horror movies

Relatable Themes: Texts of Movie Posters

Text in movie posters tells us important information.  The title of the movie, the names of the main actors, positive reviews…all are things that may be revealed on a poster.  These texts work to frame the images into a certain state of mind for the viewer, indicating that the image they are looking at, the layering of characters and scenes and objects, is going to create this central movie idea.

Sounds plausible, right? Like a good semiotic argument for the way iconic text fonts inspire meaning in what producers hope will be similarly iconic movies.

Except that everyone has done it. Turn now to Kirby Ferguson for what he thinks about Trajan fonts.

 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Instead of meaning being made by an origin that nobody except font junkies would recognize, meaning is made simply through being a movie.  Our eyes have seen so many similar fonts that now all we think is “we are about to watch a movie”.  Cutting out the middle man of the Trajan column, we associate Trajan font to an epic movie.  The Trajan font itself is an icon for a “about to watch a movie.”  Even if it causes frustration for the people who are accustomed to looking at these types of things.

So the image of the titles of movies on movie posters, before you can even analyze the words themselves, try to reinforce what the movie is going to be about.  Like other elements in the movie posters, the creator of the image tries to cram as much information as possible into the small space so the viewer will know what to expect.

 

Sources:

http://scifimoviefilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/godzilla-poster.jpg

http://movieswallpapers.net/wp-content/uploads/frozen-movie-poster-2.jpg

http://www.tearaway.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Unknown-9.jpeg

http://fontmeme.com/titanic-font/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan%27s_Column

http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2010/04/how-the-sinking-of-the-titanic-changed-the-world/

http://www.environmentalhistory.org/revcomm/features/radio-and-the-titanic/

http://www.unrv.com/five-good-emperors/dacian-wars.php

http://wellmedicated.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/maniac_poster.jpg

http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/6500000/Alice-Sweet-Alice-movie-poster-horror-movies-6554635-407-600.jpg

http://www.impawards.com/2009/orphan_xlg.html

http://www.empireonline.com/images/uploaded/backtoback1.jpg

http://www.culturefeast.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/27_dresses-poster.jpg

http://images.moviefanatic.com/iu/t_full/v1364991090/sweet-home-alabama-movie-poster.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_305_hGb3mnk/TP909t-z5aI/AAAAAAAADYQ/fho1uSOaWhs/s1600/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-i-movie-poster-1020540376.jpg

Copycats Building on Established Audience Approval

Ever feel like you’ve seen a movie poster before?  There’s just something about it…maybe the way the woman on the poster is posed, or the expression on her face, or the way she’s half hidden behind the main character.  Maybe something as simple as the font style and the color of the background.

It’s probably because you’ve seen almost the same thing, maybe a hundred times before.

Cabin Fever/Shrooms

Credit: Shortlist.com

For anyone who doesn’t know the movies, the two can be summed up as fairly similar.  In Cabin Fever, the characters escape into the woods for a fun, adventure-filled weekend when they are struck by a horrible disease that threatens to kill them all.  In Shrooms, the characters also escape to the woods, but this time in hunt of psychedelic mushrooms.  When the main girl accidentally ingests a poisonous mushroom, one that gives her a “bad trip” that she can’t separate from reality, before ultimately wondering whether she will die or not.

The movies are extremely similar, and the posters for these movies reflect that.  The skull in both is created from the environment, from a combination of light within the trees and the sky.  This symbolizes that their environment is causing the problem; assumedly, the characters would all not be dying if they never adventured into the woods.

Shortlist.com outlines a number of these eerily similar movie posters.

9gag user Urugag shares a giant compilation of images which contrast the sheer number of movie posters with similar themes.

On another level, Cracked points out similar actor poses on movie posters.  That is, actors very often pose in the same ways on posters in which they star.  My favorite example in Eric Yosomono’s article was Jackie Chan’s foot or fist always being larger than his head.  Jackie Chan can nearly always be found in the fighting stance, and this reveals a couple things to the viewer:

  1. This is going to be an action movie.
  2. You should expect action and violence.
  3. Jackie Chan is going to do some serious action scenes, and will dominate all of his enemies.
  4. The action in the movie is going to overpower any intellectual thoughts (hence the foot and fist being closer to the viewer, with his head far behind).

But these are wonderful keys for the audience.  If you like Jackie Chan movies, you’re going to like the one that the poster is advertising.  If you know you don’t like the movies, you can stay away from the new movie.

jackie chan for 2Credit: Cracked.com

Other movies trying to emulate Jackie Chan’s expertise also copy this style.  Even though Owen Wilson’s movie is obviously going to be a comedy, we can still expect to see action moments in a Jackie-Chan style.

Drillbit Taylor Credit: Impawards.com

The real question: why not come up with a completely new movie poster, so that audiences can recognize that this movie is going to be something they haven’t seen before?

One answer is obvious: because we have seen this before.  Same movie with different characters means the director should at least acknowledge how similar his movie is going to be with the ones who came before it.

Another answer is based on the audience.  If the audience liked a movie with specific themes, then, in recognizing the similarities, they will be drawn to the new movie as something they already know they will like.  If you like one movie about a vigilante, like V for Vendetta, you’ll probably like another, like Blade.  It’s an easy way to point viewers in the right direction.

It’s up to the viewer to decide whether he’s ready for repetition or a breath of fresh air.  It’s not that we can’t enjoy them, but change is good.