ScreenFonts: Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, MacGruber, Micmacs, Survival Of The Dead

I am pushing some posts backwards for ScreenFonts, to avoid it being published too late in the month. I think it will be worth the wait, because there are topics both informative and controversial ahead. By the way maybe I’d better stop complaining about lean months, because this is another one. I’ll stick to cheering whenever there’s a particularly interesting episode. Gotta stay positive. : )

The movie posters on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

We open this episode of ScreenFonts with a bang – quite literally. The explosive blockbuster that is Iron Man 2 is announced by teaser posters that learned a thing or two from that other comic book adaptation Spider-Man. The outer posters do away with the movie logo or even any reference to the movie name. Instead they rely entirely on the “2” set in the very recognisable Armada. This shows that type can become familiar to a point that one single character does the job. I am not pretending it already generates a Nike swoosh-like recognition, but the narrow angular number rendered in bevelled metal does a spiffy job at conjuring up the Iron Man movie logo. Behold the power of a typeface indeed.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

The theatrical poster however doesn’t take any chances. It clearly puts the movie title front and center, and plasters the stars floating heads-style all over the upper half of the poster. Yet the art directors and designers at BLT & Associates are no strangers to sophisticated humour. See how the Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow performs an impressive “fart with lighter” trick, and marvel at Mickey Rourke’s dexterity with the disco skipping rope. By the way the movie version of Whiplash looks way more badass than the original in the comics.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Now this is as brutal a contrast as could be – from metallic war machines to cutesy babies. Everybody loves babies. At least, that’s what the movie poster for Babies is trying the persuade us of. It does so in a comforting soft rounded sans: Arial Rounded. Personally I think merely rounding the corners of a typeface is a halfhearted solution. The skeleton underneath still is rather rigid, and does not particularly invite hugs and cuddles.

This would have been so much better with a truly warm and humane rounded sans, like Tempera Rose, FF Masala or FF Cocon. Even the more tech-inspired Chevin looks friendly thanks to it’s slightly bulging diagonals and outwards curling spurs. If I had to redo the typography in this poster I would use Alex Scholing‘s FF Engine or FF Roice, because they evoke youthfulness without being childish nor condescending, and their unusual design manages to strike that delicate balance between innocent playfulness and typographic soundness.

As for the movie logo, I wouldn’t really know what it could be. It comes in the territory of David Berlow‘s FF Berlinsans, based on a poster alphabet from the late twenties, originally released by Bauer (now Neufville Digital) with the name Negro, the very first sans that Lucian Bernhard ever designed. This design is ideally suited for headline composition. Because every letter in the all caps Alternate weights exists in a wide and a narrow variant, it is possible to fine-tune the running length of headlines very precisely.

The design is something we’ve seen many times before. Dividing a poster in horizontal bands is a tried and true concept, yet the composition of the photographs and their distinct hues make it a lovely poster.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

A man. A bow. An arrow. Wide all caps typography – Aviano and ITC Blair. It’s no rocket science. The movie poster for Robin Hood is basic, in your face and very efficient …

Comparison between the posters for Robin Hood and Rambo

… except it looks like a mirror image of the poster for Rambo – a little too close for comfort. I like how the movie title in Neue Helvetica 93 Black Extended across Sylvester Stallone’s face evokes war paint. Its position right beneath his eyes increases their intensity.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Designing posters for parodies can be quite tricky. Not going far enough produces lukewarm results, and how far is too far? The fun part for designers is that – instead of carefully avoiding platitudes – they can unashamedly cut their inner child loose and wallow in every possible excess. Sadly cold open plays it very safe on the movie poster for MacGruber. It has the cliché protagonists striking the cliché poses, with all type set in the cliché action movie face Bank Gothic. But then it all comes to a screeching halt, and nothing really happens. This could have been much louder, more exuberant and exhilarating.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

This alternate poster with its fiery explosions in the background is a little more convincing, but the design still isn’t very imaginative. Plus it looks very similar to that other action movie parody Hot Fuzz, whose composition and typography are far better. Despite the fireworks the MacGruber poster still is rather static, while the one for Hot Fuzz has a swagger to it that makes it fluid and dynamic, and lends it an undeniable cool. Meh, the posters for MacGruber are clunkers.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Three movies by Jeunet & Caro

The posters for Jeunet & Caro films are often as wondrous and intriguing as the movies they advertise (check the trailer below). Rather than attempting to tell a story in one single image, they try to convey a mood. So does the movie poster for Micmacs à tire-larigot (shortened to Micmacs for the English-language market). The man in the image seems dazed and confused, the green three-wheeled vintage car sets the tone and atmosphere, while the ghost images around him hint at what singular and colourful characters populate the world around him. It makes you wonder what it’s all about, but it also leaves you craving for more. The typeface used for the movie title is Woodstamp, a free font by the popular Japanese Flat-It Type Foundry that was recently featured on my other blog Unzipped.
:: U P D A T E D ::

Official trailer for Micmacs from vincenttorquato on Vimeo.
I couldn’t resist adding the delightful trailer for Micmacs. Instead of the overused Rosewood Fill it features John Downer‘s Ironmonger, squooshed™.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

It has come this far that these days I find it remarkable when the poster for a thriller or horror movie doesn’t sport the demoted Trajan – formerly known as The Movie Font, and called upon to make a poster “Oscar material”, but currently relegated to mostly second- and third-rate movies. The movie poster for George A. Romero‘s latest zombiefest Survival of The Dead is a happy exception. It features a distressed face based on the classic Trade Gothic Bold. The overall design is simple and effective, as all posters for zombie movies should be, although I think I’d have preferred the movie logo to be custom distressed. But that’s just me being fussy.

Whoa, that’s it? A lean month it is indeed. I think the studios may be saving up for blockbuster season.

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  1. Good work Yves, I always look forward to ScreenFonts and revel in your wry commentary. It’s a good way to start the day :)

    I’m struggling with two things this time around though…

    1) Where are “the ghost images” in the Micmacs poster? All I see are clouds. Is the image above just reduced too much?

    2) Are you implying it’s an issue that the Robin Hood poster “looks like a mirror image of the poster for Rambo”? I agree the Rambo poster is far more striking – particularly with regards to typography – and you make a good point about the positioning of the text. The Robin Hood poster perhaps isn’t helped by the relatively small font size being used and up-front positioning of “Gladiator” top left (which made me skip over the image to find out if they’d given “Robin Hood” more prominence below – which they really haven’t). Feels like they’re relying entirely on the image to sell the film.

    However, my point is: are you expecting *all* movie posters to be unique to the point where they don’t look “a bit like” a.n.other poster produced at some point in history, if you flip it, rotate it, and perhaps squint a bit? Isn’t that a bit harsh? :)

    Having said all that, I eagerly await the next bumper installment of ScreenFonts. Stay positive :)

    PS: Actually, I have a third problem…

    Babies *The Movie* ?!

    Posted by David on Jun. 16, 2010
  2. I hate it when our readers pay attention. ; )

    1) Where are “the ghost images” in the Micmacs poster? All I see are clouds. Is the image above just reduced too much?

    My mistake – I appear to have uploaded the original French version of the poster instead of the international one. I’ll correct that ASAP.

    (…) are you expecting *all* movie posters to be unique to the point where they don’t look “a bit like” a.n.other poster produced at some point in history, if you flip it, rotate it, and perhaps squint a bit? Isn’t that a bit harsh?

    You’re right, I’m probably a little harsh here. It’s just that it really struck me how similar the general atmosphere, the pose, and the intensity of the gaze were. Maybe I should have simply pointed it out without being judgemental.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 16, 2010
  3. Replaced the French Micmacs poster with the international one I linked to, and added the trailer, just for fun. : )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 16, 2010
  4. Babies *The Movie* ?!

    Hah! Well, it has moving images and people watch it in theatres, so … ; )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 16, 2010
  5. I think that it takes a lot of visual culture to remember and make the comparison of the 2 posters rambo/robin. I agree with Yves. The idea is the same. Anyway the medieval-foggy-forest atmosphere created is quite believable. Survival of dead has something very wrong but not for type. Something same-type-red on the image (or vice-versa) would be nice and the moon isn’t a lamp for god sake :)

    Posted by Nuno on Jun. 16, 2010
  6. if anyone’s actually seen the movie Robin Hood, they’d probably agree the legends and type treatments are beautiful

    Posted by Wei on Jun. 17, 2010
  7. can be seen here (forgot to post in last comment)

    Posted by Wei on Jun. 17, 2010
  8. Thanks for the response(s)…! Those clouds look quite different now :)

    Posted by David on Jun. 18, 2010
  9. The distressed font on Survival of the Dead is called Downcome, it is a freeware font made by Misprinted Type. It is a distressed font that I am seeing more and more now commercially.

    Posted by Matt McGillvray on Jun. 19, 2010
  10. i find the title for survival of the dead very tragic due to the repeating characters with the exact same distress right next to each other. that’s simply lazy imo.

    Posted by mec on Jun. 21, 2010
  11. I think that the type on Babies is Akzidenz Grotesk Rounded and Quanta (filled in manually, with the A flopped).

    Posted by Corey Holms on Jun. 22, 2010
  12. Does somebody know which font was used in the Whiplash (2014) movie? There seems to be no info about it around the internet…?!

    Posted by Corina on Sep. 11, 2015
  13. I found four different versions on IMPAwards. This one has ITC Stone Sans, this one has Gotham, this one has Interstate Compressed, and this one has Agency.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Sep. 15, 2015

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