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Posterized November 2013: ‘Ender’s Game,’ ‘Nebraska,’ ‘Frozen,’ ‘Oldboy’ & More

Written by on October 31, 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.

Summer is here! Well, at least the summer we hoped to have when the sun was still shining out my window.

Yes, the requisite Oscar bait arrives with a few festival favorites that should make a splash come awards season, but November has a surprising amount of blockbusters staggered throughout as well. At least that means there should be a little something for everyone.

Poster party

And while we’d generally peg those blockbusters to be the poster hogs with so many variations on the same subject possessing little to no difference amongst them, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (limited 11/29) shows how indies like over-saturation too. Whether it’s the rather lackluster buzz out of TIFF or a desire to set it apart from that other Mandela film (Winnie), The Weinsteins are definitely intent on letting the public know Idris Elba is coming.

Gravillis Inc. went the political route with a high contrast, South African color saturated sheet of its star’s face (and it’s definitely selling Elba over Mandela, no question). It does the job, grabs attention, and sets a tone. Their “Freedom Fighter” iteration is overly busy and confusing to understand; “Troublemaker” looks more like an ad for the actor’s series Luther or maybe a GQ photo shoot more than anything else. I like the intention, but execution lacks a bit of punch.

Old and gray Elba aside, the UK marketing campaign skews closer to the heart of the film with its depiction of the Mandelas as regal leaders readying for a fight. The logotype’s stylized “A” looks a bit too much like Rocky, but I like it. The expanse of white space also proves easier on the eyes than the jam-packed stateside examples.

But I do applaud Gravillis’ attempt at doing something different with a sort of guerilla-style assault, because no one would ever think to do that for a film like Thor: The Dark World (open 11/8). No, BLT Communications, LLC toes the usual status quo line for Disney/Marvel with both the titular heroic stance shrouded in lightning debris and the character collage so intent on including everyone that people are floating or disembodied heads Photoshopped into one scene.

What more would you expect, though? Those two are the necessary full sheets that would be much better painted a la Drew Struzan—that’s obviously the look they’re trying to capture. Add in character sheets that succeed or fail on how interesting the actor’s expression is and there’s nothing worth getting properly excited about. The Loki one is fun just because we don’t know what to expect from him and Malekith’s is cool because we get to see a bit of the make-up work.

It’s no surprise then that BLT got the job on Ender’s Game (open 11/1) too because it’s the kind of flick that needs a rather innocuous campaign to earn exposure and not alienate audiences from being opaque. The title itself is bigger than lead Asa Butterfield, so of course the main sheet has a shadowed figure at center with his name amongst the rest, but the character montages at least throw Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley a bone to do their best at selling a film way too many seem to want to boycott for reasons that have no bearing on the film itself.

What I do like are the International Fleet sheets giving us some world building aspects. Yes, they’re too flashy and photo-real than one would desire from something that could easily go the road of Uncle Sam propaganda, but the idea is at least fresher than floating heads. In the end, though, it’s usually the Mondo variant that excels above the rest and Martin Ansin’s limited run does it again. You can get characters and exposition in the same frame after all.

Ignition Print is the winning firm on creating a good mix of aesthetic pleasure and meticulous content-controlled subject matter, however, with their work on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (open 11/22). I love the canvas-crackled texture and muted, heavy colors that allow a dark cloud to descend on Katniss Everdeen just like the doom and gloom she faces in the book after winning her Games with a middle finger raised to the Capitol. It truly is a gorgeous image.

Likewise, the consistency of this filtering on the character sheets add a sense of atmosphere to the extravagant clothing while also instilling the despair that comes with having to look over your shoulders at every move. Ignition goes a bit lighter and brighter with their Quarter Quell series—ironic considering what those characters’ involvement in the 75th Games means—and gives theaters a nice contrast to the dark blacks necessary for the “fire” graphics to pop.

As far as their Capitol Couture goes: I’m not really sure what the firm was going for. The graphics are intriguing and they sell the film virally in a unique way, but I’m not sure any layperson on the street would care. They’d either think it’s a real product or ignore it altogether right before looking at the Mockingjay emblem next to it with a smile that a new Hunger Games is coming out.

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