Spider-Man Homecoming Poster Doesn't Tell A Story

Doesn't Tell a Story
We all want to know what the story is about before we pay for the ticket. The rising cost of theatre these days can put a real hole in any parent’s pocketbook. Trailers, posters and interviews are designed to give the snippets we need to figure out if this is the movie for us or not. Posters are a bit old-fashioned, but they work big time. Hollywood purportedly spends hundreds of millions on marketing per film on print and image products. It’s just an image, a still image at that, but it gives us a clue as to what why a poster fail is big business. Which is why recent criticisms about the Spider-man Homecoming poster could mean a loss of sales if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Let’s take a look at how stories come alive with some good graphic design. 

First, this poster gets an A+ for design. The images connote movement with some dramatic appeal. All the major characters seemed to be there and we can assume they're all connected in some way. In the Verge article, What went wrong with the Spider-Man Homecoming posterKwame Opam speaks about too many characters crowding the space. He's wrong. As many other fans pointed out, many posters such as Star Wars, have just as many or more characters in the promotional material. So here's what's really going on.

The Poster Lacks a Story

Posters aren't simple advertisements. It's not an information leaflet. To be grab customers, you've got to sell a story. That means something very human has to be going on, with a strong theme attached to a human need like freedom, love or excitement. You can use this to analyze a poster like Spider-man: Homecoming

But let's take a look at some other posters first. If we can see what went right there, then maybe we can see what went wrong with Spider-man's poster.

Take a look at this Star Wars poster:

A Good Story in the Poster
The design in this poster is very much like the Spider-man: Homecoming. The designer did the same in make sure all the elements were equally balanced. Notice the far left corner which is empty? It's balanced with the sand dunes smooth curve that leads from Vader's neck as if the bottom portion was his neck and shoulders. He looks ominous while Luke and Leia are basked in light - obviously the heroes even yielding a sword of power to confront him with. The droids in the background create a triangle with them, snug tight in the corner. The tie fighters imply a battle of sorts and since Vader is metallic, the Death Star beside him looks as if it belongs to him. That's a lot of story because it's obviously a fight between dark and light; Luke Skywalker and Dark Vader.

Take a look at the original Ghostbusters poster. It doesn't have much there. Three guys and a big icon that denotes an end to all ghosts. Remember, story is in the conflict, the challenges our heroes face in their good fight. If you take a look at the ghostbuster's reaction, they're angry and scared. But most of all they are poised to fight back. You get the story. It's a fight against the ghosts and these guys are at the center of it. By the way, their closeness together gives one the feeling that they're buddies of some kind. That's important because it allows the viewers to make an emotional connection with them. Put it all together and you have a great poster that's simple but effective. Simple is important if you want your audience to remember it after they've left.

What the Spider-Man: Homecoming Poster Really Misses

Take a look at the Spider-Man Homecoming poster again. You'll notice the characters stand by each other, separated mind you, with very little conflict going on. No one has any feeling on their face. The only action is Spider-man running a blazing speed across the page, but it doesn't relate to anything. We can't get a story going in our minds. We can't sense a drama or a purpose. We don't know what Spider-man is even fighting. The Vulture, perhaps? He's somewhere in Tony Stark's bust. The result is a bad feeling about the poster and the first thing to complain about is: "Too many people." Since the viewer can't make sense of the poster, the crowdedness becomes the issue rather than the lack of story. Therefore, the problem is that these characters don't relate to each other enough. The story is missing.

That's the power of story everyone. Learn it and you learn about everything human. Even a Spider-man: Homecoming poster. Enjoy the movie when it comes out.

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