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Posterized September 2015: ‘Everest,’ ‘Sicario,’ ‘The Walk,’ and More

Written by on September 2, 2015 

Props to props

Props are sometimes gimmicks. Gimmicks sometimes work. I’m not sure this is true with each one of the next four posters, but they are intriguingly captivating regardless of that success.

Take Gravillis Inc.’s Time Out of Mind (limited September 11) for example. The design hinges on the idea that a piece of glass is separating us from the scene of Richard Gere on the street. This glass is fogged and wet with condensation, dripping clear and wiped away to better see him behind it.

The image is unique as a result, if not completely arbitrary in a way. I see the concept of the unknown, complemented by Gere’s face of perplexed thought. Is that enough for it to be relevant as more than a pretty poster, though? Maybe. Does it matter? Not really. Sometimes attractiveness is enough to remember a film’s name and keep it in the back of your mind for when it releases.

Other films sell themselves simply by their WTF casting like Dragon Blade (limited September 4) and its samurai epic starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody.

The character sheets are beautiful in their chiaroscuro shading and highlights juxtaposed against the physical embodiment of the movie’s title in its native language’s calligraphy. I’m not sure if this style could have followed through to its main sheet without finding clutter in the need for multiple actors, but I’d like to see what the firm tried. Anything would be better than the unrealistic melding of four actors with varying expressions of constipation.

I think the tease comes close to finding the marriage of visual beauty and content by giving us Chan and the decorative title in a brooding scene of extreme lights and darks. The sense of scale is breathtaking with the titular blade in hand being our central focus, huge and in the foreground, despite the Chinese legend being the clear face our eyes are drawn towards. This thing is firing on all cylinders.

The same can be said for Vox and AssociatesThe Walk (September 30). How can you not be mesmerized by its vertigo-inducing vantage point putting us into the moment as Philippe Petit journeys between the World Trade Center towers on a wire? The cable cutting straight across the page is just different enough from the not quite parallel building facades creating a hitch that helps us fall through the sky and down to the city streets. It’s invigorating.

It’s a shame the designers couldn’t solve the problem of how to get the text to pop without placing obtrusively appalling outer glows of white beneath it. I get that they are trying to put them above “clouds,” but they’ve failed. Make the day more overcast, really give those cumulus cotton balls some volume so it doesn’t look like they are only there to support the words. Like its graphical brother of silhouettes and heavy lines appearing to be a cheap Mondo knock-off, it’s just not quite right.

Cooties (limited September 18), on the other hand, is all kinds of right. I adore this poster and almost had it on my Best of list from 2014. The nostalgic feeling its off-white coloring and old-fashioned font warms my heart as the sugary sweet lollipop meets skeletal hand delivers its genre-hybrid sensibilities without a single word. Before even looking at the cast list, this poster had me wanting to see the film.

LA‘s second tease with the funny “Children at Play” sign is effective for other reasons. Definitely more playful and as a result less precise in epitomizing exactly what it’s selling, it begs us to see what’s going on. I would have liked the rendering to be more realistic like the candy, though. Why not manufacture this thing on metal and take a photograph? The fake-ness of it lends a childish nature that loses its target audience.

I won’t begrudge the studio wanting one with the actors in full view, but I won’t pretend to like it either. The collection in the center isn’t believable spatially and their child pursuers are blurred and added in to look like cardboard stand-ups rather than actors. It’s all very glossy and mainstream—a far cry from how the campaign began so many months ago.

Live from LA

You may have noticed I did not single out big firms like Ignition or BLT Communications, LLC this month. Where they used to dominate the movie poster scene, today finds a new contender taking control in LA. They’ve been around for a few months handling some massive campaigns in Minions, Insurgent, and The Age of Adaline and it seems they are here to stay.

Prolific isn’t always perfect, though. It’s not like Everest (IMAX September 18; wide September 25) is a bad poster per se, it’s just not very memorable. Mountaintop, clouds, and list of actors’ names—it has the Roland Emmerich vibe down pat without his name to sell it beyond the stars.

I guess it looks dangerous to match the tagline, but it also conjures thoughts of Mt. Olympus. Are the Gods coming down for a little clashing or wrath? At least the firm’s second selection gives some suspense with climbers hanging onto an almost fallen comrade over a canyon, but it’s still mainstream pandering. Hate to say it but Empire Design‘s sheet with actual celebrity faces may be best if only because the names aren’t taking up half the frame.

LA hits their stride with The Visit (September 11). It’s very much a variation on a theme already popularized by Sightseers and Mondo’s Gremlins sweater, but it also works contextually with M. Night Shyamalan‘s foray into low budget found footage. Of course grandma would knit the kids their rule sheet—that’s what grandmas do besides bake cookies, isn’t it? Just look at the alternate poster …

I like that the firm doubles down on the aesthetic by not just using the textured canvas background or only giving certain text the effect. The house illustration and checkered motifs are a nice touch while the bloody fingerprints perfectly tease the horror at its center. The tone is right with a mix of terror and whimsy.

Speaking of Roland Emmerich, LA got their chance to work with the destruction maestro on his much smaller production of Stonewall (limited September 25). This thing is gorgeous. It reminds me of what cold open did on Jersey Boys, but with an exponential increase in authenticity. This one doesn’t look like a studio set.

I love the title becoming a part of the image, the sun over-exposing the sky while also illuminating the foreground with a warm yellow, and the careful placement of the tag as the boldest white to steal our attention every time.

It’s more austere than full sheet in pink with monochrome actors running towards us, but also more effective. Who’d think the tiny white tag on the first would be more pronounced than the massive black lettering of the second? And that title’s outer glow makes it look like an action flick. That decision was a poor choice.

Where LA shines brightest, though, is with the tease for Sicario (limited September 18; wide September 25). This thing is spooky, gorgeous, and unforgettable. There’s an optical illusion happening with the circles of the sewer line the silhouette at back is approaching, the waves of their false convergence creating motion as though we’re zooming in or the figure is zooming out. And that logotype is great too. The thick sans blocks spanning the width demand our attention and carry a weight the fine details of the rest command in the exact opposite way.

Their totem college of actors is pretty good too considering its clichéd design. The painterly quality always makes it more attractive than photo splicing ever can because it becomes artistic rather than fake. The dirty blemishes adhere to the tone of the film and a real sense of drama comes through.

The rest of the series is reminiscent of Gravillis Inc.’s own out-of-the-box work on Killing Them Softly. Their clip art style is intriguing and the faded ink on canvas look gives it age and a tactile touch, but I think the objects might be too obscure in their minimalism. And the bright tattoo design is just that: familiar and appropriate, but not for everyone.

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

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