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Posterized June 2016: ‘De Palma,’ ‘The Neon Demon,’ ‘Swiss Army Man,’ and More

Written by on June 2, 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.

Welcome to June: The Summer Month of Sequels with five such examples ranging from, “That could be cool” to “Who even wants that?” There are a couple studio pictures with a modicum of interest attached worming their way in and A24 is thankfully bringing out two of its latest to help us cope.

So while there will be a lot of new posters at your local cineplex, most of them will be for the same movie infiltrating half the screens available that weekend. Money talks, though. If we keep giving bloated shlock millions and millions of dollars we’ll not only condone their monopolizing theaters — therefore diminishing the number of screens good indie cinema can inhabit — but also unwittingly demand they give us a Part 3.

Summer style quantity

Does it feel like it’s been twenty years since the first Independence Day exploded into theaters by destroying the world’s most iconic monuments? Actually, it does feel like twenty years — maybe even more. But that hasn’t stopped Roland Emmerich from delivering on his promise long ago to let the aliens return.

Everyone is back save Will Smith (and Mae Whitman, a glaring omission considering her character is still involved), but do we care? No and neither does LA who decided to give us the aforementioned monuments in differing states of disrepair. Fox knows what we want and it isn’t an older Jeff Goldblum or Bill Pullman gracing their posters. Independence Day: Resurgence (opens June 24) deserves better than that. It deserves special effects.

These posters aren’t bad, but they aren’t interesting either. In fact, the only thing they make me wonder is why the designer bothered moving the spaceship’s orientation and size from one to the other. There aren’t any lasers to line-up this time so maybe it was just a trick to make us think more care was taken than actually was?

Opposite these “character sheets” is an homage to BLT Communications, LLC‘s original sheet from back in 1996. The craft has been improved — or at least I think it has considering we still haven’t come close to making anything similar in real life — and its target zoomed out from city landscapes to global continents. LA even went so far as to cater to each region by allowing them to be their own objects of destruction from America to Europe to South America to the Pacific.

Will people still care enough to buy a ticket off of nostalgia they may not have?

LA is also the firm of note for the sequel I’m certain many are still scratching their heads about: Now You See Me 2 (opens June 6). I personally enjoyed the first one and am looking forward to seeing what the filmmakers have in store this time around (although it was a missed opportunity not calling it Now You Don’t). Summit seems to think I’m not alone in this curiosity because they have commissioned not one, not two, but three character sheet series to promote it.

This first is flashy in as obvious a way possible. Mirrors cause illusions — especially when reflecting reflections to infinity — so the gimmick is hardly inspired. Neither is the title abbreviation to NYSM2 which for some reason keeps making me think of N*Sync. Michael Caine is wearing white while the others aren’t; Daniel Radcliffe gets cards to flick (resulting in the best of the bunch) while everyone else stands stoically in their Frank Ockenfels portraits. Meh.

Round Two is more unique if no less exciting. LA now goes retro with old school magic show ads recalling hand-painted work of the Houdini era. Each of the four main characters receives a showcase for their specific acts and we enjoy the vibe if not the attempt. The ballsiest aspect is actually what’s missing: the title. It’s asking a lot of the audience to remember people’s names from the first film and possess the ability to parse them together. “Oh, that Jesse Eisenberg magic movie? What was it called?”

Where the firm gets it right is Round Three. They’ve spelled the name out this time — but retained the disquieting removal of the right edge of most of the first letters to each word — and decided to create their own magic for once. Playing off the tag “Reappearing” allows them to use transparency filters so characters and backgrounds merge into a fascinating image that should capture attention. It’s a cool effect and gives the movie some nuance unlike the weak Photoshopped “house of cards” labyrinth baring just enough resemblance to the first film’s poster to be prove worse as a result.

The first film in this section (and possibly the only one) that warrants character sheets is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (opens June 3). These turtles spent a long time as action figures — I know because I used to have a set along with the quickly recalled Pizza Thrower that appears to have been reborn for the film — so giving them each a spotlight is crucial to hitting today’s youth wanting to see their favorite on their wall. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to just slap them on a poster with lens flares and motion blurs, though. At least Donatello has a drone to help give his a sense of place rather than flat cityscapes like the others.

Some may say BLT’s second series is more boring as a result of removing those post-production quirks, but I disagree. Their statuesque poses on the ledges of skyscrapers give them a heroic edge. These are warriors with courage and confidence, not cartoons jumping through the air. They’ve earned their Batman shots of peering down on the city they serve to protect. There’s a story here.

That said: I’d rather the group shots to just get this whole thing over with. Having them on the same ledge together earns the same regal quality of hope, the angle from below adding even more prestige to their God-like visage. Give the humans their own spotlight separately (Hi, April and Casey!) and call it a day.

Or — and this may be my nostalgia talking — burn all of these and settle upon Dave Quiggle‘s grungy illustration of the clan riding through the streets.

Finally a non-sequel! Although I’m not sure the appeal of Warcraft (opens June 10) garners more fervor than a sequel would. Most people aren’t aware of what the MMORPG is and a select few are excited simply because Duncan Jones is the director (I fall in the latter category). Fantasy is big business and this could be good. Sadly the more I see of it the more I wonder if Jones fell prey to the Hollywood machine. Fingers crossed that he was able to stamp it with his signature sci-fi style regardless.

If he did, however, these posters from Concept Arts don’t show it. Self-important poses by characters we don’t know or care about? No thanks. Ben Foster looks more computer-generated than the orcs, Dominic Cooper’s non-existent soapbox makes him look like a giant, and Paula Patton seems to have been contractually obligated to not look like the species she plays. This doesn’t bode well.

Universal should have stuck to the teasers because they deliver promise and mystery. I loved those ComicCon weapon shots of Horde hammer and Alliance sword. They piqued interest rather than rolled eyes. Even Travis Fimmel in sandy repose makes us wonder at the majesty of the film’s scale. This is Man versus Beast with allegiances thrown in. Show us that, not pretty people who are too pretty to be hidden under CGI.

All is not lost on the character sheet front thanks to cold open, though. Their series for Finding Dory (opens June 17) is great. The name says it all and the Where’s Waldo idea to place Dory in the middle of random undersea foliage is inspired even if it’s easy to spot her. This concept has to have little kids going wild, pointing to her blue face while screaming to their parents that they found her. It’s the makings of a cute movie theater experience — or abhorrent one depending on your enjoyment of kids screaming in public.

The final poster by Legion Creative Group is okay, but it lacks this interaction. Dory is in the center, Nemo and his father are brightly below her, and the rest is muted to be lost in the water so only blue and orange pop out. Even the new octopus character is lost in the bottom right corner thanks to shadows. It’s as though Pixar said, “We need all these things, but we don’t care how you put them in.” Credit the firm for fitting them in, but it’s too much.

The only way you can improve on the hidden picture trope is to go even more minimal. Look at the teaser for proof. “She just kept swimming …” Yep. There she goes. Perfect.

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