I wrote briefly in a previous post about how much I love movie posters. I’ve been wanting to write more about them but had a hard time coming up with the best way to approach it, until now. I come across a lot of posters that I immediately have problems with, can’t believe the low quality of, pick out interesting elements from, or really really like, but I’ve never felt it worth devoting a blog entry to.
A possible solution: I’m going to try a potentially recurring segment in which I briefly write about a couple of posters that have recently caught my eye for whatever reason. First let’s remember one of the primary purposes of the movie poster: to make a movie attractive enough that it tips the scales of your purchasing decision in its favor.
First up, one of the most blatant cases of false advertisement:
The Founding of a Republic, starring Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Donnie Yen. Three of the biggest martial arts stars in an epic movie where they play what? Peaceful guardian angels??? For those unfamiliar with the film, Republic was a historical film backed by the Chinese Communist Party to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The film tells the story of the rise and triumph of the Communist Party and features brief cameo appearances by anyone who’s anyone in the pan-Chinese film industry, actors and directors alike, including Andy Lau, Ge You, Chen Kaige, John Woo, Jiang Wen, Zhao Wei, Zhang Ziyi, Feng Xiaogang, and many many MANY more. Many of them “surprisingly” waived their fees to be in the film.
Again, these are mostly incredibly brief cameos. I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I know if it, I’m pretty sure Jet, Jackie, and Donnie actually share no screen time together and that there is no martial arts action in the film. So yes, this is technically the first film in which all these actors are together, but the expectation for martial arts action is being falsely created by putting the names and faces of these three performers on the cover.
That’s not even how they look in the film. Here’s a screenshot of Jackie in the movie:
Worst of all, the photoshopped heads are terrible. Is it just me, or do the bodies of Jet Li and Donnie Yen look like mirror images of each other?
And what’s with Jackie’s incredibly short arms? It looks like he’s missing his humerusses(?) humeri(!). Like all he has are shoulders and forearms…
I think this poster is really interesting for a couple of reasons. First up, what are they trying to sell? Disney is probably hoping for a franchise with this movie, meaning this first film will be the hardest to sell. If they can establish it well enough, and score big at the box office, the sequels will be much easier to market. But for now, let’s see what they’ve got working in their favor: 1) Johnny Depp, 2) an existing property/character that will already be familiar to some potential audiences, and 3) perhaps less importantly, the rising star power (for lack of a better word) of Armie Hammer.
In terms of popularity and international recognition, there’s absolutely no contest between Depp and Hammer, which is what I think makes this film and its poster so interesting. Even though Depp is way more popular than Hammer, it’s Hammer who plays the lead/title role that will – or at least should – carry the film, its marketing, and its franchise potential.
But whose face is that on the poster? Let’s look at this picture to see if we can figure it out:
Is that Hammer with the mask on? Or is it Depp with the crow? The poster intentionally leaves the answer unclear. Depp’s name comes first on the poster, but it’s Hammer who’s the lead. Chances are if people know nothing about the movie and will make their purchasing decision based on this poster, Depp is the name that will get them in the theater. Not Hammer. It’s an interesting predicament where what you want to be able to say is “The Lone Ranger starring Armie Hammer” but what will probably get more people in seats is “The Lone Ranger ‘starring’ Johnny Depp.” The poster lets them have it both ways. If it becomes a success, and Hammer’s popularity keeps increasing, I’m guessing the sequel’s poster will be VERY different. Also, the movie won’t be coming out for another 6 months, leaving plenty of time for new posters as its release date draws closer.
I think that’s the end of Round 1. I was planning to write about more posters, but was not expecting to write this much about these 2. Will have to save some for Round 2!
Please share some of your favorite posters in the comments!