ScreenFonts: From Paris With Love, The Wolfman, Ghostwriter, The Crazies, Cop Out, A Prophet
Oy vey, ridiculously late episode. This time the extensive TDC2 posts took their toll. But, enough excuses. Let’s dive right in, straight to the fun part, and hope I can make up for lost time with the March instalment.
I can already reassure you that it’s going to get increasingly better with the posters for From Paris with Love. It starts quite poorly with the official movie poster, which is an incomprehensible mess. Although the flying sparks and fragments allude to speed and dynamism, both John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers look like wax statues. Travolta’s composure contradicts his firing a friggin’ big bazooka (plus I’m not sure how his body fits through the door window and on the car roof like that). And Rhys Meyers’ blank stare makes him look completely distra… HEY, watch where you’re pointing that gun at! There’s an absence of purpose and direction at play in this lackluster poster.
The only acceptable element may be the type. The composition is decently integrated in the car door, and suggests the diagonal motion that is supposed to be present in this design. Although it has been slanted, Alternate Gothic performs adequately as usual.
The expression on the faces of both actors in this other theatrical poster is already a little better. It’s a typical “moody tough guys” image, restrained yet mildly threatening. We’ve seen this blueish monochrome image treatment before. The type however is a hodge-podge of different compact sans serifs in red and white – from top to bottom Hanseatic (digitised as Swiss 924 by Bitstream), Standard Extended Extra Bold, Compacta, and Alternate Gothic. The alternating faces make no real sense, creating an oddly textured field of text.
It gets more interesting once we hit the teaser posters though. This version for example reminds me very much of the type of images commonly used for the James Bond franchise. The gun turning into the Eiffel Tower, held by a hand in an impeccable white shirt and black dinner jacket sleeve – even the title From Paris With Love seems to refer to the second movie in the James Bond series.
Unfortunately the typeface remains a mystery for now. I thought it would be one of the Bank Gothic alternatives sporting a lowercase – either Dan Reynolds’ Morris Sans, Michael Doret’s Bank Gothic AS, or even Rian Hughes’ Register, but neither of them are precise matches. The disproportionally wide “r” and “t” make me suspect this could be an amateur effort.
This teaser poster on the other hand seems to reference the James Bond opening credit title sequences rather than the posters. Serving as some sort of baseline, the top of the giant gun accommodates the Paris skyline and has the two actors walking on it – a common device in these sequences. The movie title in Alternate Gothic is a less inspired variant of the type composition found on the main poster.
I told you it was going to get better towards the end. These two typographic character posters are by far the best in the bunch. Their design is bold and dynamic, featuring great use of type – okay, it’s merely Impact, but it does the job, and with panache. I love the diagonal setting that makes optimal use of the available poster surface, nicely compact without overcrowding. Having the word “LOVE” with a drop of blood substituting for the “O” hold the pictures of the actors is a great idea. The single splash of bright red (pardon the pun) in the otherwise black and white poster is a powerful eye catcher, and the dancing baseline in the word “PARIS” provides the finishing touch.
It’s not that often that we see French posters in the FontFeed editions of the ScreenFonts series. Those of you who followed the previous run on Unzipped know they popped up quite often, and that I have a love-hate relationship with them – they get it so wrong as often as they get it right. And when they get it wrong, the dismal typography often plays a big part in their failure. Many French movie poster designers seem to have a love for certain typefaces that get recycled ad infinitum – and dare I say ad nauseam – and Eurostile Extended definitely is one of those. Banlieue 13: Ultimatum (District 13: Ultimatum) uses it as a secondary face in its theatrical movie poster, in combination with a big, bold, bad-ass wide faceted slab serif, possibly a stretched Collegiate Athletics design. Eat contoured brushed steel, wimp! The image itself is typical blockbuster action movie fare, visibly composited in Adobe Photoshop.
Of the two teaser posters, the one on the left doesn’t use the official movie logo, but for some inexplicable reason falls back on another mainstay: a distressed and stretched version of Aachen Bold with customised “U” (the inside serifs were removed). The other teaser poster features the movie logo, but its application on the concrete wall is not very convincing. Although the dystopian futuristic setting shines through, any reference to parkour is missing in both designs, making it unclear what exactly the movie is about.
On the whole I would have preferred a little more imaginative choice of type for this series of posters. Payload for example would have been a perfect alternative, far more original, and the Spraycan variant would have looked much better on the second teaser poster.
Now compare all of the above to the poster for the original Banlieue 13 movie. Type-wise it isn’t that much better than the posters for the new film. The weathered and shaded slanted stencil sans – most probably Arston Stencil – is a bit corny, and Compacta in a supporting role is pretty obvious.
Yet the overall design is far more exciting, with a variety of different photo fragments cramming a whole lot of story information into a single dynamic image cluster. The photos were treated using the oldest Photoshop trick of all: the Indexed Color Black Body Color Table. This Color Table displays a palette based on the different colors a black body radiator emits as it is heated – from black to red, orange, yellow, and white. This gives the impression that the images are emanating heat. It was kind of funny to discover my old Glowing Letters tutorial on Unzipped holds the top spot on Google when searching for this effect – at least from where I am located.
I really like moody Gothic movie posters like this beautiful, poetic design for Red Riding. The Rubensian cherubim, barely visible in deep red on black background, emanates an equal sense of melancholy and dread. It makes for a subtle, elegant image.
Uncharacteristically the movie title is not set in Trajan, but in a more incised serif face that reminds me a little of Trump Mediaeval. Upon contacting Mojo I learned it is OPTI Favrile, from the Castcraft collection that – according to most Typophiles – has a dodgy reputation of featuring mostly ripped-off designs. Andrew Percival, Senior Vice President at Mojo, LLC., explained that “it’s a favorite of ours which we turn to when an elegant look is needed, but with a slightly disturbing edge”. If I were to propose an alternative I think I’d go for FF Angkoon‘s long, spindly serifs, or Frank Heine’s slightly offbeat Tribute.
The equally dark movie poster for Frozen sports a blueish supporting hue, more befitting the “Frozen” theme. It slavishly follows the current trend of having Trajan on posters for thrillers and horror movies.
Another horror thriller, yet another instance of Trajan. The Wolfman combines this with the floating heads cliché on its main theatrical movie poster. Floating heads? Meet Gavin Berliner, the graphic designer who single-handedly invented this dramatic poster style.
I definitely prefer this alternate poster. It takes its cue from pulp literature, with the Wolfman’s towering presence barely contained by the edges of the poster, fiercely howling at the full moon. The typography is a big improvement over the Trajan version. English Vernacular Revisited – James Mosley’s superb presentation at Hands on Brighton 07 – taught me the appearance of this distressed serif face is much more appropriate for evoking the setting of the movie: late nineteenth century Great Britain. The typeface is similar to Old Times American, or a dirty version of Scotch Modern.
I’m always a bit puzzled by subtle differences in movie poster designs. Compare these two teaser posters. They are almost identical, save for three elements. The version on the right differs from the version on the left in that the black and white image was colourised, the figure of the Wolfman was added in the background, and the movie logo is set in the Scotch Modern, not Trajan. My guess is that the left one precedes the right one. I suppose they didn’t want to show the Wolfman too early in the campaign, and the Trajan movie title may have been the quick and dirty temporary version.
Again very subtle differences between these two versions for The Ghost Writer, and quite bizarre changes in the transfer from the (original?) movie poster to the French version. Most obvious is of course the different hue of the image. The next thing you notice is the differences in the poster in the alley. Pierce Brosnan looks directly at the viewer in the left version, while his head is bigger and more menacing, observing Ewan McGregor in the version at the right. also The type on the Brosnan poster was adapted, from a Bodoni to Palatino. And it doesn’t stop there: not only was the lighting on Ewan McGregor changed, but his facial expression as well was Photoshopped (making him look quite artificial on the left), and they even redid… his hairstyle? What the heck!? I find those changes so trivial that I really wonder if there is any empirical research involved, or if they have special focus groups for determining which demographic prefers which friggin’ haircut? It truly boggles the mind…
This horizontal design is so incredibly better. The checkerboard divisions in the portraits of Brosnan and McGregor with the little insets is a great graphic device. The image is made even more interesting by the blueish tinted hue, and the worn edges give the impression the composition was assembled by hand.
The typography is well-considered – check the perfect placement of the tagline “Read Between The Lies” in relation to the image squares and the type in the upper right corner. The movie title is set in a condensed face very similar to fan-favourite Klavika, but the slightly rounded sides of the “G” and “O”, and the minute structural differences in the “S” reveal this is something else. Fortunately my partner-in-font-geekery Stephen Coles rushed to the rescue. It is Cyrus Highsmith‘s Stainless Compressed Black. I guess I missed this one because I always associate Dispatch and Stainless with the wide versions.
Happy Tears clearly references the work of Roy Lichtenstein on its movie poster. In my opinion choosing Helvetica for the type was a mistake. I think the design would have looked more authentic and consistent with true comic book lettering. Comicraft has produced numerous hand lettering fonts for speech balloons, and many were named after the comic book artists they were made for. As a fan of American comic books it is lots of fun strolling through the list and discovering the names of some of my favourite artists.
The movie poster for The Good Guy is simply lovely; I guess that is the main reason why I included it. It’s not an earth shattering design, I know, but just look at the beautiful colour scheme and the delicate typesetting in Gotham. The only thing I am not so happy with are the metallic-like gradients in the letters.
I recently learned from the Smashing Magazine Twitter feed that the specific type of blurry background behind Alexis Bledel is called bokeh. It comes from the Japanese word “boke,” which roughly translates into English as “fuzziness” or “confusion.” Ironically bokeh actually has little to do with the amount of blur, but rather with the quality of the blur. James Jordan explains it quite well.
From simply lovely to simply gruesome – The Crazies has a movie poster that leaves little to the imagination. Or quite the opposite, because once you start wondering what caused the fork to leave this trail of blood your imagination runs wild. Suggestion is a most efficient device for this kind of poster. The image with its simple asymmetrical structure is very powerful, because it manages to conjure horrific visions with minimum means.
Hey, no Trajan for this horror thriller. I couldn’t locate the distressed stencil face, but its look and feel isn’t unlike the underappreciated FF Water Tower. It’s just a shame the tagline was plagiarised from Arlington Road.
Hee hee hee, I always like it when the comments on the IMPAwards website reveal some silly mistake in a poster design. In the case of the Cop Out movie poster, user “smilesalot” points out that “the 1 inch thick cement wall is ridiculous!” Disregarding this little detail I really like the type at the top. Normally I would advise against digitally obliquing type. Yet thanks to its square structure and absence of pronounced curves ITC Bolt is a typeface that easily withstands slanting. The composition in grey and dark red is dynamic and appealing, like lettering on the side of a race car or a flashy van.
Remember that thing I said about French movies? Well, this is an example where they got the poster absolutely right – except it was designed by an American company, Cardinal Communications USA. The movie poster for Un prophète (A Prophet) is a beautiful design with a subtle nod to Saul Bass. The high contrast, almost photocopy-like black-and-white picture of the main protagonist interacts with the vertical red bands in a most interesting way. It creates a dynamic layered image. “Cuttin away” the red on top of the gun adds the final touch.
Fair enough, the list of Awards and nominations in squooshed™ Trajan is a blemish on this otherwise impeccable design, but Univers 59 Ultra Condensed works perfectly well in this context. I could enumerate a number of more interesting skyline designs, but hey, that would be nitpicking.
And to conclude this episode, an equally beautiful horizontal alternate design that includes additional story information without overcrowding the poster. The watery yellow offsets perfectly against the brooding dark red. The alternating white and black type elements and stars look very classy, and I especially like how Futura Display is used for the movie title.
The FontFeed is a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world. Eat up.
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