Movie Art: The Adjustment Bureau

While we’re on the topic of Jekyll and Hyde ad campaigns, I present The Adjustment Bureau. Incredibly, the poster on the left is the one-sheet for this Philip K. Dick adaptation starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp (!), and Roger Sterling. It looks like a cool, fun movie, but not in this poster. This poster screams Photoshop. It screams thrown together. It screams run-away-from-this-as-quickly-as-possible-because-we-didn’t-think-enough-of-the-movie-to-put-more-than-five-minutes-into-the-poster-design. According to the IMP Awards, the poster was created by The Cimmaron Group, which is surprising since in the past they’ve come up with some knock-out one-sheets for the likes of Little FockersBig Mommas Like Father, Like Son (don’t even get me started on that title), Invictus,War of the Worlds, and Superman Returns. (Stray observation: There’s a lot of WB product on their IMP Awards page. Maybe they’re a preferred vendor…)

Meanwhile, the poster on the right is far more engaging because it’s more minimal and mysterious. You look at the image and wonder about the movie, you want to know more, whereas when you look at the one-sheet you wonder “What were they thinking?” and want to scrub the image from your brain as quickly as possible.

The only thing I can figure is that Cimarron was trying to tap into The Adjustment Bureau’s pulpy, noir-ish, B-movie spirit with the one-sheet. But how did it go so wrong? It looks like a rough draft, a template for some bigger idea that never materialized. Just look at Damon and Blunt. They look like they had their picture taken at some theme park novelty keepsake photo stand. Meanwhile, the shadows on the buildings are meant to feel ominous and instead come off like refugees from the bowdlerized Eyes Wide Shut orgy scene. (A few commenters on the IMP Awards page rightly commented that there is also a failure of perspective. Spot on.) The only thing that works — albeit not the way intended — is the tagline. If nothing else, Damon and Blunt look like their making a mad-dash escape from this Photoshop nightmare.

Contrast that with the poster on the right. It’s subtle and engaging, tapping into those same pulp/noir/B-movie impulses in a far more elegant way. The lighting is what makes this poster soar, though. The contrasts on the hat and face, creating an ominous tone accentuated by the tagline gives you that off-put feel that Dick’s stories tend to convey. But it’s not a great poster, either, because it’s too busy. The image and central text with the movie’s URL are strong enough to carry the weight. Yet there’s the title treatment, release date, and top-bill cast tucked into the top-right corner, almost like an afterthought. It’s distracting and feels tossed off, which compromises an otherwise decent poster.

But, really, how good is it? It’s OK at best — relative to the offensiveness of the one-sheet, this poster looks like a masterpiece. In the end, though, The Adjustment Bureau is a failure of marketing. I just hope that’s not a reflection of the quality of the film product.