Movie posters were there to persuade you into seeing a certain film, but nowadays they just seem to view them as an obligation, which is a real shame, because movie posters often can be seen as art.
POSTERS BACK THEN
Posters were there from the beginning of film. They were simple and were just there to let you know that a certain film was playing a movie theater. Of course I’m still talking about the time before trailers were a thing. Yes, I know that Méliès used some form of trailers, by projecting pictures of the films playing at the moment above the entrance of Theatre Robert Houdin, but I mean real movie trailers, with a man talking over them. Back then the posters were hand drawn like this poster of the Dracula film that came out in 1931, about the well-known character. The images depicted on these posters could either be a recreation of a scene of the film, accompanied with the title of the film. As the years started to fly by, they started to focus more on the actors playing in the film than on showing a glimpse of a scene. They started to put major stars like Chaplin and Munroe on front of the posters, because they were well-known actors.
The makers of these posters really put thought in what they were illustrating, because this was the only real medium they could lure people to go see a movie. The making of these posters was time and money consuming, because of the fact that it was hand drawn.
As time progressed posters were still hand drawn and each contained something unique. They were all well drawn, or had some notable colors. They were something cool too look at and often contained neat designs, but that really changed when the 90’s arrived.
Since the 90’s more or less, posters weren’t hand drawn anymore. They now mostly consisted out of a still of the film, with the title of it slapped on, under which you are most likely to find the names of director, actors and producers. Posters began to be created on this simple formula. There was one for each genre, which didn’t bring any creative thought to the table. Around the 90’s this wasn’t really big of a deal, but as the years progressed into the 2000’s and 2010’s we basically got the same poster again and again. I’m not saying that these films are bad, not at all; a lot of films just don’t put a lot of effort into what once was a form of art. Once in a while there are some good and original posters, though. The minimalistic design of Buried is very good and captures the feel of the movie very well, or the simplicity of The Dark Knight, with a creative swing to it. Even the poster of this year’s Baby Driver looks pretty good. There was thought put into it and is original. I like how the tracks of the car seem to be the smoak released from the gun, just like the car itself represents the bullet.
Today a lot of posters re-use something that has already been done. There seem to be these pre-set things you’ll need for each specific genre. You have a summer blockbuster? Use the colors blue and orange. Every poster looks the same. Nothing really is unique anymore. You want a horror film? Better have a close-up of an eye. You have an action film in which your character has to overcome something? Let their backs be towards the camera, and let them look at the thing they’ll have to overcome. You have a quirky independent film? Use bright colors. You have a documentary about animals? Use a lot of blue and have the white of the moon in the background. Do you see that there’s a path laid down for every genre, and even subgenres?
Here’s a handful of examples of films where the protagonist’s back is turned to the audience and is looking at what he’s got to overcome:
Here are some examples for summer blockbusters:
But movies often go the really lazy way. Yes, even lazier than copying what’s been done before. They just take the head of their main actor and have some text written over it. It doesn’t have to be something original; it can just be the title, or some random collection of words.
I do understand why they are making these lazy posters. The money of their entire production has gone to the trailers. Editing one costs a lot of money and time, and you of course want to let your trailer be seen on television, which also can cost millions, but these trailers do pay of, more than posters do, that’s why those get all the money and the people who are making posters just get a small amount and not a lot of time to work with. Another reason is the internet. This only helps to spread the word that a movie is around, and when there’s a trailer attached to it, it’s basically free publicity, with some taste of what you can expact of the film.
The point that I’m trying to make in this first article of Compare is that movie posters have become unoriginal and all look the same, in comparison to the posters from back in the day, when they were original and new. And again, it’s not that these posters were unoriginal, that the movies too were.
Images via: IMDb, Wikipedia and Thecomeback.com