ScreenFonts: Star Trek, X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine, Angels & Demons, The Limits Of Control

We’re past halfway June, so it’s high time for taking a look at the posters of last month’s movie releases. No introduction this month – let’s do it summer blockbuster style and dive straight into the action. Yippee ki yay, mothafuckah…

It must seem I have no particular reason for adding the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past poster to this month’s edition. Basically it is a one of those run-of-the-mill romantic comedy posters, with the protagonists standing back to back and looking… well, weird. The only noteworthy thing – if you can call it so – is that they chose Basic Commercial / Gothic 725 over Helvetica. Personally I prefer FF Bau.

The real reason though is that this allows me to point you to a fun blog I discovered via a Twitter link. Photoshop in movie posters and ads… is the brainchild of Sébastien Ocana, an art director and graphic artist in Paris, France, who likes to discover what is behind the pictures. Much like Photoshop Disasters, he tries to identify the manipulations, duplications, and other concealed interventions on images in Adobe Photoshop. In the case of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, witness how Matthew McConaughey’s face changes from natural to wax statue and finds itself attached on his body in a rather contorted way.

This is what happens when inspiration runs dry. Left the poster for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Right the poster for XIII – X-Men: The Last Stand.

The new Jim Jarmush movie The Limits of Control has a quite unconventional and beautiful poster. With its massive three-dimensional letters, geometric structure with concentric circles drawing the attention to the circular photograph, and desaturated colour scheme featuring grey, cream and red, it looks like a mix between updated Art Deco and classic movie company identities. I am pretty sure the extra bold sans used for the movie logo is Flyer Black. Unfortunately only Black Condensed and Extra Black Condensed are available in digital format as far as I know.

What is interesting about designing posters for a more than 40 years old established franchise is that you get to play with iconography that is firmly engrained in the collective consciousness. This gives a certain freedom to deconstruct the imagery and still have it recognisable for the public. A nice example is this teaser poster for the re-imagined Star Trek prequel by J.J.Abrams. Although it is barely more than a black on white silhouette with heavy motion blurring it still is instantly identifiable as the U.S.S. Enterprise “boldly going where no one has gone before”.

More fun is had with the classic Star trek emblem. For the character posters it was divided in four parts, and each part was used separately to frame the portrait a protagonist in black and white, three of them on a flat primary colour. Those two series of four posters can be reassembled to create striking patchwork images.

As is often the case the official movie posters are far less interesting. It’s the usual recipe of ensemble cast images with high tech sci-fi bits all over.

This version reminds me of a particularly unsuccessful poster from The Fast And The Furious franchise… Watch with the shoe polish on the faces, please.

And there even is a Star Wars-esque version, with the Star Trek emblem standing in for Darth Vader’s helmet. Given the animosity between Trekkies and Star Wars fans a peculiar choice if you ask me.

But the poster that had me most puzzled is definitely the localised Spanish one. Since when is marketing Star Trek as any old disaster flick a sound idea?

What’s interesting about the Start Trek franchise is that it uses a number of typical typefaces that with time have become integral part of the overall atmosphere of both the television series and the movies. In 1992 Bitstream released the popular Star Trek Font Pack which had four fonts: Star Trek, the signature face of the original television series; Star Trek Film, used for the credit titles of the Star Trek movies; Star Trek Pi, a collection of Star Trek insignias and Klingon symbols; and Star Trek Bold Extended, the lettering of the name and registration number on the hull of all Starfleet space ships.


Horizon is the signature face of the original television series.

Sonic is used in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Galaxy graces the logos and credit titles for Star Trek: Voyager, as well as for the movies, and the logos for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise,.
Although the Star Trek Font Pack has been discontinued long ago – possibly over licensing issues – the individual typefaces are still available under different names in the Bitstream library: Horizon, Galaxy, Millenium, and Sonic. Furthermore Space, Crillee Italic and Handel Gothic also fit the bill. Unfortunately Star Trek Pi doesn’t exist anymore.

For Angels & Demons again the teaser poster looks better than the official movie poster. It is a subdued, classy design with a photograph of a statue shot from the back, half angel and half demon (figures). The image looks sensual and ominous at the same time, with oppressive clouds over the Vatican.

angels_and_demons

The official movie poster is a little bizarre. The red robes and hats of the cardinals in the almost monochrome picture work well, but Tom Hanks looks like a giant, and the whole blurred/in focus contrast looks artificial.

Penumbra – the classic looking titling face in four variants: Sans, Flare, Half Serif and Serif – from the Da Vinci Code poster was abandoned in favour of Cochin. With its gutsy serifs and strong character shapes it certainly packs more punch than Penumbra or the obligatory Trajan. For a more authentic antique look there’s also Nicolas Cochin, which is available in OpenType Pro format as well from Lanston Type Co.

The poster for Steven Soderbergh’s latest, The Girlfriend Experience, kicks all kinds of ass. The image treatment is fascinating, with another image invading and violating the girl’s close-up portrait through a pattern of dots similar to a half-tone pattern. It is reminiscent of the gorgeous androgynous mesh of Louise Rhodes’ and Andy Barlow’s faces inside the CD booklet of What Sound by Lamb.

The square sans used at the bottom of the poster is not Bank Gothic nor its usual replacement FF Oxide, but quite unexpectedly Jonathan Barnbrook’s Bourgeois, an exquisite choice. And that bar code – it possibly relates to the commerce of sex, prostitution being the main theme of the movie – adds that certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the design. Lovely, lovely.

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17 Comments:

  1. You’re totally right Yves, that Girlfriend Experience poster is a healthy dose of awesomeness. And I hadn’t seen those Star Trek collage posters — very nice.

    Posted by Colin on Jun. 18, 2009
  2. check out this post by invisible creature, http://www.invisiblecreature.com/blog/?p=909

    their starflyer 59 album art came out waay before the limits of control poster

    Posted by Brad on Jun. 18, 2009
  3. Ouch! Wasn’t aware of this. I’ll adapt my post and try to find out the story behind this. Well spotted, Brad.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 18, 2009
  4. Definitely love your movie posters review!
    Please note that the localised Star Trek poster you talk about (the “distaster” one) is in Spanish!

    Posted by Alessandro Baldoni on Jun. 18, 2009
  5. Ouch! Should have checked that. I’ll correct it right away. :/

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  6. Second Ouch! moment in one post. Three strikes and I’m out?

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  7. there is some talk about the wolverine and star trek posters over here: http://typophile.com/node/57949

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jun. 19, 2009
  8. oh, and i think you will notice that the trek poster you compared to star wars is also much like earlier trek posters: http://www.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-5037/Star_Trek.html crappy quality but you get the idea.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jun. 19, 2009
  9. And other sci-fi posters as well, but I liked the fact that it reminded me of the Star Wars franchise.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  10. Star Trek director/writer/producer J.J. Abrams is a self-declared Star Wars fan, so there may be some inside joke going on.

    Posted by Bert Vanderveen on Jun. 19, 2009
  11. Not to quibble, but I think BT Millenium predates the Star Trek series by a few years… and it certainly predates the ‘Star Trek Font Pack’, which I had never heard of until a few minutes ago.

    Posted by richardmassey on Jun. 23, 2009
  12. I wasn’t aware of that. The first time I heard of those Star trek-inspired faces was when Bitstream introduced the Star Trek Font Pack. I am pretty sure that Star Trek Bold Extended which was included in that Pack is identical to Millenium. Maybe they just temporarily changed the name to capitalise on the Star Trek craze, but then changed it back to the original Millenium?

    FYI Here’s a Font Pack with showings of the fonts on eBay.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 23, 2009
  13. Great feature! Been wondering what the recent fascination is with Bank Gothic and Bureau Agency myself. (?!)

    Posted by Jason Carreiro on Jun. 24, 2009
  14. i just saw transformers 2 and bank gothic is used in the credits… i think star trek also used it in the credits.

    this use of it in movies i like is making me reconsider it as a via option for jobs…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jun. 25, 2009
  15. also in regard to star trek and type, one of my earliest memories of actually falling in love with a typeface was when i was given ‘Mr Scotts Guide to the Enterprise’ http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Scotts-Guide-Enterprise/dp/B000G1C9CK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246023530&sr=8-2 and it had the typefaces used on the side of the ship and signs inside. i strongly remember microgramma being one of them and it was at that time as a pre-teen that i fell in love with type.

    yes i am a complete nerd.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jun. 26, 2009
  16. Millenium was depicted in that book as “Starfleet Bold Extended”, if memory serves…?

    Posted by Dwight Williams on Jan. 11, 2010
  17. Indeed — it is mentioned in the article above, and in Richard Massey’s and my comments.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jan. 12, 2010

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