Anderson-type film.” Those words are just as praise-worthy as they are damning.

As for Concept ArtsJason Bourne (July 29), this trope has been well-documented and the source of hilarity everywhere. Let’s slap some text on Matt Damon’s face — it’s practically a meme. It’s too bad too because the effect works here due to the lighting photographer Frank Ockenfels utilizes. The shadows reveal the actor’s secretive nature and the text warps and glitches above him to speak directly to us. It works even better on the full body shot. The diagonal ray of light here beautifully takes our eye on a journey from top to bottom.


And really, is a meme so bad when the alternative is such a god-awful back-to-back rom-com pose with gun drawn? Alicia Vikander’s stern face is laughable and the duo floating above a non-descript skyline with burning police cars comedic. This is the poster you make for a Bruce Willis straight-to-DVD flick. Not the long-awaited fourth installment of a prestige franchise.

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