A good movie poster can easily attract an audience. A bad movie poster, one might reason, would serve the opposite effect—to drive away viewers—but that is not always the case. In fact, if you’re anything like me, often a bad poster might trigger some bizarre desire to go see the movie, often, I will be honest, in the hope of seeing a proverbial train wreck. It is what it is. And I should be so lucky: it seems that everybody now is familiar with Photoshop, and it’s now easier than ever to cobble together a poster. It’s now the norm to slap some images together and call it a day, no matter the results.
Here are thirty of the worst posters we saw this year. Almost all of them involve some kind of bad digital image editing decisions. There’s some bad stuff here, and it was very tough to pick through. The first twenty-five posters we present you with are in alphabetical order because they were too difficult to rank otherwise. But I did manage to pick out a top five, and those are presented in the end in descending order. I guess that #1 would be the ultimate loser. And if you think you need to cleanse when you’re done, come back tomorrow when we’ll have the best movie posters of 2012. I should also thank a website called the IMP Awards for compiling all these posters together. It makes the task of looking through them a lot easier.
Are we really at the point where it’s acceptable to promote a film as being “from the director of Hitman”? I know a handful of people liked Hitman, and good on them for finding something to enjoy in that picture, but let’s not place a whole lot of stock in the individual responsible for that movie. Hitman is not exactly something I’d lead with when trying to pique interest in my film. Despite that strange lead-in, the general concept behind this poster is sound, though the kid here is too bright. Everything else is dark and shadowed while the baby’s out there like a lighthouse. I understand the desire for contrast, but this seems a bit overzealous. They’ve also made no attempt to mask the fact that he wasn’t in the original still with this other character—in fact, there’s actually a disparity in image quality between the two if you look close. It’s as if they pulled the baby from a non-DSLR shot photo off Flickr. And why are there orange sparks randomly flying out at the bottom of the poster? Is somebody welding something together down there?
After Fall, Winter
This poster makes fine use of the Times New Roman font. I like how it’s the default Times New Roman as well—why waste time trying to spruce up the years-old typeface by changing the spacing between the letters or by applying some special shading? For me, using Times New Roman is the equivalent of using Arial or Courier New, and it’s almost as bad as using Comic Sans. I feel like we could reproduce this poster from scratch in Microsoft PowerPoint in under three minutes. I’m also confused as to what these three images signify. What’s so special about that foot at the top there? I don’t know, and neither does the artist, I suspect.
The first thing we notice is that Olesya Rulin evidently stars here as an emo Mary-Kate (or Ashley, if you will) Olsen. This poster is a study of how many hackneyed visual effects can be crammed within one image space. We have lens flare behind the man’s head; we have crazy lens flare going on everywhere (assuming that’s what those circles are meant to be—otherwise they’re just random circles, which is somehow worse); we have concentric square shapes shrinking toward the horizon; and most importantly, we have plenty of sparks. In 2012, no poster is complete without sparks. But none of that matters, because here’s the death knell: zoom right in on the image below the middle ‘a’ in the word ‘Apart.’ You’ll see a watermark for iStockphoto. Because, you know, who has the time to Photoshop watermarks out? I guess they were busy adding more sparks.
Are All Men Pedophiles?
How say you? I’m not sure why the question mark at the end of the film’s title had to be reversed and in red, but there you go. And why would you capitalize ‘Are’ and ‘Pedophiles’ but not the two words in between? The result is something that’s neither title case nor sentence case. I also like how it’s impossible to read most of the credits at the bottom of the image. Incidentally, ‘Dick Swaab’ is a great name. You couldn’t just change it to Richard for this one time given the subject matter?
Help me understand a few things about this poster. First, it appears that the camera’s screen is about three times the size of the camera itself. The camera has no depth to it and is about an inch thick. Meanwhile, the view-screen looks to be about four inches wide. Can you imagine carrying that thing around folded up? Also, I’ve seen cracked iPhone screens around, and I guess those things still work with one or two scratches and dents in them, but would anything this banged up still be functioning? And why does every handheld camera in every movie ever need to be low on battery? The camera manufacturers need to work that one out. Meanwhile, they’ve used two different sources for the sky and the rocky cliffs. The sky has this worn-out scratched effect applied to it while the cliffs and the dirt are pristine. I need to know what this movie is about—I hope it’s about dinosaurs fighting aliens in a weird Area 51-type military base. I will be sorely disappointed if it turns out otherwise.
Posters typically serve two purposes: to get us interested in the film through some flashy and impressive design (not a feature of any of the posters on this list), or to simply inform us as to what the film is about. The latter was the goal here, and I get that it’s important to advertise that your movie is an action flick with explosions and sparks and guns and women with guns, but there are better ways of conveying this than slapping five or six random stills together and calling it a day. They use the same photo of buildings twice (on the left hand side), and then collage three unrelated stills of the actors and throw in an American flag to boot. At the very least all three people are turning to their left, which makes it seem like there’s something going on in that direction. Maybe it’s another explosion! Because that’s what action films are about, I’ve learned.
In general, the ad campaign for The Avengers was executed well, but there’s too much Photoshop going on in this particular image for us to ignore. The contrast on Robert Downey Jr.’s head looks to be different from that of his suit, for instance. But beyond the pasting of faces upon heads, it’s clear that none of these actors were in the same place, and it’s likely that they weren’t even in the same photo shoot on the same day. Everybody’s looking in a different direction, Chris Evans looks completely nonplussed about the devastation around him, Jeremy Renner looks like he’s staring at Scarlett Johansson’s reflection in a mirror off-camera, and Scarlett Johansson looks like she’s staring at Jeremy Renner staring at her reflection in said mirror. Also. . . sparks.
Shock and awe! Shock and awe because “the jizz is up,” guys! The miniature ‘Baby on Board’ sticker on the test tube annoys me, but what I like most about this poster is each actor’s attempt at looking shocked. Jay Chandrasekhar looks at us as if we’ve just threatened his life, Paul Schneider (top right) looks like he just woke up, and Olivia Munn is. . . doing something. Meanwhile, the fourth guy is apparently a peeping tom. I’m sure this film is a real riot.
A couple of things: first, is Danny Trejo’s face drawn onto that body, or is this a real image? Because it looks as if somebody did a photorealistic sketch of his mug and pasted it right on there. But my favorite thing about this poster is much more subtle: underneath the fire and sparks on the bus, the graffiti has been slapped on without any regard for the bus’ contours or the difference in surfaces. Look how it goes straight across the doors as if the whole thing was completely flat. Slightly less ridiculous is the other poster for the film, which gives us a better look at Mr. Trejo, and also includes a random lens flare over his shoulder.
The title ‘Bad Kids Go to Hell’ is about as descriptive as you can get, though slightly more egregious is that super snotty tagline. Here we have another example of Photoshop gone awry. It’s not so much that everybody’s been collaged together (though it’s really poorly done in the bottom left-hand corner where the kid with the afro is out of focus compared to the guy directly behind him), but rather that the faces are all wrong. It’s like they were a little bit off in applying the rotate tool when they pasted the faces onto the models. Both of the girls’ faces look squashed, and the face of the guy behind them is sloping a little more downward than it should be. The lens flare beside his right shoulder does not go unappreciated.
I can’t see what’s going on in this poster. It’s impossible to make out Robert De Niro’s face, so why even have an image at all? Why not just have a blank poster with the title of the film and the actors? This is, incidentally, a movie about a writer and his son—something we have no way of telling from this image.
This one makes it on the strength of its tagline: “If you hear a strange sound outside. . . have sex.” We can only hope the movie is as riddled with non sequiturs as its poster is.
Champions of the Deep: The Sword of the Sea
Where does one begin with this? The two kids are completely out of it. I suppose the photographer instructed them to look tough and/or angry, but the kid on the left looks more disgruntled than anything else, and the girl on the right looks totally unconvinced of whatever’s going on. Also, I guess kids now do karate in casual attire. Shouldn’t these champions be wearing superhero outfits or something? How about a gi? Is a gi too much to ask? It’s tough to make out what that ghastly black shape behind them is (given the film’s title I’m tempted to say that it’s the hilt of a sword, but it certainly doesn’t look anything like that). And because we needed something to fill all that space at the back we’re provided with two legless phantoms. The girl on the right actually looks fine, but I’m confused as to what the guy on the left is up to. I guess he’s looking at some imperceptible object in the distance.
This one embodies what I don’t get about so many of the posters here. What’s the point of mixing a whole bunch of faces together when none of the actors are recognizable? I’ve not heard of any of these folks. None of them are particularly striking or otherwise look impressive, most of them are missing at least half their heads, and beyond that, there’s no consistency between any of the images. What are we supposed to learn from all of these miniature portraits? That there’s not a single major actor in this film, I guess.
This is another Photoshop disaster, but it’s not face pasting or different actors collaged together this time. The problem here is that the artist has made no attempt to blend the actors into (or at least match them with) the background. The edges of the actors’ bodies haven’t been blurred or softened in any way so they stick out like pop-up cut-outs in a children’s book. Moreover, the black and white levels differ between the two layers. The black on the girl on the far left is noticeably different from the much darker black on the house just behind her—notice how her hair almost looks blue compared to the shadows under the roof. And I’m not sure why the sun’s disc protrudes out in front of the characters when the sun should be behind them. But none of that trumps the real question here: what is Dominic Monaghan doing starring in a WWE Films production?
At first I thought this can’t be Jason Segel’s real face. It’s as if his eyes, nose and mouth are an island in a sea of flesh. But as it turns out, it actually is Mr. Segel’s real face (click for comparison image), though they’ve airbrushed the poor man so much that he ends up looking like some kind of misshapen doll. And it appears that they’ve tampered with his left eye (the right eye from our perspective), because it’s higher than the other eye whereas it should be lower.
This poster is similar to The Day’s, but it’s even more offensive. There’s a visible white outline around Forest Whitaker’s shoulder where they pasted him in. You mean to tell me that the artist couldn’t spare five seconds to trace around Whitaker’s figure with the blur tool? Let alone the fact that 50 Cent’s chest vanishes halfway down, except that the left side of him keeps going until his hips so his body ends up looking like the letter ‘p.’ Whitaker’s figure has less contrast than Jackson’s and De Niro’s. Now, a list of questions. Why does De Niro look so skeptical? Does the tagline “To serve, protect. . . and steal” actually mean anything, or upon reading it are we just meant to yell “Oh snap, the cops are the bad guys!” and run out to see the movie? (You’d have a tough time finding it anyway—it enjoyed a limited release in New York and Los Angeles and then went straight to home video.) And what’s up with the line, “From a producer of Righteous Kill and Street Kings”? Shouldn’t that be “From the producer?”
Actually, that might very well be a lie—Righteous Kill and Street Kings share no producers, and no one on Freelancers produced Street Kings. So, there’s that I guess. I’m actually frustrated at how bad this poster is. And in what other poster would you see a character’s head overlapping the name of the film? What is this, a magazine cover?
Check out how mixed up the perspective is in this poster. The horizon is one-third of the way up, but the actors sitting on the curb don’t match that at all. If they stood up they wouldn’t be taller than the cab just behind them. The people at the back are slightly out of focus, but the kid standing on the hood of the cab is the sharpest figure in the entire image. He’s even better defined than the five people in front of him. How does that work, and where did all of these images come from? The cab and the kid have nothing to do with the party house in the back. It looks to me like they’ve been slotted in from a separate stock photo.
This one is a little unfortunate, and I think I know what went wrong and why the poster looks like it’s been smothered in petroleum jelly. This is, it appears, an acclaimed documentary on child models. With good reason, the filmmakers likely had no interest in releasing a poster that would otherwise be a bunch of thirteen-year-olds in bikinis, so they’ve blurred out the image and made it look all soft focused. It’s understandable why, but it doesn’t make for a good poster. At worst it gives one the impression that the movie is cheap or otherwise poorly produced, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.
What have they done to your face, Jennifer Lawrence? There are several possibilities: either this is actually a Renaissance-style oil painting, or they’ve covered her face in grease for some unspecified reason, or they’ve filled her up with botox for the purposes of this poster alone. Her lips aren’t that full in reality, and her cheeks are nowhere near that puffy. It’s also unclear what’s behind that door. If she’s eyeballing something back there, and if the door appears to be opening, the other half of the poster shouldn’t be an empty black. There should be something there. Otherwise, fill the entire poster with her and the door—don’t leave half the space vacant. There should be more than a tagline with a poorly placed ellipsis. (Seriously, why couldn’t it just read “Fear reaches out for the girl next door”? Did there need to be an ellipsis in there?)
Problem: I can’t tell whether Billy Crystal’s face has been distorted by an artist with an airbrush or by a plastic surgeon with a syringe full of collagen. We can’t look to Marisa Tomei or Bette Midler for help because they might be visiting the same doctor. Tom Everett Scott’s face looks sufficiently aged, though. How sad is it that he’s the one that looks out of place in all this? Is the joke on him or on them? More pressing is the fact that the redheaded kid evidently can defy gravity. If he’s being held up like that his body should be going straight down, as should his hair, clothes, and arms. Instead he’s at a bit of an angle—when they did the photo shoot he would have been pointing downward, but I guess that looked funky when they Photoshopped him into Billy Crystal’s claw, so they’ve rotated him slightly. The angle might look more natural but the kid couldn’t look more out of place. It’s like he’s made of cardboard, which may or may not be what the girl on the left is gasping about. Meanwhile, Ms. Tomei does a great job of looking sassy.
Ride Like Hell Premium Rush
What’s the name of this movie? Each time I look at it I figure it’s ‘Ride Like Hell,’ which is a fine name for an action movie—Die Hard in the Tour de France, one assumes—but the title is actually ‘Premium Rush,’ which sounds more like a Japanese energy drink than anything else. I’m surprised the studio actually allowed this poster to be released. The massive tagline first catches our eye, and passersby that only glance at the poster will figure that’s the name of the movie. And this is another poster with perspective issues—the cabs are too high up relative to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Also, the motion blur effect is a little misapplied. You can’t blur only his calves and nowhere else. If he’s moving, he’s moving. It’s not like his legs pedal forward with the bike and the rest of his body stays behind. Despite all that, apparently this movie is actually okay, so I can forgive this slapdash composition.
I need help with this one also. Where exactly is Milla Jovovich relative to the sky and the ground? The tilted camera angle is throwing me off. I can’t work out whether the top of the image is the ground and the city is upside down (which would mean that Jovovich is falling backward towards the Earth while firing a gun, which makes sense because it’s an action movie) or whether the top is just very dense cloud cover that all the buildings happen to reach but never break through. If it’s the latter, that would mean that Jovovich is essentially standing upright in mid-air. A pertinent question: what is she shooting at, she being in mid-air? I don’t know, but at least this poster includes snow for effect rather than fire.
Hi Miley! Miley’s cabeza is a little big here. To be sure, she’s got a slightly roundish head anyway, but in real life it’s proportional to her body. Here her head is way too big for her frame. And if you look at it for a while it starts to become freakish, so you may want to avert your gaze. It sort of looks like her face is protruding over her chest—I think the neck is a little too long as well (they really didn’t do a good job of picking a body double)—and it doesn’t get any better in the second version of the poster. But at least she gets an outfit change! Well, a palette swap at any rate.
This is a slightly confusing one. The man in the window looks so askew that it’s difficult to work out whether he’s reflected on the glass or if he’s actually inside the car. As it happens he’s inside the car, but he’s tilted so far to the right and he’s so close to the glass that we might be tempted to think otherwise. What’s more interesting is that the paparazzi reflected on the car are actually drawings, not real people, although the building appears to be a real photo. (Incidentally, the reflection of building should bend and follow the curve of the glass, but instead it’s dead straight, as if the car was a flat surface.) In this case, it would probably have been easier to photograph the poster with everything in place than to assemble it together in Photoshop.
As we’ve seen, the software hasn’t exactly been a boon to movie posters, and the carnage only continues as we enter the top five.
Let’s attempt to dissect what’s going on here. Jane Seymour is ringing a doorbell. She attempts to: a) look at something, though it’s unclear what that something is, and: b) talk at someone, though it’s unclear who that someone is. Behind the door, Olivia Munn exists only to give us a sultry, quasi post-coital look. There’s a dude standing next to her—maybe he’s watching the same nonexistent television as the two characters on the floor. The redhead beside Munn is looking at something, though not at Seymour, because her sight line goes past Seymour and to the left. Beside her, somebody gawks at a girl’s ass, while another character tries to hold the door shut.
I have no idea what to make of this poster. It is so poorly assembled that I almost think it’s deliberate, in which case it may be great satire. Most of the faces have no business being on the bodies they are matched with. The skin hues are totally different (the man leaning toward the girl has an orange-toned face while Munn and the girl on the far right have blue-toned skin) and none of the shadows are consistent, so there must logically be nine different light sources. On the right side of the poster, a disembodied hand appears out of nowhere. The bra hanging off the picture frame is also way too small relative to everybody in the image—it couldn’t fit around any of these people’s heads, let alone on other parts. So what is this thing meant to be? If it was made seriously and sincerely, then it’s an absolute mess.
This is one of my favorite posters of the year. It’s great how the designer made no attempt to match any of the three people together. I guess they’re under threat from the lizard in the back, but Vanessa Hudgens is super concerned with something to her left while Josh Hutchison is sprinting away from some other source of danger. At least they’re both running in the same direction, but The Rock is something else. He looks at us like we’ve kidnapped his daughter, and he’s coming to get us. Are all those things on the ground dinosaur eggs, by the way? It’s all unclear, but feel free to invent your own narrative. This poster is part matte-painting, part CG-art and part quasi-photography, and it is glorious. Almost as good is the Hudgens-only poster, where she hangs lazily from a climbing rope. There are four image layers here: one is the background, one is the insects, one is Hudgens herself, and one is the cliff and the rope. (I guess in the body model would have been pretending to hold a rope, which is an amazing mind image to conjure.) And Vanessa’s skin is so shiny! (I guess ‘luminous’ is the correct term.) If we stare hard enough maybe we’ll see our reflection in her.
There are so many things going on with The Expendables 2 line of posters that I don’t even know where to begin. How many of these actors do you think were present for the poster photo shoot? I don’t think ‘zero’ would be a bad guess. I don’t know what’s going on with Schwarzenegger’s face, but whatever it is it’s fantastic. The real hero here is, of course, Bruce Willis, who famously refuses to pose for any movie poster, no matter how artistically legitimate the movie may be. You’ll note that the face used in the poster is the same face they’ve used here (they’ve just Photoshopped the irises of his eyes into a different position). This headshot is virtually identical to the one in the poster for the fourth Die Hard movie, the fifth Die Hard movie, and most of the movies Willis has released in the past two or three years. To be fair, he’s with a shaved head in almost every movie now so there’s little room for variation, but I do wonder if there’s a flash drive being sent around from studio to studio with hundreds of small variations on the same glaring head. I also like the solo poster of Chuck Norris, where they evidently used Fidel Castro as a stand-in.
#2: The Devil Inside
I mean. . . that’s not a real person, right? It can’t be. Please tell me this face was rendered on a PlayStation 2. Please. I need this to be true.
#1: The Campaign
Just so we’re clear—it’s the crazy right eye. Because sometimes I turn away and then look back and for a second the poster looks normal, but then I adjust and regain focus and I think. . . what is that?
I think I know what happened here. The original still of Will Farrell was too simple, so they decided to crazy it up a bit. And what’s more bizarre than a Jim Carrey-arched-eyebrow-crazy-eye look? So they stretched Farrell’s right eye up, and it looks absolutely freakish. The distance between the eye and the nose is too great and the eye itself has suffered too much upward rotation. Staring at it creeped me out, so I spent two minutes trying to repair the damage that had been done. Compare the original with my slightly more normal looking edit, where I’ve restored Farrell’s eye to something like its normal position. (My edit isn’t perfect, but it’s close to what the original probably looked like.) I don’t mean to break this thing down like the Zapruder film, but that crazy eye might haunt my dreams for eternity. Flick back and forth between the original and the edit—it cannot be unseen.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Farrell actually produced that crazy eye on his own, which doesn’t make this any less of a horrible poster. You can’t release that image to the public with a clean conscience. It’s weird! And it looks too false to be real, even if it is real. But I think this one exemplifies everything we’ve seen so far: Photoshop gone wrong, this time resulting in something that’s not only uncanny but also scary. I have to look away now, because long term exposure to that eye can’t be good for one’s mental health.
Come back tomorrow for the best movie posters of 2012!