Posters, promos and pretty pictures

Imogen Scott-Chambers looks at some movie posters and promotion tactics and how they affect the success of the film

29th February 2016

Movie posters have an interesting history; as time has elapsed they have developed from simple paintings of the main characters and action into elaborate and mysterious works of art which are stunningly visceral to view. 

Looking back at iconic movie posters such as Hitchcock’s Vertigo, we see a more classical definition of art, it features a silhouette sketch of a man wearing a hat, unsteady on his feet surrounded by white lines forming circles with a striking orange background. The image serves as a metaphor for the film’s plot. It has become a recent phenomenon to try and recreate this style, with artists and fans creating movie posters focusing on an icon from the film, for example with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy only features blue back ground with just the main character, Ron Burgundy’s iconic brown moustache in the centre. Similarly with Ghostbusters, the Ecto-1 car is enhanced on a plain black background. Thus, creating artistic representations of the movies. Neverthless, aside from this trend, movie posters can still be pieces of art.

Last week saw the release of the latest movie poster for the highly anticipated High-Rise, channelling the White Stripes’ ephemeral Seven Nation Army music video, it features large isosceles triangles perhaps emphasising the notion of rising to the top of the social pyramid and the people surrounding them represent characters from the film whom are part of this pyramid, with the main character Tom Hiddleston at the centre. The poster features block shapes, muted colours and real people to convey a mysterious message about the film.

"Quite often, the degree of artistic flare in a movie poster, depends on the genre"

Quite often, the degree of artistic flare in a movie poster, depends on the genre. With run-of-the mill romcoms we often see a photo of the main characters in a humorous situation. For example, The Bounty Hunter movie poster has Jennifer Anniston and Gerard Butler handcuffed together, and many other rom coms follow suit: The Proposal, Pretty Woman, No Strings Attached, the list goes on.

A more artistic genre, is superhero movies. Sometimes we see a generic poster featuring all the characters in an action stance, Avengers Assemble, for instance, but for the same film, an artistic poster can be released. A prime example of this is Christopher Nolan’s Batman revival. All three films featured posters that could be deemed works of art. In particular, The Dark Knight released chilling posters highlighting the sinister Joker character. One particular poster features a smile made out of blood and above it the words WHY SO SERIOUS, also in blood, with a faded outline of the joker character behind, as if he is behind some glass. This is a chilling and psychotic poster, which if presented as a piece of art work could be debated and discussed at length – at its time of release, it probably was.

Similarly, Watchmen released posters to represent the main characters. For the character Rorshach the poster simply had a Rorshach test ink blot at the centre, the title Watchmen and release date. This is definitively arty, it gives very little about the film away, I expect only fans of the graphic novel even understood it but its visual bleakness give it artistic momentum.

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