Is what I ask myself every single time a new superhero film comes out. Once I just want to not see the standard poster with all the heroes and villains photoshopped together. But apparently nothing says “epic adventure action film” like a bunch of giant floating heads, miniature bodies with weapons and explosions. It’s like all these posters come from the exact same “design” layout. It sucks and it makes it difficult to get excited for these films.
The worse offender this year so far is [The Amazing Spider-Man 2](movie:508593). The film already looks like re-hash of Spider-Man 3, but it’s the marketing that is telling me: “Actually, this might be worse than Spider-Man 3.” Say it ain’t so. I liked the first film if solely because Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have incredible chemistry. They brought energy and youth to a film franchise that desperately needed it. With the origin story out of the way, the sequel had a lot of promise going in. Whatever excitement I might’ve had died rapidly with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 first trailer, and then it was taken out back and butchered repeatedly by all of the film’s posters. Is the point of these posters to make me stay as far away from this movie as possible?
Examples! The Romance Poster. If the superhero film has a romance element, then there will be a version of this type of poster. First question: this being a multi-million dollar film production, am I to believe that this is the best showcase for the hot romance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2? I think it is strange that, again in a 100plus million dollar production, no one suggested that maybe Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone should perhaps have a photo shoot in-character for the required romance poster. Furthermore, isn’t it customary to do screen tests? I’m guessing taking a screen-shot of that would be infinitely better than that photoshop monstrosity of a poster. Even worse offender, this poster from Iron Man 3. The film had been doing well in the poster department until then. Also if you will note, the background colour/style in all the Iron Man 3 posters is very similar in the main posters [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973). But then again, Marvel is adamant on making all of their films look like the exact same film just with different titles.
Speaking of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this film gave us a totally insulting and awful array of posters. The Scarlett Johansson poster got a lot of heat and deservedly so. But the worse poster I think is The Group Poster. I understand the need for an epic action poster featuring all the characters, but again is it really that difficult to schedule a photo shoot with your principal cast? Taking individual character posters and photoshopping them together is a shitty and lazy idea. It rarely works and for the last 30 years it hasn’t worked. It looks fake, boring and it undermines the film. People aren’t bothered by it and if they are bothered, they shrug it off because horrible posters are a staple of superhero films. Perhaps we all gave up after seeing the posters for X-Men: First Class.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is another recent offender. I’m excited for this film even if the trailers might be giving too much away. The prospect of combining the old franchise with the reboot is incredible, as X-Men is one of those series where the more mutants we have the more exciting things could be. There is a lot of promise here. But it astounds me how insultingly hard the marketing is making me hate X-Men: Days of Future Past. Overlooking the double bacon with splashes of misogyny, the first posters from the film were cool. Not terribly inventive yet an exciting tease nonetheless. Then came the Empire Magazine Covers. Now you might say that with magazine covers you can’t get creative and the film directors have nothing to do with it. *COUGH*. These covers weren’t all outright atrocious, but they paved the way for the latest posters which are utterly lacklustre. Besides the new characters, these posters lack specificity. I can replace the title “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with “X-Men: The Last Stand” and you wouldn’t know the difference. It is as if these “new” batch of posters were leftovers from the previous films. Is it that difficult to instil some specificity to the marketing? Is it that unfathomable to have posters that reflect a specific film instead of the film franchise as whole?
A recent superhero franchise that I admire a lot is Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, because with those films Nolan communicated a desire to distinguish itself from the rest. And the marketing, specifically the posters, reflected that desire. Even better is the fact that each film had posters singular to that specific film. Batman Begins had the rain of bats with the orange colour palette and silhouettes of the new Batman. These posters were moody, simplistic and effective. They told me right away that Batman Begins was an entirely different beast compared to the previous Batman films. The Dark Knight improved things further, especially with the posters that seemed to be burglarized by The Joker. It was fun, creative and indicative of the darker path the franchise took with that second film. Then The Dark Knight Rises came with another series of awesome posters that showcased the spectacle and scope to the franchise’s culminating film. This banner poster is a great example of how to include both your hero and your villain in a way that feels organic. Plus it looks incredible and again specific to that film. Granted, all of the Batman posters are a variation on the standard superhero film design poster. But like in everything else Nolan does, it’s always his interpretation on a established theme or genre and it almost always works. Why can’t more superhero film directors do the same? I suspect it comes down to the studio and that most directors have no control of how their films are marketed. Marvel needs unplug that giant stick they have up their assess and start re-thinking their approach to poster design.
I look at all these superhero posters and what I see is a communal fear of taking risks, which is ridiculous since the films themselves are already a gigantic risk. Again, these studios spend 100plus million dollars every time they do one of these films. If everyone involved is working their best to deliver a kick-ass, memorable, entertaining and profitable film then why half-ass things wen it comes to the marketing? Whole-ass it. I understand the studios’ mentality of not trying in the marketing department, because people will go see your films no matter what. But as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has shown that’s not always the case. That film could’ve opened really big in North America, but I’m certain many people (myself included) opted to skip it because nothing about the marketing made me excited to see it. With this superhero renaissance we have now, there is a great opportunity to take a risk and deliver a marketing campaign that distinguishes itself from the rest. I think this is the best time for these studios to break off from the standard poster designs and to show us they actually give a shit about how we, the audience, should perceive your film. Don’t assume that just because we like these superheroes that we will pay no matter what.