Posters of Prominence: The Avengers
Usually, our Posters of Prominence articles are reserved for movie posters that speak to us in a personal and profound way. Works of art that fill us with awe and wonder, and stick with us because they are just So Cool.
This time, I'm looking at a poster that is prominent for all the wrong reasons. A poster that is so shockingly bad, it makes my heart ache: The theatrical one-sheet for Marvel's hotly anticipated The Avengers.
Disaster Waiting to Happen
The Avengers is easily one of 2012's most anticipated movies. After all, Marvel has spent years and created four separate movie franchises (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America) just to build up to this one film. They gave Samuel L. Jackson a massive contract to appear in what seems like a dozen films just so he can be the badass leader in this one movie. They nabbed Joss Whedon - fanboy hero extraordinaire - to direct. Comic book superhero fans around the globe are clamoring for this film. Even among the Flickchart blogging staff, The Avengers claimed a spot as one of the five Most Anticipated Films of 2012 in the recent Flickcharters' Choice Awards.
And then Marvel has launched an advertising campaign that, personally, I would call underwhelming at best.
Oh, Look, the Gang's All Here
To me, this newest poster (easily the worst of this campaign) has very much the same feel as Marvel's first teaser trailer for The Avengers:
Here's the obvious point, of both this trailer and the poster: The gang's all here. We've brought together all the heroes from our previous cash-cow superhero movies - both stars and cameos - and crammed them into one big adventure. Robert Downey Jr. is the big star because Iron Man is the most successful. There will be big 'splosions and stuff ('cause, you know, we couldn't get enough of that in Michael Bay's Transformers movies). And, we have Scarlett Johansson here to look sexy in black leather.
The trailers have improved a bit since the campaign began. The most recent has even gotten me a little bit excited to see this movie again. But the posters have devolved in a big way.
Photoshop is the Devil
There are times, like now, when I truly believe that. The Avengers one-sheet looks like anybody with a decent knowledge of Photoshop could have cranked it out in about half an hour. Everybody is haphazardly crammed in there. Lighting and perspective are totally off. Last I checked, I didn't think Captain America was supposed to be nearly as tall as the Hulk.
"Artists" get paid to create these posters.
But the truly distressing thing about this poster is not just that it's so bad; it's because this poster completely embodies the distressing current trend in bad, bad Photoshop for movie posters. That, and this was done on behalf of what is supposed to be Marvel's flagship movie.
They're Not All Bad
And while the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises is not as prolific in its campaign as its predecessor, the quality is certainly still there:
Which is not to say that Marvel hasn't had some great posters, even in the past few years. A couple of the posters for Captain America: The First Avenger were truly great. Spider-Man 2 had a decent campaign. And the teaser for this year's The Amazing Spider-Man is wonderfully effective.
But more often than not, unfortunately, a lot of these posters really have that "been there, seen that" feel. The Iron Man movies use the typical "floating head" aesthetic. Thor jumped on the "giant text over star's face" trend that really took off after The Social Network. The Incredible Hulk poster resorts to the "back-turned, looking-over-the-shoulder" stance that is so oft-used for action movies.
And the less that is said about these, the better:
It's all culminating in Marvel's worst poster campaign yet, for what is supposed to be their biggest movie. The teaser poster was okay, featuring a giant version of The Avengers logo:
But then they took the character-poster route that so many of these blockbusters take nowadays. And they're boring. Even last year's oft-maligned Green Lantern had somewhat more visually interesting character posters:
Now, the one sheet. I've already lamented.
Where Have All the Artists Gone?
I know I'm missing the '80s, when true artists like Drew Struzan created beautiful hand-made paintings for big event movies:
And while posters like these are now fewer and farther between, here's the thing I really don't get about comic book movies: They are films based on graphic novels, a visual medium that starts with a film-like script and a flesh-and-blood human being putting pencil to paper. Why on earth have I never seen a comic book movie advertised with comic-book-style art for its posters? My experience with comic books themselves is not extensive, but I've read enough to know that there are some extremely talented artists out there, any of which could do justice to an amazing poster for one of Marvel's big movies.
This point was really hit home to me when I saw this great poster by artist Joe Kubert for Red Tails:
And Red Tails isn't even a comic book movie.
Instead, with a few notable exceptions, the comic book movies keep resorting to the generic, and it's resulted in Marvel's biggest movie to date being saddled with their worst poster.
Incidentally, I would be remiss in not mentioning the first promotional image that came out after The Avengers was announced, as detailed in the Flickchart Blog here. But here's the biggest point: This image could and should have been the one-sheet. So much better than what Marvel has presented us now.