ScreenFonts: Defiance, Inkheart, Donkey Punch, Taken, Entre Les Murs

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use, ScreenFonts | Yves Peters | February 6, 2009

I have been neglecting the ScreenFonts section a bit these past few months. On the other hand – it’s quite understandable after my goof in the last episode proper which all but destroyed any last shred of credibility I might’ve possessed. Time to get over it, so let’s pick up the thread and check on some print goodness from the dream factories (and boy do we need them in these dire economic times). Here are last month’s movie posters.

There’s nothing remarkable about the poster for Not Easily Broken, except that for once not Trajan was used but one of the alternatives – Shàngó, a digitisation of Schneidler Initials. The movie title features the most surprising glyph in this design: the Y which looks like V that has been extended downwards a little. The leg on the K was customised.

I’ve always found it bizarre that there can be such discrepancies between different localised versions of certain movie posters. I think it has to do with sloppiness and just taking whatever sits on the computer instead of researching/purchasing/installing the correct face. As major movies are increasingly marketed as brands with their own logo, graphic identity, and visual style, this is the equivalent of brand dilution, pure and simple. Take Defiance for example. I don’t know which was the original – the official website extensively uses Avenir throughout with a digitally extended Arial (double-urgh…) for the movie logo – but every one of the three poster variants sports a different typeface. What I think to be the original poster is the one with the extended Arial. Nice texture, lousy face (not Daniel’s – the movie logo ;).

Then there’s something fishy about the poster using all Avenir. It has the nicest typography of all three, but those perspicacious users of the International Movie Poster Awards forums noticed a distinct resemblance with the poster for North Country. There’s no fooling them, and it’s nice to know that there are geeks just like me in other areas as well.
BTW That stencil Futura reminds me of Barbara Butterweck’s cut-up type experiment F Dear John in Fuse 3 | (Dis)Information.
BTBTW I’ve been told there are still some issues of the legendary poster magazine for experimental typography available through FontShop Germany. Can anybody say: “collector’s items”? ;)

I think the horizontal variant is the result of laziness. They saw that the original had lots of Avenir, so they picked the first geometric sans that looked like it. In this specific case it is Century Gothic, a common font which comes pre-installed in many Microsoft operating systems and software.

The movie poster for Inkheart looks pretty generic. Fair enough – it does what it is expected to do, but it all is predictable. As for the custom designed logo some shapes and connections look unbalanced, and I don’t care much for the metallic finish. Some swashes on the capitals remind me of Gábor Kóthay’s lovely Incognito/Terra Incognita.

More metallic type on the poster for Underworld. BLT & Associates botched up the customisation of Palatino quite badly. Shortening the middle bar on the “E” makes it look out of balance, and what did they think they were doing with the “W”? I think they overreached, and the drop-like downwards ear on the leg of the “L” would actually have been sufficient.

I usually quite like type that interacts with the image, but the movie poster for New In Town does a pretty poor job. The main problem is that Linotype Didot has far too delicate features to have them overlap Renée Zellweger’s silhouette – that initial “T” in “Town” is hard to decipher. Furthermore this disturbs the shape of her body, and results in a pretty jumbled up and messy image. I these instances I always treat the non-type shapes (here the silhouette of Renée’s body) as type and make sure the distance between these shapes and the surrounding characters match either the letter spacing or the word spacing in the font. Either that or I pick a typeface and colour that produces enough contrast to keep it readable.

The type in the movie poster for Taken interacts a lot better with the image. The image is ideally suited for this – in the photograph of a brooding Liam Neeson only the side of his face and his hands and gun are lit. This leaves a large dark area which leaves ample room for setting… one of the most inane and cliché revenge speeches ever. I like how the semi-transparent type lets the image through, but they shouldn’t have artificially stretched Univers Ultra Condensed. It makes the poster look cheap and slightly amateurish, and simply kills the design for me. The movie title is set in Bank Gothic, the preferred typeface for blockbuster action thrillers.

The poster for Donkey Punch is both well designed and well typeset. The narrative structure of the image is very clever. The top two thirds shows that the movie is about a group of club-going, drug-taking, irresponsible, young people partying on a boat, while the bottom part reveals that it actually is a horror thriller. Like I said the typesetting is picture perfect. The baseline of “Donkey” and the cap line of “Punch” are firmly locked on the division line, the cap line of “Donkey” corresponds with the horizon, and the bottom right corner of the “Y” stem neatly meets with the top left corner of the “P”. As far as interaction between image and type goes this one is by far the best of the three. The flare of the setting sun opens up a nice area and lets the legs of the partying youth fade away so the word “Donkey” remains perfectly legible. And the hand underwater smearing “Punch”, making the letters dissolve as if it were blood is a touch of genius. But why why why Arial? There are so many decent alternatives.

I wrote about it on Unzipped and I’ll say it again – I’ve simply had it with all lowercase Helvetica being the corporate style of intellectual movies that are intended to win awards at film festivals. It’s just as opportunistic, lazy and boring as is Trajan on blockbusters that are intended to win Oscars at the annual Academy Awards. Anyway, perfect documentary style picture on the poster for Entre Les Murs, with impeccable use of the five pupil’s paintings on that vibrant turquoise wall to literally support and underline the movie title. Very nice poster, shame about the type.

Header image: Sian Breckin (Lisa) and Jamie Winstone (Kim) in Donkey Punch, directed by Olly Blackburn. A Magnet Release, photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

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  1. I enjoyed reading you rip on these posters. I totally agree though. Nice post!

    Posted by Alison on Feb. 6, 2009
  2. Rip? I hope I didn’t come across overly negative. :/ I even left out the least interesting ones to avoid that.

    Well, some months the posters are more inspiring than others I guess. Glad you enjoyed this episode.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 6, 2009
  3. I kinda like stretched fonts. ::Shrug::


    Posted by Jeff on Feb. 6, 2009
  4. I enjoy these types of entries. I always stumble around theatres before and after movies critiquing movie posters in a similar fashion. I will see something so great in a poster overshadowed fast by the use of Bank Gothic, or something equally as boring… like ARIAL.

    Posted by Andy. on Feb. 6, 2009
  5. hey does anybody know what type was used for the titles and credits (and throughout) in Valkyrie

    here is a clip, the quality if pretty crap…

    i remember enjoying the title type and credits type, but don’t know what they are.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Feb. 7, 2009
  6. ok, much better link – apple has the first 6 mins in HD

    i really really like what the title is set in and how it changes from german to english

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Feb. 7, 2009
  7. Great read here. Les Murs is les terrible! What happened, (or didn’t)?

    Posted by fred on Feb. 7, 2009
  8. @Simon: The running text is most probably set in Stratum 2 by Eric Olson (Process Type Foundry). The movie title looks hand lettered, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility there’s a digital font available that looks like that.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 7, 2009
  9. @Jeff: Well, I thought that in this specific case it seemed pretty pointless to spec an Ultra Condensed face and then stretch it back to almost Condensed proportions. It’s a bit like trying to quit smoking by applying nicotine patches and smoking herbal cigarettes. :P

    But there’s nothing inherently wrong with stretching type, you just have to be careful. It works up to a point, mostly when applied to typefaces with normal proportions. The act of stretching emphasises the inherent weight distribution and stress. Squooshing on the other hand is more problematic as it reverses that stress, so you’ll notice it much faster.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 7, 2009
  10. @fred: I don’t think I understand what you mean.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 7, 2009
  11. superb post. defiance was, well, a defiance of typeface selection custom. (they could have a tried one more in gotham. just for ‘change’ :)) taken’s the best, but more thanks to the image.. don’t you think they should have retained univers for the title too?

    Posted by k on Feb. 7, 2009
  12. @k: I would have gone for a different face altogether, one with different widths to have more flexibility when making all the lines the same length. Probably something from The Font Bureau, like Rhode with its delicious poster wood type feel, or the vintage British looking Bureau Grot, or the incredibly versatile Titling Gothic (7 weights in 7 widths!).

    > (they could have a tried one more in gotham. just for ‘change’ :))

    Would you believe I was thinking that exact same thing when looking at the different versions. :D

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 7, 2009
  13. thanks yves. i’ll go for TG.

    Posted by k on Feb. 7, 2009
  14. I realise this is a website about typography and not graphic/poster design, but I’m surprised you didn’t point out the superfluous Photoshop lens flare in the Not Easily Broken poster. The Donkey Punch poster is a much better execution of how a lens flare should be done – even though I dislike the design in general.

    Posted by JP on Feb. 7, 2009
  15. thanks yves. sorry i forgot to put the HD link in… so, just for clarity:

    and if anyone can find a clip or still of the end credtis i would much appreaciate it!

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Feb. 8, 2009
  16. The Valkyrie opening title actually begins with Stratum 1, the version with the angled terminals. The text after the main title are then Stratum 2 with flat terminals.

    The opening scene location title is set in FF Letter Gothic. Why the go with a tightly spaced light Helvetica for subtitles is beyond me. Stricken by current fads, I imagine.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 8, 2009
  17. @JP: You’re right about the lens flare. I must say most of the time I don’t pay too much attention on image details. Nevertheless I do appreciate it if they are pointed out in the comments like you did, so thanks for that. :)

    Another example: I know they keep going on the on IMPAwards website about the poorly executed shadow in Daniel Craig’s face in the Avenir variant, but it’s a bit beyond me – I am not a Photoshop hotshot.

    @Stephen: I hadn’t even noticed they used the other Stratum in that first line. Good eye!

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 8, 2009
  18. @stephen – ‘stricken by current fads’, they have Tom Cruise… what more needs to be said…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Feb. 9, 2009
  19. Yves, the Inkheart-logo is worse than that. It obviously was inspired by freefont Black Chancery. The E, the A, the N and parts of the R speak a clear voice.

    Posted by Renko on Feb. 9, 2009
  20. I agree with you that the poster for New in Town is ghastly. Even the order of the words in the title is confusing. My eye saw Renee Zellweger New Town in. Huh? I read it left-right, left-right. So if the type placement is ugly, the title illegible, and the meaning incomprehensible, what’s left? Well Renee looks nice but that type ruins her body too, as you point out. The designers must have been in a BIG hurry.

    Posted by William Boletta on Feb. 9, 2009
  21. @Renko: You confirm my suspicions – based on the infamous Black Chancery indeed. Well spotted (as always) Rainer! :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 9, 2009

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