Saturday, September 6, 2008

Poster Critique: The Express

One of my favorite posters of all time (I have 3 copies from my days at the old Latham Hoyts/Regal) was the Friday Night Lights poster where the 3 captains, holding hands, go out into the spotlight. It was gritty, it was dramatic, with a great sense of space, and a great anonymity to it, fuzzy, with three words: Hope Comes Alive.

Thus, with the latest critique we go to The Express, the latest inspirational sports story (do other countries really churn these out as much as we do?) to grace theaters this fall. Leatherheads didn't do very well, although that was a much different style; early fall has been kind to films like Invincible, provided that they have a great sense of period. Other recent films like Glory Road and Miracle stick to that true-story formula and deliver good numbers. It's football season, and everyone loves a good football tale.

And Dennis Quaid never hurts in feel good movies; he's been real good at it over the years. Rob Brown, who plays Ernie Davis in the film, also was in Finding Forrester, and this could be somewhat similar territory here.

So, onto the poster. Not my favorite, but when I'm browsing artwork for upcoming films, if something catches my eye just a little bit, I think it's definitely worth it to explore.

I like the sense of space that they are capturing, obviously placing Ernie in the foreground, in uniform, mid-stride creates a great sense of action. What makes it move is the cutoff; they trim his right side (probably could have trimmed more) and below his waist, and I think it gives it energy because it makes the character seem like he's one step ahead of everyone not only in the crowd but possible implied players behind him. His story was ahead of its time too, being the first black player to win the Heisman. I think it conveys that to a good extent. Since the poster really focuses on him literally (the background is a blur of outlines of the crowd and sideline) you get the feeling the film is going to portray a rather epic story but wants you to remember there's an intimacy with this character that they are inviting you to.

I also like that they put the bylines and copy (except the tagline) up at the top to balance the poster out; the overline on 'express' ushers a sense of speed, hence the title, and the title also features an outline of the Heisman, which was what Ernie was known most for.

To finish the poster off and give a great aged look, there's a bit of desaturation and I get the sense of sepia, combined with the era of his uniform definitely gives a nostalgic sheen. It feels down to earth, a period piece, Americana, and you know it's going to try to force the inspirational sugar down.

The tagline is ok; it could have had more to it, although if it's inspirational, that's adequate (if it were a controversial film, which I don't think it's going to be, they would have pushed the envelope farther). Also, the notion of changing things and progressing one yard at a time I think aims for an against all odds story, where every forward progress counts. And it also reminds me of Any Given Sunday, which has its flaws but that speech Pacino gives at the end in his usual delivery about fighting for every yard, every inch, always good for a real heart thumper.

The poster is of one man, but he is not among a crowd; he stands alone, and he is ahead of everyone else, that's what I get from the poster. It's a good title, not overdone like Invincible or Miracle or Glory Road, its his nickname, which brings an extra sense of individuality.

I just can't wait for a real Jackie Robinson biopic to come along. I also remember The Ernest Green Story, with a great young Morris Chestnut, I may have to watch that again, I thought that was pretty good.

here's the trailer:

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