Synapse to Cintax
A Film Poster is Worth a Thousand Lines
While passing another by numbers poster for a Hollywood remake (today Footloose, tomorrow Breakin‘ 2: Electric Boogaloo, probably) I mused: why are movie posters nowadays so…shite? Cowboys and Aliens? Another uninspired poster, even when the subject material suggests it should be anything but.
CUT TO: BOARD MEETING
“Stick a Facebook logo in the corner, get people to follow us on Twatter for ‘exclusive’ (#dull as dishwater) updates and staple a four-star rating from Empire.”
I walked away from the poster citing irreconcilable differences. ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ I thought. Reassuringly, this poster for Drive suggests it was just you after all.
Granted, Drive has been a movie garnering much anticipation. I awoke this morning with last night’s viewing fresh in my mind; recounting exemplary non-DIY use of a hammer (the most brutal since Oldboy and, more recently, Kill List), an unexpected yet welcome 80s electro-pop soundtrack and Ryan Gosling reaching all sorts of sartorial heights with a bountiful supply of denim attire. It’s as if Levi Strauss had been given the keys to his trailer.
Away from potential double denim entendres and back to the poster. It gives knowing nods to cult classic Repo Man and, just plain ol’ classic, Taxi Driver while incorporating a GTA: Vice City-esque lurid pink font. To the former, Repo Man is a stunningly cool poster itself, for a film which is as cool as a genetically-modified cucumber (not a simile for the Soil Association, admittedly). Its soundtrack is about as far removed from the new wave sentiments of Drive and demonstrative of the underground punk scene which sent shudders down the spine of apple pie America. So cool, in fact, it would be remiss of me not to put it right about here followed by the poster for Taxi Driver.
Even tailor Paul Smith’s been tinkering away as these posters for that other huge release of the moment which I’ve cunningly alluded to (i.e. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) show.
Whatever your personal viewpoint on their execution (personally I’m not that enamoured), it’s reassuring to see that this is a medium which is not considered past it. Olly Moss is another artist who frequently crops up in this sphere, reinterpreting films both old and new in light of major hooks or particular themes. His version of the seminal Evil Dead poster remains one of my favourites.
The unfortunate thing is that such creativity seems to be seen as one of novelty rather than something which we should come to expect for releases proper. Or maybe this is simply business as usual from a Hollywood that seems far less likely to take risks and prefer to bludgeon us with brash blockbuster posters. But such posters still serve a purpose so one might argue that it’s simply business common sense, howsoever galling that might seem. One thing seems certain; things were a whole lot different for past masters of this game. People like Drew Struzan (The Thing), Jim Pearsall (Chinatown), Mort Künstler (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three), Saul Bass (North by Northwest and Vertigo), and Bill Gold (Platoon) exude that sense of filmic magic and spectacle in all their efforts.
In the cold light of day, it helps that the films I’ve mentioned are themselves superb. Independently, a piece of artwork can be well-executed, sure, but these posters became iconic as a result of people’s deep-seated connections with that particular film. Let’s face it, a poster for a remake of Weekend at Bernie’s II wouldn’t become great even if Bernie himself was decked out in a pair of Gosling’s aviators. Poster art hasn’t died – it’s been lying in wait. And it seems like something just got its attention.