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Spider Man (#110 of 7)

Critical Distance: The Avengers

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Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>

For 10 years, comic-book superheroes have permeated popular movies. After the mega-success of Spider-Man in 2002, costumed white fellas saving the world became multiplex staples. Once all the iconic heroes were accounted for, studios found continued success with second-tier characters, from the previously obscure (Iron Man) to the uncomfortably jingoistic (Captain America: The First Avenger). The circuit escalated into the late 2000s, spawning remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels with a frequency that only the most ardent fans could keep up with. A few X-Men spinoffs, a Superman hybrid, and two Hulk films later, we now arrive at a moment of superhero saturation, wherein each new release affirms the general consensus that these films represent a creatively dry enterprise.

Poster Lab: The Bourne Legacy

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Poster Lab: <em>The Bourne Legacy</em>
Poster Lab: <em>The Bourne Legacy</em>

The first success of the new Bourne poster? It expresses the frenetic speed of the franchise better than any of its predecessors. You don’t quite get “briskly-edited spy pulse-pounder” from a bland image of Matt Damon running in place, but you might get it from a dark one-sheet cut into venetian-blind slivers, each one looking a bit like its own passing locomotive, and evoking the ample splicing that marked the Paul Greengrass chapters. Sleek noir action is what Universal and Cold Open are shooting for, and I dare say they’ve achieved it, despite the feeling that the result boasts only moderate visual interest.

“There was never just one,” reads the tagline, desperate to assure you that the Damon/Jeremy Renner swap isn’t just a smooth transition, but one that’s long been in the cards. Renner, whose face is different enough to personalize but similar enough to maintain brand identity, plays a new mystery man whose circumstances are prompted by what Bourne left behind (hence “Legacy”). The metallic palette reads “gun,” the bulging bicep reads “role commitment,” and the eyes read “unshakable focus.” Indeed, with every sliding panel, the makers of this trilogy extension want to communicate a retention of hallmarks, and cling to the ghost of that eponymous anti-Bond.

Poster Lab: The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises

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Poster Lab: The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises
Poster Lab: The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises

At a certain stage of Batman’s filmic evolution, Bruce Wayne explained that he chose the bat symbol not just because he wound up in a cave as an orphaned, traumatized child, but because he felt it could “strike fear” into the hearts of Gotham’s wicked. In this age of darkening fantasy properties to reflect the real world’s gritty gloom, Wayne’s objective has been repurposed by the makers of superhero films, who use their protagonists’ unmistakable, teaser-ready emblems to strike anticipation and apprehension into the hearts of fans and fanboys everywhere. The folks behind The Avengers have tried to employ this sort of tactic, but that whole brand is unfashionably streamlined, and it doesn’t boast a logo that’s built for both noirish dread and count-the-days excitement. Grim is in, and beyond the launchpad of showcasing creatures that naturally give people the creeps, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises have parlayed an entire mood into simplistic and enormously effective poster designs.