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Posterized November 2018: ‘Creed II,’ ‘The Favourite,’ ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ and More

Written by on November 2, 2018 

“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 prestige central. All the spooky goblins and demons have disappeared to be replaced by November’s slate of Oscar-nominated artists (with some winners) swinging for the fences in hopes of another. There’s high drama for parents and fantasy flavor for kids with auteur visions from festival season filling in the blanks. While the studios save their super serious stuff for Christmastime, those more “fun” titles of counterprogramming with critical appeal hit theaters now to whet our collective appetite.

Such a tease

Leave it to the Harry Potter franchise’s producers to look at Thanksgiving and think, “Let’s use the holiday to make sure our second week matches our inevitable first.” It’s a shrewdly calculated and self-aware move. And the same description could be used when talking about the marketing campaign for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (November 16) too.

WORKS ADV hit the streets with familiar iconography, a familiar lead, and the film’s main attraction: Jude Law as young Dumbledore. I’m half surprised they even bothered to include the title since Eddie Redmayne holding a wand is all you need to know what’s being sold. Kudos for the dramatic lighting and electric smoke aesthetic, though. Things are looking much darker than the first.

The conspicuous absentee is of course the rightfully maligned Johnny Depp despite his being the titular character. So it’s hardly surprising that the next card in WORKS ADV’s sleeve makes sure to have everyone’s face visible but his. Yes, there’s contextual reasoning for such a maneuver, but it’s kind of fun to think Warner Bros. was trying to distance themselves a bit from Depp’s current news cycle.

It’s only with the final sheet and its ornately stylish snake-like frame that we finally see his face with equal billing to Law. I’ll admit that this poster is well done considering how stale its content proves. While it’s perhaps not as moody as the tease, the dark palette works infinitely better than the blinding white and too graphically perfect line work of the previous example. In the end it really doesn’t matter, though. This franchise will either show how it remains king or reveal its decline regardless of how pretty the advertising is.

A film that should benefit from good marketing is Bohemian Rhapsody (November 2). Here’s a biopic that has a not so great history considering Sacha Baron Cohen’s public departure from the project after the surviving members of Queen stated they wanted a story that showed “their perseverance as a band despite Freddie Mercury’s death” and the firing of credited director Bryan Singer mid-way through production. So anything able to bring the focus back onto the music and Mercury is necessary.

Gravillis Inc. was up to the task with their UK tease of Rami Malek in silhouette against a gloriously grainy sunset. The coloring makes this sheet what it is, giving the whole an otherworldly feel. The crest under the title isn’t distracting and the dual font selection proves a perfect complement to one another.

Sadly, WORKS ADV’s US sheets aren’t as good. Their close-up of Malek’s jawline could work, but not as is. Putting the word “Queen” in his sunglasses doesn’t negate the fact that this looks like a rejected design for Super Troopers 2. You need to have a concert atmosphere—a microphone, stage, pose, or whatever. I’m not sure what this is trying to say.

Concept Arts, on the other hand, do right by Ralph Breaks the Internet (November 21). The character is recognizable on its own and his sheepish look of “whoops” along with the context of a Google search bar and accusatory arrow provide the title as visual riddle rather than just by the hashtag below. It’s the sort of tease you need to place the brand back into our consciousness well before the release date.

That minimalism is rendered even better when measured next to Ten30 Studios’ sheet. I don’t mind how busy the environment is (the internet should be when compared with a vintage arcade network) and do enjoy the arrow taking Ralph and Vanellope to who knows where. What’s unwieldy is the title as app icon. Putting Disney inside the box is bad enough, but what they do with the notification circle is unforgiveable. Having the “2” there is ingenious, but only if you keep the name “Wreck-It Ralph 2.” Putting those words super tiny inside the circle conversely admits you know the gimmick doesn’t work and were too lazy to figure out a real fix or simply scrap the idea completely.

One poster that doesn’t need meddling is Concept Arts’ Creed II (November 21). Much like their Ralph teaser, they know the character is enough. The added bonus here, however, is that this character wears his name on his clothing. So despite the artwork being nothing but a Frank Ockenfels photo atop a giant Roman numeral “II,” those two pieces are intentionally combined to form the title.

The black and white also adds some welcome drama the second poster loses in its glossy, try-hard attempt to earn emotion through a scream. Is this a happy scream? Angry scream? We don’t know. Maybe he’s singing. And don’t get me started on the title/actor list top right because it needs to be rotated 180-degrees so my left-to-right English-based brain stops screaming as loud as Michael B. Jordan.

This has character

Characters in a film don’t always have to be actors, especially not when we’re talking about documentaries like The Last Race (limited November 16). Here’s the story of a small-town racetrack and the community that rallies around it. The poster could have gone the route of using some citizens that we don’t know to sell its product, but why not go for drama instead? Why not focus on the subject of racing and what this specific track has to offer?

The result is a captivating image of a beat-up stock car painted red, white, and blue with smoke ascending out the engine. It has a showcase feel similar to when dealerships put their latest edition on a revolving circular platform and have photos taken from a low-angle to portray its “muscle.” The condition itself is both a literal representation of what happens and a metaphorical parallel to the track’s struggles to survive. And this car is allowed to exist in alone that headspace, the title bold yet detached for a perfectly balanced composition moving us through the smoke from “character” to text.

For Jinn (limited November 15), Blood & Chocolate have taken an image of its star and cropped her in a way that allows them to mimic the contours of her face with their text. The right justified credits box follow the path of her mouth until the slight slope of the “j” outlines her nose. A river of negative space is therefore created so our eyes can travel down it, the stark white title grabbing our attention before releasing us onto the rest. And the coloring is superb with headscarf and background filling diagonal corners to highlight her smile. The film is about a young girl struggling with her identity and if nothing else this poster gives us hope she’ll come out of it okay.

InSync Plus’ If Beale Street Could Talk (limited November 30) uses similar imagery in a different way. Like the last sheet, both KiKi Layne and Stephan James have heads bowed. Unlike Zoe Renee’s sense of joy, however, these two are tilted with somber reverence and love in the midst of oppression. And rather than having text cradle their faces as it does above, they meet as though pieces of a puzzle matching forehead to forehead as no other soul could.

The coloring is intriguing in that the photo itself is black and white with green at bottom fading cloudily into red at top. There’s good motion in that transition so we can effortlessly shift our gaze along the vertical axis from title to date.

After characters portraying drama, joy, and love comes my fourth entry to this section: comedy. You cannot help but laugh at MIDNIGHT OIL’s The Favourite (limited November 23) simply because of Emma Stone sunk down on the floor with arms crossed while Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz look on regally by comparison. The poster literally frames the latter pair as though they epitomize a pristine image that should be sold and yet it’s the odd woman out who steals our attention and the show.

The rest is a mix of the surreal and idiosyncratic. The bunnies add a nice flourish (I haven’t seen the film to comment on their inclusion), the way Colman’s cape interacts with the false frame and then becomes a rug is delightful, and the decision to force all text into full justified columns proves as confounding as it does memorable. On the whole this poster is simultaneously abstract and matter-of-fact, playful and severe. Knowing Yorgos Lanthimos, the film itself should follow suit.

This design ultimately proves much more palatable than Vasilis Marmatakis’ teaser. That one is much darker and obtuse—perhaps relying too much on our having seen the film to understand it. Unforgettable in concept, I wonder if it’s simply too weird to leave an indelible mark.

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