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Posterized October 2015: ‘The Martian,’ ‘The Assassin’, ‘Steve Jobs,’ and More

Written by on October 1, 2015 

Witch’s brew

LA is back flooding the market in October with the two sheets above and now a complete campaign for The Last Witch Hunter (October 23). This thing is expansive with multiple teases and final poster variations. I’m not quite sure why Summit believes it deserves such an influx of marketing cash, but it did create some nice artwork at least.

The first tease is my favorite because it doesn’t rely on star Vin Diesel or any witchcraft motifs. Instead it plays with blood and fire for a memorable bit of art. I love the coloring and the rendering of the orange flame at bottom against the black background. You also can never go wrong with black on black saturation keeping shadowed hand and sword visible despite being shrouded in more darkness.

The next three are all about a bearded Diesel. I like the emblem motif one even if the white is too bright. The repetitive castle border is lame, but the tree branches help make up with their gnarly symmetry. It’s somewhat cartoony, though, so it’s unsurprising there would also be one depicting pure stoic aggression like the close-up portrait covered in blood. There isn’t much going on with it, but the imagery is head turning nonetheless.

Where the campaign falters is when LA tries to go Underworld on us. Vin on the Iron Throne is gaudy and busy and obnoxious. Why so much? I want to delve deeper into the detail but it’s all so boring in its superfluity. That said it’s still better than the modern version of a clean-shaven Diesel. Now this one—along with his flowing trench coat—is just plain comical in its faux severity.

Under the veil

We remain on the LA train for Freeheld (limited October 2; wide October 16)—an elegantly simple design that drives its point home straight through the heart. I don’t love the corny tagline “All love is equal,” though, especially since the imagery says the same exact thing without hitting us over the head.

The film’s about a woman diagnosed with a terminal illness who fights to ensure her partner—another woman—receives her police force death benefits. Its LGBT stakes are huge and the addition of the equal sign becomes a necessity to serve the same purpose it does as the logo for the Human Rights Coalition. Those two parallel bars have philosophical weight as well as the compositional geometry to provide windows into the actors’ love. Perfectly cropped, Julianne Moore and Ellen Page‘s eyes are all we need.

I can only imagine the second sheet was the studio demanding something less “political” or “controversial” because I don’t see why LA would need anything besides the first entry. This poster says absolutely nothing besides stating Moore and Page are in it. By removing the heartfelt longing it appears as though the former is the latter’s mother, not lover. It’s a horrible, manipulative ruse.

The American poster for The Assassin (limited October 16) is gorgeous. From the placement of Shu Qi in the middle—providing a triangle of positive space to contrast the negative—to the subtle, watercolor drawing transposed above her so it may bleed into the background, it’s a stunning piece of work. I don’t even mind that the title break-up into AS – SAS – SIN is weird because I love the way the layering transforms her otherwise flat silhouette into three-dimensional shape.

The other English-language example is less attractive mostly because it’s so conventional. Qi is in motion, but the pose isn’t the least bit exciting. The title is beveled and common; the black field at bottom a lazy gradient dissolve. At least the Chinese version tries for similar intrigue to the first with its combination of photography and graphic motif. Even her static pose has a mystery to it the “punch” cannot conjure.

Whereas Freeheld is behind frosted glass and The Assassin a color wash, The Forbidden Room (limited October 10) is literally underneath a veil: a dirty, scratchy, muddy, and over-exposed veil. And it’s wonderful.

The soft focus, artifacting, and faux filmstrip sprockets on both entries create a distinct aesthetic that most would automatically assume Guy Maddin to be the film’s auteur. Its lo-fi messiness is attractive in its unique way and a huge departure from most studios coveting pristinely sharp photography instead. The title is projected upon it, burning itself onto the image, while the actor names scatter and shake below. It’s as though the flicker of the movie theater projector has been frozen in time.

Partisan (limited October 2) isn’t quite veil or window as much as playing with positive and negative space to render both important. Rather than be just a scene with a silhouetted boy against the skyline, we get Vincent Cassel‘s mug front and center inside the void. It could mean he’s the boy grown up or that the two are adversarial. Both options embrace the drama of the coloring, lighting, and expression regardless.

I only wish the title font had less of a “free download” look. Does it need to be freckled with holes when the majority of the letters are still pristine white with sharp edges? No. It’s distracting, which says something considering the captivating image above it. That word is the only unnatural piece of the whole and it’s a glaring blight.

Welcome to Crimson Peak

The posters that stick out most this month come from Iconisus L&Y – Visual Communication Systems and Crimson Peak (opens October 16). You want a horror film to be sold with creepy imagery and these do just that. It’s not about blood or gore, though—it’s more visceral. How can you not hitch your breath, heart skipping a beat, when gazing upon a blood red Mia Wasikowska falling from an overhead vantage onto the house threatening to consume her?

It’s a black light effect popping its figures off the vacuum of space beneath, like x-ray slides in science class tinted for better clarity. The superimpositions utilized with the character sheets hit you even deeper with insects, butterflies, and skulls as though a curtain has been lifted to the torture, death, and beauty within. But the creepiest bit is the consistency of their eyes—stern, frightened, and ready to pounce straight down the line. I wish I had some red/blue 3D glasses.

Moving from these stunners to Creative Partnership‘s ho-hum gothic portraiture is disappointing. There’s no terror in their static pose and the spiky columns are hardly realistic beyond lavish picture frame mystique. At least Guy Davis‘ One-Eyed Willy and Daniel Danger‘s ornate interior embrace the red’s danger even if they too pale in comparison to Iconisus’ work.

What is your favorite October release poster? What could have used a rework?

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