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WTF Happened to Movie Posters?

35 Responses to “WTF Happened to Movie Posters?”

  • You’re preaching to the choir good sir! As an artist/designer, I get more annoyed by the lack of creativity in movie ads with each passing year. When “Benjamin Button” came out I very nearly had a conniption fit because some bonehead decided the best way to market a film that used groundbreaking visual effects technology and themes related to the passing of time decided that the most interesting element to show the audience was Brad Pitt and Cate Blancett’s faces.

    Why not just take a picture of the executive producer’s ass? That way we’ll know were this mess came from! Even to this day I refuse to see the movie on the grounds that if they can’t even do the posters right than the film itself already has both feet in the grave.

    Looks like you and I are of like mind on this subject as you’ve hit just about every point I’ve ever heard or said in a discussion about movie posters today. When I was a kid, I used to love the painted art they had for the Universal Studios Monsters Tapes. They were moody and uniform and so much fun to look at. Now the DVDs either have the original poster (which is fine) or sepia toned photo from the movie, which is appropriate enough, but not as interesting. At least it doesn’t take up the whole cover, thats something.

    You’re on the right track with fan made posters as thats were the creativity shines through. I remember back when the posters for “X-Men First Class” came out, my friends and I were so appalled that we spent the next two to three months creating our own posters for a film that hadn’t even been released! Our results may not have been studio quality, but at least they were unique!

    I hear you about how the minimalistic fan tributes can be hit or miss. Sometimes they go too minimal and lose the grab power. Someone like Olly Moss is a great example of how these kind of posters can work. I was going to recommend Tom Whalen as well, but I see you have some of his work in your montage as well.

    I’ve been meaning to write a blogpost about some of my favorite posters for a while now, and maybe this is the kind of encouragement I need to push that forward. I’ll get back to you on that!

    • Cecil:

      The close up faces is infuriating because it conveys nothing about the movie aside from “this person is in this movie”.

      It was really bad with Benjamin Button because there was so many things they could have done and yet the best they could do was a close of of their faces looking somewhat perplexed. That really doesn’t do anything to make me want to see the film.

      I’m doing some reorganizing around here and going through all my old VHS tapes. The covers on them, even for these ultra low budget flicks, still did a better job of enticing you to see the film. They at least put some effort into these things!

      The minimalist posters are a great concept but like a lot of things, the fans are going nuts with them. Some work, some don’t. They are at least showing way more creativity than the average big budget studio gives their art department.

      Let me know about the blog! A recent favorite poster of mine is the SDCC version of You’re Next. If you look up my review of it you can see the poster. It is excellent and much better than the one they used for the multiplexes.

  • mogens:

    1.that was very well mate cecil
    2.this could bee similar to the drew strusan tribute by the nostalgia critic
    3.i agree with this posters too day just scream drew strusan too come back but hii dosent in fackt his last poster was for indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull

    • Cecil:

      1 Thanks
      2 ok
      3 In general they need to give the artists more leeway instead of just forcing them to make the same posters over and over

  • Jason:

    I’m a huge fan of the airbrush masterpieces that were used to promote movies in the 80’s. The Goonies, Back to the Future, Indian Jones, etc…. To me that’s what a movie poster is supposed to look like.

  • Mike:

    I think the “Unstoppable” and ” X-Men: 1st Class” examples are great. With Unstoppable you have this great action photo that tells you get ready for a ride but it losses all momentum when you force the giant heads into it. Unless it’s a fantasy movie or Denzal Washington is going to be in costume I don’t need a picture of his head to remind me who Denzal Washington is. X-Men has these mysterious black and white 60’s throw back posters (which the movie takes place in the 60’s), however totally mucks it up with color head shots ala E-T glowing stomach.

    • Cecil:

      Just goes to show the studio heads have no faith in the general public. They just figure if they market it enough with big stars people will go see it.

  • scoopmoose:

    A long time ago, I used to complain about adventure movies all having the same (though well-done) artist paintings as movie posters. And now I long for those days, because even if they were mostly draw in similar styles, at least someone went through the effort of painting them.

    That was a great episode, Cecil! It must have taken a lot of time to decide which posters to use, as there’s so many that are interchangeable.

    That X-Men First Class poster is baffling. It’s common for big movies to put out teaser posters that just hint at the film (often done well before the movie is finished… sometimes even before filming has started. The Star Wars Prequel teaser posters were better than most of the movies.), and later they’ll come out with a generic cast poster that clearly shows everything you need. So why would they tamper with those early promo sheets?

    I do have to disagree with you on the effectiveness of the Knocked Up poster. I had no idea who Seth Rogan was at that time. So seeing his huge, doofusy face filling the poster with the tagline “What if this guy got you pregnant?” was hilarious and got me interested in the film.
    Now, every one of his movie posters afterwards are a total waste of space.

    • Cecil:

      Thanks! I have been gathering posters on and off over the past few months and decided I had enough to put this together.

      The Star Wars Episode 1 teaser was great with the shadow of Vader. A few other posters have borrowed the idea (The Amazing Spider-man is a recent one) but they at least did it in a way that it is not a direct ripoff.

      Thats fine about Knocked up. I know not everyone will have the same reaction as I did but I was just pointing out how certain things like this might work against the film instead of for it. On a similar not and a similar poster, the one for the 40 year old virgin cracked me up. (but that was long before everyone started doing that style)

  • demonknight:

    Life Harder. That made my week.

    I told someone who is going to college for film classes the other day about It’s a Wonderful Life Too (that’s what it is, be honest). He had just finished this diatribe about how Hollywood is out of ideas, but hat they aren’t told bad yet. I told him. He yelled, “FUCK HOLLYWOOD! Forget what I said. FUCK ‘EM.”

    • Cecil:

      hehehe thanks 🙂

      Fuck em indeed. It seems the majority of the films I really enjoyed this year so far I had the hardest time seeing. Its like the really good movies are being quickly dumped in and out of theaters or DTV with little fanfare. Meanwhile, Madea Christmas? 3500 theaters.

      • demonknight:

        Yep. I agree. Three of my top 5 of the year are independent.
        John Dies at the End: I wanted to see his movie after I saw the first trailer. I read the books and loved them. I found out that one theater near me was showing it. I went (during a fucking blizzard), and got lost (twice), but loved the hell out of it. It was afterwards that I found out that Coscarelli was doing a preview screening the year before at a theater I frequent. Figures.
        Inside Llewyn Davis: Saw a preview screening of this at the aforementioned theater I frequent. Oscar Isaac was there. Cool guy.
        The Way Way Back: Rockwell is awesome in everything. I go to the water park it was filmed/set in (I was kicked off the set for being too nosy). It is only now that I realize how many indie theaters that the Boston area has.

        Also, teal and orange posters are nothing new. The Darkman poster on my wall wanted me to mention that.

        • Cecil:

          Oh the teal and orange go way back but they were used sparingly. Now it is like every other thing.

          I gotta check out the Way Way Back.

  • Cristiona:

    I dunno. The Transformers floating head poster was kind of amusing. If nothing else, at least the poster knew why people would want to see it. Pity Bay didn’t (hint: we want giant robots, not highschool dork).

    I wonder if the floating head posters are just an evolution of the heads-in-boxes style from the 70s which was used a lot for disaster flicks, especially when you had multiple major stars.

    Good news, though, Cecil. Paramount doesn’t want a sequel either. And since they hold the rights…

    • Cecil:

      I guess they thought they were giving people what they wanted but really it was jive talkin robots, an overbearing mother, and tons of unfunny masterbation jokes.

      Paramount is probably going to play the field with this one. Believe me, if they get paid the right amount don’t think it won’t be a new franchise. lol

  • Steve:

    Funny that you should do a bit on movie posters. A few months back, my wife and I decided we wanted movie posters for our blank living room/library walls. We already had sort of a movie theme with a collection of antique cameras and projectors, a popcorn machine, etc. The one poster I knew I wanted was John Carpenter’s The Thing (the one with the light coming out of the face). Couldn’t find an original at a decent price but I did find a good reprint. It’s now framed and hanging next to my pinball machine.

    The others we wound up with are:

    Army of Darkness(yeah, had to have that one too)
    ’89 Batman (only one of the bunch that’s not a reprint – and it’s pristine)
    Metropolis (man I wished it was original – but I don’t have a few tens of thousands of extra dollars laying around)
    Murder By Death (Charles Addams (as in The Addams Family) did the artwork on this one)
    Down Periscope (my wife’s favorite comedy – there’s a story why)

    The newest movie is Down Periscope which came out around ’95-’96. After the mid 90’s it gets really hard to find a poster that stands out. (I could maybe say the same thing about movies in general, but I think that’s just me getting older and turning into my dad).

    I guess my point is that there is a definite change in the creativity level of movie posters, album art, video game art, pretty much any kind of advertising “art” after the mid 90’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the rise of the internet and digital media (you can’t really display your collection of mp3s and the cool art associated with it on a shelf). I think it also has something to do with creativity being focus grouped and market researched out of existence when it comes to ad art. That, and not giving the audience any benefit of the doubt whatsoever as to being able to figure out for themselves what they are looking at.

    Oh well, next on my poster radar are an original Alien and a King Kong ’76 (I had a King Kong lunchbox when I was a kid – have no idea what happened to it).

    • Cecil:

      A large part is simply the lack of creativity or more accurately the lack of allowing any kind of creativity. Like you said, everything is focus tested and narrowed to try and appeal to the widest audience possible. This makes everything a generic slurry that brings to mind “product” as opposed to “art”.

  • Ahhh, the floating head posters/cover art. I’m actually guilty of getting one of these autographed at the Stargate Convention in Chicago in 2012. Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson) signed the Ark of Truth cover art. It involves the five (yes, five) members of SG-1 with part of the Stargate under them and then the title. It’s actually very autograph worthy, and I could have had the cover autographed by almost everyone else this year, but I opted to make my own photo collages, which are far more special to me (and a huge hit with the actors who signed them!!!).

    I need to look up the minimalist posters, they look awesome!!!!!

    As always, very enjoyable! I learn so much from your videos – none of it valuable to anyone in my life, but I love non-practical information. Today is a good day for it. 🙂

    PS – I’m actually putting up something on my blog that you may enjoy – the tale of a forgotten video game system.

  • Joshnorm:

    The ones with the writing overlay I like if done right. Breaking Bad Remember My Name mad me mule kick since it was a lead up to the final 6 episodes after a long wait.

    But Evil Dead should have just had the Gil walking away with The Evil Dead at he bottom would have done the trick

  • Joshnorm:

    The Girl not gil, sorry

  • Jr.:

    That Seven Pounds poster in infuriating. It actually made me hate Will Smith for once. Great episode as always.

    Ever seen those funny faux movie posters for individual episodes of MST3K involving Servo and Crow? Thats what you should be making for your movie reviews. Something to jump out and grab people’s attention.

    • Cecil:

      The head posters just seem to egotistical. Hey, “BIG NAME STAR” is in this movie! That’s all you need to know!

      I have a bunch of the MST posters. (they come with the box sets from Shout) I’d buy larger ones if they sold them.

  • cecil you need to do a quick episode in joy ride now that paul walker is dead,i love that movie and i think it ismost def a good bad flick.

    • Cecil:

      Unfortunately, I’ve kind of mapped out my December already. Plus while I’m sure an episode on him right now would get me more views, I don’t really want to capitalize on the guy’s death.

      I would like to do something in the future though. Perhaps take a look at Joy Ride, Timeline, or Tammy and the T-Rex. (since I was already planning on getting to those…especially Tammy)

      • tammy and the t-rex one i have never saw or heard of. You do agree that joy ride is a good bad flick right? I mean when did the CB get put in the trunk,how did he know what way they were going to go when spray painting the signs?

  • Egil:

    Nice job I am really curious to know if you are going to do more episodes about movie posters like a episode about how to make movie posters good or a episode with the most insanely awesome movie posters you cod get your hands on and I am also curious to know if you are interested in doing some episodes about movie trailers and the meany problems they have like giving away way to much information about the movie you are going to watch

  • Timo:

    Dear Lord, I love well done cover/poster art. I guess I’m more a video game than a film guy myself. The best time for game covers was roughly from mid-80s to mid-90s when usually you had these gorgeous hand-drawn and painted covers. Look at the Ultima series, or the adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts for great examples. Nowadays it’s all either computer-drawn crap or minimalistic crap, like with the Elder Scrolls games.

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