Much has been said about the patchy quality of the MCU‘s lighting and visual effects, tying in with troubling reports about the studio’s treatment of VFX artists. Now we’re wondering if the same issues are at play with Marvel’s graphic designers.
Due out in February, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (aka Ant-Man 3) is currently revving up its promo campaign. This includes trailers and, obviously, posters—one of which is facing criticism because it looks so impressively terrible. Despite the mountains of cash available to Marvel Studios, the film’s marketing department still greenlit this embarrassingly amateurish photoshop job:
As one reply rightly put it, a teenage Twitter stan could make a better poster than this. Another compared it to a “Mid-budget Sy-Fy channel series that somehow gets 17 seasons but no one has ever heard of or seen it,” while others expressed confusion about why this poster even exists when Marvel already released better ones for the same movie.
The general consensus is that the poster is both hideous and incompetent, while also relying on a tired style of superhero poster design:
Particularly ubiquitous in the MCU—although it’s also used across other Hollywood franchises—the “floating head” poster formula is pretty divisive.
On the one hand, it’s an effective marketing tool. The MCU’s appeal relies heavily on the star power of its lead characters and actors, emphasizing ensemble crossovers. These posters instantly tell the audience who is in the movie. However the design itself is aesthetically banal; a lowest-common-denominator visual tool that says nothing about the film’s tone, themes, or story.
A lot of film buffs dislike this formula because movie posters used to be a lot more interesting. Plenty of iconic older movies have equally iconic posters (Vertigo, The Godfather, The Thing), and people tend to respond to distinctive works of art. Meanwhile, in the present day, there’s a big divide between the more artistically varied style for indie movie posters, and the marketing campaigns for studio blockbusters, which invariably opt for this kind of photoshopped collage.
Instead of looking cool or memorable, these posters just emphasize the formulaic nature of the films they advertise. It’s a lazy strategy, and in the case of this Ant-Man poster, the execution was shoddy enough for people to take notice.
While one bad poster is really no big deal, it plays into a growing problem for the MCU: The people behind these movies don’t seem to care if they look good. That’s the most plausible explanation for why so many Marvel films have murky CGI, bad lighting, and bland production design. The implication is that if the MCU is too big to fail, then why bother attempting any kind of artistic merit?
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*First Published: Jan 18, 2023, 11:44 am CST
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor