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Poster Decoder: Deciphering the Hidden Meanings of the One-Sheets for Tintin, J. Edgar, and New Year’s Eve

Each week, marketers release new movie posters, many for films whose releases are still months away. But for those who know where to look, one-sheets can reveal studios’ hopes and insecurities about their products. In this space, we will attempt to decode the hidden meanings of the week’s new posters.


Movie: J. Edgar
What the art says: Warner Bros. thinks that Leonardo DiCaprio is such a big star that even a photo of him in mid-sneeze will entice audiences.
What the text says: What’s the point of including Clint Eastwood’s name if it’s going to be so small? Anyone old enough to want to see a movie because it was directed by Clint would need a magnifying glass to see it above the film’s title. Also, why is Leo’s name so huge across the top? Is it because WB is worried people won’t recognize him in old-man makeup?
Tagline: “The Most Powerful Man in the World.” Sounds familiar.


Movie: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
What the art says: Like most horror-movie posters, you don’t have to be able to read to enjoy this one. Even if you can’t make out those hieroglyphics next to the chainsaw, you can still probably guess what this is about. You’re probably excited by the huge bloody phallus, too.
What the text says Running the font through a Gaussian blur to give it that 3D-without-the-glasses effect is an interesting choice.
Tagline: “Buzz. Kill.” Clever. And. Short. Single. Word. Sentences. Good. For. Horror. Fans. Also, hyping this as “From the producer of Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” should send up a big red flag to anyone who saw Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, the worst-reviewed entry in that franchise. Also, the guy the poster’s referencing, Mark Burg, is the man who gave us Lottery Ticket starring Bow Wow. Lionsgate is probably telling us to temper our expectations.


Movie: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
What the art says: This kid in a trench coat and his trusty terrier are about to lead us on an adventure. Perhaps through a cave or some other place with poor lighting that necessitates a flash light. The ship behind young Tintin drives home the adventure theme. It’s probably no accident that it’s pretty similar looking to another well-loved children’s-book-turned-movie that happened to make $415 million at the box office. Also, the blue and orange are complementary colors evoking coolness and energy, respectively. At least that’s what this Slashfilm post about how damn near every movie poster is blue and orange says.
What the text says: Steven Spielberg directed and Peter Jackson produced, and you’ll see that Spielberg’s name is first. Also, what’s that in the bottom right-hand corner? Speilberg’s name again. Suck it, Jackson. Also, It’s nice to see the main character’s name biggest on this poster. Selling a movie on its characters? What a novel idea! Also nice to see: No mention of the movie’s subtitle, Adventures of the Unicorn, which must not be testing well.


Movie: The Grey
What the art says: Liam Neeson is in this movie and he’s really cold. More importantly, a studio has finally seen fit to give Neeson’s weathered mug — crooked nose and all — top billing. Notice how the poster for 2008’s Taken gave us 30 percent of Liam’s face and 2011’s Unknown gave us 75 percent of Liam’s face. 100 percent of Liam’s face for the win!
What the text says: One big face and one big name can only mean one big thing: Neeson’s the only person in this movie you’ve ever heard of. Sorry, Dermot Mulroney.
Tagline: If that meth sore (or is it a fight wound?) on Neeson’s face didn’t make clear enough that this is an action movie about an major badass, the tagline sure will: “Live or die on this day.” (Also, the studios sure are making a play for Saw fans this week. The original Saw‘s tagline was “Live or Die? Make Your Choice.”)


Movie: Man on a Ledge
What the art says: The movie’s called Man on a Ledge and the poster shows a man on a ledge. Negative points for a lack of creativity here, but we’ll give bonus points for stealing a page out of the building-fearing Christopher Nolan playbook. The posters for both The Dark Knight and Inception were also blue, and featured a man’s back and a bunch of skyscrapers. Borrowing ideas from two well-reviewed, $1 billion-grossing movies speaks to Summit Entertainment’s confidence here.
What the text says: Sam Worthington gets top billing and that makes sense since he’s the guy standing on that ledge. Then the stars get smaller and smaller until we hit an “AND” and, boom! Ed Harris. Given him the “AND” credit is the studio’s way of saying he could have starred in a movie like this 20 years ago.
Tagline: “You can only push an innocent man so far.” Get it? Double meaning? Because if you push him too far metaphorically he just might jump off that ledge and if you push him too far with your hands he’ll absolutely fall straight off that ledge.


Movie: New Year’s Eve
What the art says: There are a lot of people in this movie, plus a bunch of champagne glasses and dancers. And on New Year’s Eve this year, New York will be painted gold, presumably by Zac Efron. This poster is similar to the one for Valentines Day, director Garry Marshall’s previous attempt to jam as many stars into a single movie as budgets and egos would allow. But while that poster gave off a “lots of happy beautiful people” feeling, this one has a more “Ludacris is watching you” vibe.
What the text says: There doesn’t seem to be any clear reason for the configuration in which these faces were slapped on the poster. Is the top line supposed to be the A-listers? No, Bon Jovi and Jessica Biel are up here. Is the third line supposed to be people we don’t recognize? If so, well done.
Tagline: Touting this as “From the director of Pretty Woman and Valentine’s Day” makes perfect sense. Those who love rom-coms like Pretty Woman will love it, as will those who like flimsy excuses to pack two dozen stars into a movie. When you’re Garry Marshall, every poster that doesn’t cite your involvement in Georgia Rule is a winner.