Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best (and Worst) Movie Posters of 2012

While I wouldn't be that quick to declare 2012 a banner year for movie posters or even movies in general, what was good happened to be excellent. And as usual, there tends to be a direct correlation between a film's quality and the print advertising behind it. It can hardly be called a coincidence that some of the year's best films resulted in the strongest posters and vice versa, proving that when a studio chooses to get behind a movie or not, their commitment (or lack thereof) is almost always reflected in the print advertising. As a general rule, simple, clean, but visually striking designs always seem to fare best. Give them enough to get them interested, but not too much. So, with that in mind, let's get to it.

The Best...

10. Wreck-It Ralph

It would seem an 8-bit image would be the only way to go in teasing a movie about a videogame character but that still doesn't make it any less effective. This was the initial teaser for Wreck-It Ralph and no others seem necessary. It gets the point across loud and clear, and even if you had no idea what the movie is, an angry 80's retro gaming face is just about the best way to get kids (and probably some young adults) interested. It also doesn't hurt that it just looks cool.

9. Casa De Mi Padre

It seems like ages since Will Ferrell's starred in a truly hilarious film and I have no idea if this is one or not, but the one-sheet stands as a great example of why an artist's (in this case the great Akiko Stehrenberger) brush always trumps photoshop. Some probably can't stand that folded, retro worn look so many posters are adapting these days, but I'm not one of them. It definitely fits here. Trying to make this look like a Spanish epic or Spaghetti Western poster was unquestionably the right move. And it actually kind of succeeds in making me want to see this, which is no small feat. 

8. Django Unchained

We could have a whole discussion about how this minimalistic Saul Bass-inspired design is being done to death, but the reason it's being done to death is because it works. The bright red, the chain and two silouettes gets the job done. It helps that you have a film that basically sells itself by just the name of the director attached. A messy, cluttered cast poster would have been a huge mistake and the advertising department deserves credit for realizing it. You'd expect to see this hanging on someone's wall rather than in a movie theater, which is the hallmark of a great design.

7. Moonrise Kingdom

Could this one-sheet have possibly captured the visual scheme of Moonrise Kingdom (or basically any film written or directed by Wes Anderson) any better? Yeah sure I know it's really wordy but that cursive font just adds to the storybook look and feel. This could easily BE the cover of any of those books Suzy brought on her getaway with Sam.

6. V/H/S

It's always fun when a poster can say two things with a single image and still have it look good in the process. Glancing at it once isn't enough as you almost have to do a double take to see the skull. Or maybe you saw the skull first before realizing they were tapes. Either way, considering V/H/S/ is a low budget, found-footage anthology horror film, I'd say this sells the movie as well as possible.

5. Zero Dark Thirty

Talk about risky. This might be the first instance of a movie's poster redacting its title, but it's hard to deny the creative experiment wasn't a success in generating interest and mystery, not to mention tying into the actual film. It is a teaser but that there isn't a single star shown or director mentioned when they had plenty to brag about is an unusual show of restraint in this era of over-the-top marketing. Only the web site is completely visible and I'm willing to bet traffic's been busy.  

4. Looper (American and French Versions)

My most anticipated film of the year, which I'm still waiting on pins and needles to finally see, had two of the year's best one-sheets. While I slightly prefer the Drew Struzan-inspired French version both are equally impressive and artistic in their own way, with one emphasizing the time travel duality theme with mirror images of JGL and Willis, while the other is all about the action.

3. Killing Them Softly

It may have had the worst title of the year and bombed hard at the box office, but at least Killing Them Softly produced some great posters (also see below). This one's the best. It may not tell you anything other than it'll be be a murderous splatterfest but that suffices when the visual scheme is this arresting. Great mix of colors and you have to respect any poster designer with the guts to shoot Lady Liberty through the head.      

2. The Cabin in The Woods

It isn't often you see a modern movie poster incorporate or pay homage to a classic work of art, then somehow manage to do it in a way that's not only looks original and inspired, but directly relates to the film in question. I may have been less enthusiastic than most in my assessment of Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods but I couldn't possibly be more enthusiastic about this print by Phantom City Creative, a clever take-off of MC Escher's "Staircase." In both idea and execution it's almost as clever as the famous piece that inspired it. 

1. The Master (American, French and Turkish versions)

The toughest sell of the year resulted in what was easily 2012's most fascinating and brilliantly conceived set of posters. If I had to pick the American wine bottle teaser would be my favorite if only because, much like the film itself, we've never seen anything exactly like that before. It's just such a rich looking, "half-full, half- empty" image that tells us both everything and nothing about the movie at the same time, while effectively conveying the film's seafaring setting. Both The French and Turkish versions work as neat visual plays on the infamous Rorschach test Joaquin Phoenix's troubled Freddie Quell undergoes, with the evil eyes and mirror reflection of the typography highlighting the former. The latter features more dual imagery, accompanied by some incredible inkblotted artwork of the three stars. There was a black and white version (see below), but for some reason the color print just works better and jumps out at you more. Arguably the year's finest film, The Master was way too challenging to cultivate more than a cult (no pun intended) following, and the best thing about these designs are how well they reflect that challenging sensibility, avoiding the temptation of selling this as something it wasn't.        



And The Worst...

Don't ever cross Alex Cross because he's Alex Cross and you shouldn't cross him. Get it? It's his name!

Look familar? You know a poster's in trouble when even two Amanda Seyfrieds can't save it.

Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise in Tom Cruise: Cruise Control.

You might remember Vince Vaughn from his starring roles on TV's Dawson's Creek and Fringe. Hey...wait.  If this atrocity of a poster is any indication, Joshua Jackson is probably be grateful he was credited as someone else. Likewise, Vaughn is probably grateful he wasn't pictured.

Is this busy or what? I never thought I'd feel nostalgic for a Schwarzenegger poster but now here's another area where the original's starting to look better and better. Great shot of Beckinsale though.

It's a shame because the alternate poster for this is kind of over-the-top cool in all the ways this isn't. With this much fire you'd think it was a sequel to Backdraft.

                                                                                        Taken 3 starring Nicolas Cage

For such a high-profile release the entire series of Hunger Games posters sure were lazy and underwhelming. But those ridiculous hanging portraits put this one over the top.  

Well, at least it's over. We'll never have to look at another one of these again.

No one would argue John Goodman is the man and deserves to be on a great character poster, especially considering the film itself is fantastic. But boy is this silly looking. I can only imagine what people who haven't seen Argo think of it.

The Avengers poster looks exactly like you'd expect The Avengers poster to look like. I was hoping they wouldn't do that. A photoshopped disaster that unfortunately does get the job done in selling the movie. But it deserved better.

I have a theory that no movie characters own electric toothbrushes. This needlessly airbrushed image of Leslie Mann apparently doesn't contradict that. The less said about Paul Rudd on the toilet with an iPad the better.

Please accept this invitation to join Dennis Quaid for a game of golf. Or tennis. Or polo. Or whatever country club type sport he plans on partaking in this afternoon. For all that's wrong with this boxy Brady Bunch style poster, it says a lot that I still get the biggest laugh out of that image of Quaid.


Jonathan said...

Always look forward to this post and another great one. Too bad other sites don't do this, and the few that do don't take as much time as you do. They just kind of throw up a few with very little description.

Love the "Cabin in the Woods" poster; I had never even seen that one somehow. I personally find "This is 40" to be one of the worst posters of the past decade; while not uninspired it has Paul Rudd on the toilet and I just never need to see that nor do I think that image should be forced on an unwilling public.

jeremythecritic said...

Thanks for the kind words Jonathan. I always look forward to doing it.
And yeah, that "This is 40" poster somehow makes me even less interested in seeing it than I was. Especially if that's any indication of its humor.