Monday, March 2, 2009

Shitty Movie Posters, Vol. 1

I couldn't be any further from a Trekkie (I've never even seen any of of the old Captain Kirk movies, although I plan on getting around to it soon), but I'm tentatively looking forward to J.J. Abrams's May reinvention of Star Trek if only because the trailer was glossy and I'm generally a fan of his work. It could still easily go one way or another - I was a huge fan of Bryan Singer's X-Men films but he dropped the ball with an even more iconic license and even bigger budget in Superman Returns, and similarly, Star Trek could be anything from one of the year's best genre pictures to a bloated mess; I have no idea what to expect.

But what I do know is that it has arguably the worst poster of the decade, a genuine debacle, a perfect storm of horrible ideas and ghastly execution that I can't imagine could appeal to any human being on earth from sci-fi hater to diehard Trekkie. Every time I walk through the theater lobby I cringe as this five-foot monstrosity leers at me from a place of honor:

Dear lord, where do I start? It's awful, everything about it is awful, and one can only hope J.J. Abrams had nothing to do with it. The only way I can even begin to tackle this motherfucker is to divide my critique into concept and execution and then further break it down from there:


Someone in Paramount's marketing department evidently decided that the best way to advertise their epic, massively-budgeted science fiction saga of starships, aliens, and space battles would be with an extreme close-up of of a man's face, with nothing remotely related to science fiction appearing anywhere in the frame. Let's begin a slow fucking clap for this mad genius.

1A. Why an extreme close-up? If the shot had been wider, wide enough to see Kirk, in, say, the bridge of the USS Enterprise, or standing beneath the under-construction USS Enterprise, or even just wide enough to see him in a Starfleet uniform, or fucking something related to Star Trek, the crisis would be averted. But nope, it's a chin-to-forehead extreme-as-fuck closeup. This is retarded, and does not work because:

1B. Captain Kirk's face is not iconic. This isn't a slam on Star Trek; James Bond is my favorite character and an extreme close-up of Bond's face with nothing else in the frame would be an ass-horrible poster too, as would an extreme close-up of Robert Downey Jr.'s face for the Iron Man 2 poster. Same goes for Kirk.

The USS Enterprise is iconic. The Starfleet insignia is iconic (and thankfully it makes a tiny appearance in the corner, the one defensible thing on this poster). Even Spock's goddamn ears are at least slightly iconic. But Kirk's face is not iconic. Darth Vader, the Terminator, and Jack Sparrow are, because they are unique-looking enough to identify their franchises, but Kirk is not.

1C. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk is definitely not yet iconic. Even if we callously ignore everything I've just written and assume that Captain Kirk's face is, in fact, iconic, we run into the further problem that William Shatner as Captain Kirk is iconic. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk is not. This isn't Chris Pine's fault, as I haven't seen the movie and have no idea if he's any good in it or not, but that's the problem: I haven't seen the goddamn movie, and neither has anyone else, so how can they attempt to position him as the only thing on the poster, the iconic face of James T. Kirk? No one knows who the fuck it's supposed to be unless they studiously follow film casting on the goddamn internet!

That doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the poster, but they should have used props, costumes, and settings to make him look like fucking Kirk! Take a look at the Casino Royale poster - no one had yet seen Daniel Craig as Bond, no one knew if he would be good or not, but he's wearing a tuxedo, holding a gun, and in a casino, so at least he looks like James Bond! Poor Chris Pine has no such luck.

1D. Chris Pine is not yet a famous celebrity. Even ignoring all of that, sometimes a studio just slaps a close-up of the lead's face on their poster and calls it a day, because millions of slack-jawed Americans will reliably wipe the drool from their bibs for just long enough to flock to see celebrities. It's lazy and I don't particularly like it, but it's done (see the we-don't-give-a-fuck Seven Pounds poster for a prime recent example). But they intentionally cast an unknown as Kirk, whose biggest role up to that point was as the romantic interest in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. No one knows who the fuck he is. So what gives?


Let's say you're a graphic designer, a photographer, whatever. The Paramount marketing department tells you that no matter what you think of it, the Star Trek poster is going to be an extreme close-up of Chris Pine's face in a black void with no Star Trek imagery or indication who the character is whatsoever. You just have to make the best you can of it, right? Evidently, WRONG.

2A. Black and white? Why? Why black and white? The movie isn't in black and white, why is the poster black and white? What purpose does it serve?

2B. He is leering like a rapist / serial murderer. I'm sure Chris Pine is a handsome fellow, as uggos don't usually get cast as leads in major summer tentpole motion pictures, but it's kind of hard to tell in this poster because he looks like he's getting ready to stick a shiv in my side, fish my wallet, then go viciously rape someone at knifepoint. As a general rule, someone with their head down, leering up towards the camera, looks creepy. That's pretty much Photography 101. Especially if they have narrowed eyes and a villainous smile. Never a good look.

It's creepier than the poster for fucking Dexter, and that's a TV series about a literal serial killer. Ladies and gentleman, Captain Kirk, our brave hero. Yes, the one glowering like Jeffrey Dahmer. Congratulations, poster designers, kudos, photographer. Nice work.


Honestly, it would be easier to list what wouldn't be an improved alternative to this poster. Off the top of my head, an extreme close-up of a flaccid dick is the only thing I can think of that would be poorer at shoring up hype and eventual revenue for the May release of Star Trek.

But, just to rattle off a few ideas: The USS Enterprise. Kirk without a rape face, in color, wearing the Starfleet uniform. Better yet, Kirk and Spock together. Why not the whole crew? Just a giant Starfleet insignia. Anything else. This fan did a mockup poster that's notable for (cheesy tagline aside) being approximately one-hundred million times better than the official one distributed by Paramount to theater chains across the country.

Christ, what a shitty poster.

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