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Posterized November 2014: ‘Foxcatcher,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Imitation Game,’ and More

Written by on November 4, 2014 

“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.

I guess studios are gearing up for a huge December push because this month has a pretty sparse line-up. Thankfully, however, it appears quality has trumped quantity because most of what’s opening has been on my must-see list all year (or longer).

While the films themselves do look great, I can’t necessarily say the same about their marketing campaigns. Very few here stand above the rest unless you count blatant rip-offs expressing how over-saturated and uninspired the medium has become. The best thing to my mind is a sheet with its image turned 90° …

Well’s run dry

Let’s talk a bit about those copycats.

I will give WORKS ADV (with photography by Brian Bowen Smith) the benefit of the doubt where Horrible Bosses 2 (November 26) is concerned solely because I can understand why consistency is important in a product’s brand. The problem becomes the fact that the brand begun by BLT Communications, LLC with the first film is less than inspiring.

WORKS ADV did simplify things by focusing only on the stars, even going so far as breaking them out of their boxes despite retaining said cages in a deluded “if we remove the borders it will seem more open” way. Sorry guys, it doesn’t. And the fact that this rigid Photoshoped triptych (just look at that fake roll of duct tape) is better than the “family photo” collage only shows how bad things are.

Onto The Way He Looks (limited November 7) and its theft of P+A / Mojo‘s Away We Go aesthetic. No, not just aesthetic—it looks as though whoever designed this found those firms’ working files and simply slapped their actors on top. I mean, wow. Just wow. I hope that either P+A or Mojo did this one too because at least then I can blame it on one artist’s personal style.

The real shame is that the second poster for the film is quite lovely. The straight lines of the pool tiles nicely contrast the curves of its three characters lying in the sun. I don’t love the transparency effect of the title nor the distractingly too-thin sans serif font, but it doesn’t totally ruin the crop’s brilliance.

Next up is the English-language sheet for Sion Sono‘s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (limited November 7). Add a decapitated dog flying through the air and you have the nightmarish version of Concept Arts‘ epic party aftermath from Project X. I’m talking faceless people lying on the ground, an extended arm holding his grail, and the fog of temperature change brought on by warm bodies on a cold night. Hell, nevermind about the dog since that flash of lightning fills its role nicely.

I can’t even save myself by showing the original advert either since the international design is identical. At least the image conjures thoughts of humor with that silly sword reflecting light in the background. The tone is appropriate; I’ve just seen it all before.

The most egregious offender of the month, however, proves to be the Saul Bass-stealing designers on A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (limited November 7). Since I’m keenly aware that the master of poster design has been copied for decades, I won’t begrudge them the homage.

Instead my qualm is with their unoriginal desire to do what P+A / Mojo (boy those guys should hire lawyers with enough brass to negate “fair use” rhetoric) did on Burn After Reading. We’ve got the Bass-esque names large at top in white, the single isolating bright color in the title to set it apart, the black silhouette drawing to whet our appetite, and the boxy/folded red background to pop everything out.

The similarities honestly pain me.

Eject it into space

When I say eject it into space, I mean it. I do not like what BLT did with these Interstellar (November 5 on film and wide November 7) posters. It started with the first teaser doing a nails on chalkboard design move by stacking each letter of the title on top of each other rather than rotating the full word 90°. Not only that, they also altered the boldness of each letter to make it thin up to where the bottom of the shuttle should be and widen again up to its tip. Guess what, though? The smoke in the background is already doing the same thing.

The other entries are hardly better for the most part due to that logotype. They’ve laid it out according to how we read English this time, but why does it still has the space dust behind it? The font’s razor thin edges help it get lost in the effect and make it somewhat invisible against the barely readable credit block beneath. The whole thing is silly.

Thankfully the imagery is captivating enough to ignite a modicum of awe. Not the second poster above with multiple astronauts looking as confused as we are, but the others. I like the blur of motion under the circular spacecraft in number three and the painterly sky’s vastness in number four. There’s an aura of washed-out color in that last one that really creates a nice, warm and relatable atmosphere. But then I look down at the logotype and realize how it ruins everything.

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