Friday One Sheet: Why Guns?

I am not meaning to pick on Atomic Blonde, a film I am very much looking forward to for both the amazing Charlize Theron and the impeccable camera work and fight choreography on display in the trailers. But take a moment at this poster as ask yourself does it really need a gun on display in it? Look closer. Now ask if it really needs an obviously photoshopped gun at an awkward angle. Wouldn’t the poster be better to showcase the movie star, the neon, the films title in a more minimalist way? I know marketing works best at a glance, not a deep closer look, but seriously, you almost get the lazy addition at a glance.

Putting guns on movie posters (and DVD/BLU-Ray box art) has been one of those time honoured traditions that is taken for a given that more people will buy or see your movie if violence and action are promised. But is this really the case? I am not aware of any exact research correlating the appearance of a fire-arm on the poster and box-office. I suspect just as many films bomb with the star holding a gun as not, but marketing puts them in the hands of the lead on the poster as a ‘just in case.’ It is often done really carelessly. Business Insider did a piece in 2016 on guns on posters and came to the conclusion in American wide release, 20% of all films have guns on the poster. That is not 20% of action films, or even 20% of ‘genre’ films, but everthing including period pieces, comedies, kids animated films, dramas, et cetera.

1 in 5!

If I may hazard a guess, it is likely that in action blockbusters it is more like 8 (or even 9) in 10. For a film like John Wick or The Expendables it makes sense to have a gun in the poster as the film is about assassins and soldiers on the warpath. It even makes sense in Atomic Blonde, which has been labelled sight-unseen as the ‘female John Wick.’ But does it HAVE to be there? Are there no smarter, better ways to make a movie desirable than without a gun? Particularly when you have to get a designer to retroactively smoosch one into the deign. See also: Robert Rodriguez’s vampire/heist comedy From Dusk Till Dawn. Or Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted which has Angelina Jolie branding a pistol in the most awkward way. Or the poster for Andrew Niccol’s In Time, where Amanda Seyfried looking longingly into Justin Timberlake’s eyes isn’t enough, she must be strangely holding a gun while doing so.

The Thailand poster might have used the original image to make their poster for In Time, although the rest of the photoshop colours are ugly, Seyfried is just lovingly resting her arm on Timberlake’s chest. Or maybe Thailand just don’t like guns. Take the poster for the American remake of Bangkok Dangerous, it looks like it is the exception (that proves the rule?) insofar as Nicolas Cage’s enormous hand is so awkward WITHOUT a gun.

In conclusion, maybe the world needs less lazy-photoshop, but part of good poster design involves demonstrating the idea or feeling of your movie without resorting to cliches (unless you are imploding them.)