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Posterized March 2015: ‘It Follows,’ ‘Chappie,’ Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,’ and More

Written by on March 3, 2015 

“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.

For a month consisting of only four weeks, March 2015 has a lot of films coming out. So many that I couldn’t find the desire to talk about a few biggies like Get Hard (March 27th), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (March 6th), or Run All Night (March 13th). Here’s a summary: none of the trio has any poster to write home about.

I could spend a paragraph joking about Taylor Lautner growing facial hair to confuse us on whether Abduction and Tracers (limited March 20th) are the same film, but I’d rather focus on what I’ve selected below. They are mostly quite good. If not for the expansive catalog I’m ignoring, I’d say it’s one of the best-designed months in a while. Or, at the very least, one of the most intriguing.

Hope something sticks

Were Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, and Dave Franco not enough to sell Unfinished Business (March 6th)? Why else would the design firm go out of its way to squeeze Nick Frost and Sienna Miller into the bottom? It wasn’t for aesthetics, that’s for sure. Making a triptych of the three leads is overkill as is, adding two more does no favors. If ever I wished for a Photoshopped faux combination it’s now.

ARSONAL‘s ideas to combat the overkill may not be much better, but they are more cohesive. Franco’s goofy smile would be funny by itself and something about Wilkinson posing with a gimp is highly amusing. They could have filtered the spray paint font better, though. It is so bright and so sharp along the edges that it seems like an afterthought rather than a calculated decision. And that drop shadow was ill-conceived—paint adheres directly to a surface, it doesn’t hover.

Those headless bodies, though. Thank You for Smoking did it with much better effect years ago. These things just don’t look real. Vaughn’s suit is the most believable of the bunch with Franco’s backpack-toting shoulders appearing to be squished against the wall at his back. Maybe the condom in front of his face caused him to run into something and dislocate his arm?

So many choices and none get the job done. But does a film like this need a bang-up marketing campaign? It’ll still probably win the box office opening weekend regardless.

The Cobbler (limited March 13th), on the other hand, needs all the help it can get. Not only did it get dragged through the mud at TIFF (I enjoyed its fairy tale tone more than most), having Adam Sandler as your lead is almost akin to a kiss of death. Thankfully, the story makes it so his titular shoemaker inhabits the bodies of his customers. So Sandler isn’t onscreen as much as you’d expect. Indika Entertainment Advertising giving the tease a blank slate with its shoes as a focal point is therefore perfect.

Alas, while some avoid Sandler like the plague, others will buy tickets to whatever he does. In comes The Refinery providing the final sheet with the former SNL actor front and center at his schlubby best. With the weird neon sign logotype and his stained apron, it looks like he works as the line cook at a diner. If that’s not odd enough, gazing upon the skyscrapers in the background has me wondering if the building behind him was dropped from above in the middle of the street a la Dorothy’s house from The Wizard of Oz.

Somehow this isn’t even the worst that could happen. Internationally the film’s marketing has embrace Sandler’s shtick completely. First we have him posing above us at an impossible angle with a high heel. Then we get him in a pile of shoes smiling with his arms in “ta-da” placement. Throw that one against NYC and it looks like he’s a homeless guy in a pool of footwear ready to be immortalized on a Garbage Pail Kids trading card.

For Home (March 27th), like all children’s fare, it doesn’t matter what concept rises above the rest. Simply having a cute cartoon character is enough to mesmerize kids passing by. Give it some atmosphere like the above sheet from Concept Arts or merely throw the alien in as many Earthly places as possible like Proof‘s entries at right, you’re winning either way.

Putting the former into one of the latter, however, is something I haven’t seen. What’s going on with this? Tip Tucci and Oh sitting on a park bench reading a magazine from the Boov’s planet that has a back cover ad of the Earth movie they’re in? That’s some Inception-level parallel dimension stuff. My brain wants to pretend it never happened.

Thankfully Insurgent (March 20th) arrives to save the day as far as multiple styles for one film goes. I’m a sucker for designs that work right side up and upside down—remember Coherence? The angle of this first design is cool, watching Tris and Four propel out of windows above us yet also in front of us at the same time. The close-up version is a bit too Non-Stop with less success, but this long shot amidst glass façades is neat.

Both are better than Ignition‘s floating concrete fire from the trailer—a scene I cannot for the life of me place as existing in the book. It doesn’t make sense without context besides teasing airborne action. I thought it was a head-scratching decision to use in motion and find it more so in print.

On to the character posters, Ignition really embraced the whole glass motif. Or is it water? Are Tris and Four breaking into shards or splashing into droplets? Does anyone care or is it just something cool the designer played with that caught Lionsgate’s attention? The other examples with faces gazing up (or down) at exploding buildings give us some bearing at least. They’re still pretty obtuse and definitely style over substance, but someone’s trying to do something different.

Expressions to kill

One of the most appealing aspects of Chappie (March 6th) is that it seems we’re to watch the titular robot mature. It isn’t just some killing machine or mechanical being speaking in 0s and 1s; it’s a creature who takes on a family to learn what it is to live. Vox and Associates going the route of building blocks to put this feeling on the page is an inspired choice. The execution isn’t the greatest with the gun and blocks at the bottom of the page anything but realistic renderings, but I appreciate the concept.

The same goes for the firm’s Spanish language sheet of Chappie drawing on the wall. While the gun again looks slapped on, I love the scrawled family at top left. The faded figures throughout are cool too, lending the whole a weathered texture akin to the future as depicted in the film’s trailer.

These get at the heart of the tale whereas the BLT Communications, LLC‘s and The Refinery‘s simply play on the idea of a robot savior. That view is reductive and while it may help get action fans in theaters, it cheapens what I believe the film will ultimately prove to be. I’m hoping it’s more District 9 than Elysium and the thought of giving this character an artificial soul helps me in that assumption.

I really like what Empire Design did on The Riot Club (limited March 27th). It gets the tone of the film down pat and gives us a memorable design too. We see the fierce danger in Sam Claflin‘s eyes, the vapid entitlement in Douglas Booth‘s engagement with the camera, and the sense of something more Max Irons yearns to hold onto as he looks into the distance. It may just seem they are walking, but after seeing the film you’ll notice their composition and expressions are very much intentional.

The desaturation of color also provides it with a moody atmosphere the French brightness cannot match. Whereas that one looks cartoonish, Empire’s stays grounded in the horrors ready to be unleashed in the movie’s fantastic dinner scene. I also like the tagline’s single word per line centered in the white space at the top. Very well done.

For Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (March 18th NY; March 20th LA), Sam Smith has crafted an appealingly minimalist piece different than anything else displaying beside it in theaters. There’s a videogame box aesthetic to it that makes me think of Nintendo’s old game Earthbound for whatever reason. I like the collage of cityscape, country, VHS tape, and bunny forming a mountain out of Kumiko’s body and I think the font used is beautiful. The way the “Ks” hug the “U” and “O” after them keeps the block of text a solid white light popping out. Even the comma looks as though it belongs rather than an unappealing add-on like in most designs.

It’s cool that the studio stuck with the general shape and concept in their photo-real version too. Rinko Kikuchi is put in with her bunny as the skeletal x-rays of barren trees reach up out of the background to consume her. Accentuating the red of her hood with the title keeps everything in balance, gives us something to direct our eyes towards, and cultivates a rather foreboding feeling of suspense.

I have no idea what’s going on in cold open‘s Faults (limited March 15th), but it works nonetheless. Perhaps it could have worked better if the fractured photo strips weren’t carefully framed in a rectangle, instead left to spill over the edges, but I’m sure the designer at least tried it. They or the studio felt this was better.

It reminds me of the great Argo teaser poster back in 2012—the reformed image of shredded pieces. Not sure if the stylistic choice takes a relevant plot point from the film here like it did with Ben Affleck‘s, but it definitely makes it unique.

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