[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
It's nothing but amusement in the Poster Lab today, folks. The Call and Fast & Furious 6 may not be 2013's most nuanced releases, but their posters pack in plenty of mixed messages, most of them unintentional. The one-sheet for the former employs the age-old thriller standby of a fear-gripped woman's face, in this case the ageless mug of Halle Berry. Berry plays a dedicated 911 operator, and, yes, that headset is meant to accentuate her well-carved jawline. The Call is, in all likelihood, a mere March throwaway, but as its trailer is quick to remind you, Berry is an Academy Award winner, whose post-Oscar track record is among history's most bizarre (remember Perfect Stranger?). While we're at it, let's not forget that Berry's co-star, Abigail Breslin, is an Academy Award nominee, however irrelevant Little Miss Sunshine's breakthrough may seem to a random suspense movie.
Part of a grand tradition, The Call sells itself with a lot of faux prestige, like a comedy presented by the ex-partner of a co-producer of a movie that made some top ten lists in 2006. The pairing of Berry and Breslin is awkward, but worse yet is the tagline atop Berry's head: "There are 188 million 911 calls a year; this one made it personal." So, all you would-be viewers who may have dialed for help, for distress that was very personal indeed, just remember you're not as crucial as this plot's Berry/Breslin/serial killer trifecta.
To establish setting, the designers behind The Call's ad laid a Los Angeles road map over Berry's concerned visage, providing the cat-and-mouse path for the crook that Berry, of course, must stop. Surely no one intended to, in effect, give the actress facial varicose veins, but there we are. And speaking of roads, the first (of, doubtless, many) Fast & Furious 6 posters serves up the tagline "All road lead to this," as if five installments of a keeps-on-truckin' franchise could lead to anything but a sixth. For a while, the best aspect of new F&F films' arrivals was learning the titles, which have offered more confusing, redundant fun than any film series in memory. Only an ampersand differentiated the first flick (The Fast and the Furious) from the fourth (Fast & Furious), and the second (2 Fast 2 Furious) and fifth (Fast Five) chapters had a jolly good time with numbers. Now, Fast & Furious 6 (which nominally disappoints by sticking to tradition), really gets the party started with a cloud-animal fake-out.
The designers here may have found themselves feeling like en plein air landscape artists, pairing Vin Diesel with a big, top-heavy sky full of possibility. What they didn't plan for was its undeniable suggestion of shapes within the clouds, which immediately seem to be saying something. Is that a biohazard symbol? Old Man Winter? What is this, The Lion King? But, no, there's nothing to see here, folks, just the source of the breeze that will pass across that shiny, trademark bald head. The rest is up to the Photoshop-happy consumer, who can make the sky rain, shine, or shower meteors on old Vin.