The father/son relationship carries this graphic. To the Japanese, this is about their relationship first, fighting robots second. In this country, however, posters for 'Real Steel' don't make it clear there is a father and son relationship.
Here's the first US one sheet:
A basic boxing-themed graphic with the stars of the movie, Hugh Jackman and a fighting robot named Atom (no boy in sight, no relationship with a human being hinted at). The two people (sorry, beings) are, it should be noted, not facing or looking at one another. Generic, conventional.
Then, we got this one:
This one has a kid, but it's not clear he's the guy's son. It's as if they wanted to mute that facet of the story. None of them is looking at the others, none face us, they are all walking away. They are even in silhouette so we can't make out their features. Cold, promises violence in the ring, very American.
Would a poster like the Japanese one make the target (American) audience -- boys age 13-18 -- squirm? Would boys that age not want to see the movie because it's about a father and his son? Would it be embarrassing for a kid to admit to his friends he wanted to see that movie? Sure, it's cooler to say you want to see robots bash the hell out of each other, we all went through that, but why can't the poster even suggest a relationship between father and son?
I noticed the same thing in the Russian poster for 'The Rum Diary':
It shows the leads relating to one another, looking into each other's eyes. None of the our posters have that. Here's the first US one sheet:
A whole bunch of little bottles of booze that form the title. Pure concept, no people. The next had a person, but his back was turned, and he was almost in silhouette -- anonymous:
Only after these two graphics introduced us to 1) the concept, and 2) an unidentified hungover protagonist, did we get a look at an actual person's face (although he avoids eye contact with us):
Not only is the Russian poster the only one that features a relationship, it's the only one with more than one person. And, the core audience for this movie isn't a bunch of immature kids, yes? Are adults in this country so put off by relationships that hinting at them must be avoided when promoting any movie that isn't a rom-com?
Okay. Good question. I wanted to find out. Are rom-com posters different? So, I picked one, off the top of my head, totally at random. 'What's Your Number' with Anna Faris and Chris Evans came to mind. Don't know what that says about me, but here's the US poster:
Where's the male lead? This is a romantic comedy, yes? Guy and girl hang out, fall in love, etc. Not only is there no guy in this poster, the only person that is there isn't looking at us. Just like Johnny Depp in 'The Rum Diary' poster.
This one sheet is conceptual, and it's not even clear what the concept is. Faris is small, a bit hard to see, and she looks away from us. The effect is off-putting. This, at best, is sterile.
Here's the French version:
'[S]ex List', you gotta admit, is a pretty good title. (Gotta wonder what the significance of the [S] is). When translated to French it's probably a more fun title than 'What's Your Number' so their poster is already better. There's a guy in this one, too, and he makes eye contact -- like an adult. Plus, the two figures are much larger, easier to see (especially their expressions) than in the US poster. Yes, granted, Faris isn't looking at us, but it's the same image from the other poster so maybe they didn't have a choice but to use it. At any rate, that she isn't looking at us, rather she's looking to the side as if remembering Evans and hoping he might be the one -- that fits here. There's a endearing vulnerability in the fact that she looks away from us because, well, there's another person there and she's interested in him, and in the US poster she's alone.
The graphic works. It's much more dynamic, engaging. I like the scratch-outs and arrows and stuff around the names on the side -- adds a nice touch, like it's a real thing from a real person's life. That the title banner sags in the middle from Faris' weight adds an authentic feel. All-in-all, it has a charm and warmth that's completely lacking in the US poster. It's not great, I don't think, but it's way better, more human, than the domestic version. Honestly, it makes me want to see the movie whereas the US poster did not.
Admittedly, it's not necessarily a pattern. I only looked at one rom-com poster before I got hungry -- now I'm going for lunch. But still, that's three foreign posters with more heart, where the people connect more, than in their American counterparts. Makes you wonder. Are we relationship-phobic when it comes to movie posters? Do we get squeamish when the person in the poster makes eye contact with us? Would we rather see a sterile, conceptual image selling our movies than one with soul and mature people interacting in a real way? Are we that damn skittish?
These are burning questions I'll be looking into. Maybe after lunch. More to come...