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Poster Lab: The Great Gatsby

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Poster Lab: The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann really dropped the boomerang with 2008’s Australia, an ill-fated attempt to resurrect and pay homage to sweeping Hollywood epics of old. Yet, the maestro’s latest effort, a glistening, 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, looks plenty poised to right Luhrmann’s wrongs.

The movie seems to be both class act and sensory smorgasbord, given the early stills, which depict a more-handsome-then-ever Leo DiCaprio as the lead, and the latest champagne soiree of a trailer, which, beyond glamor and intrigue, teases three exclusive new tracks from Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, and Florence and the Machine. (Even the initial news of Carey Mulligan’s casting as Daisy Buchanan, as reported three years ago by Deadline.com, was deliriously chic and enticing: “Mulligan was on the reception line for The Fashion Council Awards in New York when she got the call on her cellphone from Luhrmann. She burst into tears on the red carpet in front of Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour.”) Yes, everything about the project emits pizazz and panache—everything, that is, except its movie poster campaign.

Sure, the one-sheet above is perfectly agreeable, assembling the handsome cast in a not-quite-cliché manner, and ably selling the Art Deco style that Warner Brothers is so confidently thrusting forward. It all reeks of decadent, intoxicating production value, and frankly, who would want anything less from Luhrmann? The need for less, however, is precisely the problem here. At present, the poster shown is one of 19 Gatsby ads that have surfaced, and that number doesn’t include any overseas versions. There are individual character posters for DiCaprio, Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, and there are also alternate, close-up versions of each one, like this poster, this one, and this one. And, no that is hardly all. In addition, there are posters depicting choreographed scenes involving multiple characters, like this one with DiCaprio and Mulligan, this one with Edgerton and Fisher, and this one with Maguire and Debicki. Know some Gatsby fans? Splurge and buy them the lot. They’ll be all set for wallpaper and holiday wrapping for the next two years.

On the whole, this column has expressly avoided selecting films whose posters number in the teens or higher, and further the growing trend of movie-marketing vomit. Character posters are nothing new, but they’re certainly on the rise, right alongside the equally tacky practice of assigning dozens of faux-guerilla ads to a single project (see: The Man with the Iron Fists). Excess can have its place on screen, but this obscene—and, surely, in Gatsby’s case, obscenely expensive—glut of promo material negates the worth and distinction of any single strong design. We used to complain about the losses of teaser posters, which, like clockwork, get replaced with more marketable, star-studded versions, and finally, with hopelessly dumbed-down cover art for home video. Campaigns like the one for Gatsby summon nostalgia for that (already irksome) natural order. It ain’t the nostalgia the repeat offenders at Concept Arts were going for.