Movie posters make up a huge part of movie promotions. It gives the audience a foretaste of what the movie will actually be like and the positioning that the movie director/creator is promoting. Movie posters are full of signs and design theories to attract the audience’s attention, for example, hierarchy, proximity, and dominance.
Star Wars is the one of the most popular science fiction franchises ever made. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster contains a lot of information. It attempts to convey the idea of good against evil using colors, hierarchy, and proportion. The poster appears to have been divided into three categories, the antagonists at the top category with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and The Death Star representing the villains. The protagonists are positioned at the center, and the least important characters at the bottom.
To put across the importance of the adversary Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), dressed in a black robe and holding a light saber, he is placed at the top left side of the poster, and is bigger and more visible relative to other characters. He is masked to bring out his sense of mystery and doom. At the center is Rey (Daisy Ridely). Her image is also large and centered on the vertical bloc to express importance. Her posture seems to articulate her preparedness for war, her capability, and power. Finn (John Boyrga) is placed on the right behind Rey in a smaller image to portray his supporting role. He holds a blue light saber that represents the film’s ‘good guys’, the Jedi Order. He is placed behind Rey to show that he is protecting her and under the Death Start perhaps because he could be the one tasked to destroy it. Further below are the much smaller, less important characters that are included to inform the audience that they will be part of the movie.
While the Star Wars franchise has gained worldwide attention and numerous fans, cultural preferences still differ across the world. As such, public relations posters for movies may be slightly different for the same movie around the world. But, China’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster gained attention for controversial reasons.
The most glaring difference between America’s and China’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster is the significant miniaturization of John Boyega’s character, Finn, and the positioning of his image. In the original American poster, his character’s image is the third largest after Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridely). His image is relegated to a position behind a much bigger BB-8 and inserted under Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher). John Boyega is a black, British actor who plays a lead role in the film. The noticeable changes show that John Boyega’s character is made a lot less prominent even though he plays a leading role which brings to question the role of hierarchy in designing the Chinese poster. Also, other characters that are non-white; Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Chewbacca were eliminated altogether in the Chinese poster. These characters are replaced by Stormtroopers, X-Wings, and fighters.
Apparently, Finn’s position in the Chinese version of the movie poster was altered so that the poster designers could include more star fighters that the Chinese Star Wars audience prefers. Also, it seems that minimizing the prominence of actors of color, especially black actors increases the chances that a movie will perform well in China. Technically, it made sense for Finn to have bigger visibility on the Chinese poster because he plays a leading role but he is almost invisible in the changed poster. Fiscally, it probably would not have made any difference whether Finn’s and other actor’s of color visibility were shrunk or not because the Chinese audience for the movie especially is huge.
In terms of adhering to design principles of hierarchy, the American version of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster was better because it gives an accurate account of what to expect in the movie regarding the character’s roles. It is highly effective because it is iconic for its storytelling, its presentation of themes in the movie without directly saying what it is about. It uses close-up imagery with close-ups of characters that are the major plot point and graphics that support the movie’s plot. It combines all of these with eye-grabbing colors and designs which were effective in piquing interest and drawing attention. In terms of practicality and pandering to a culturally different audience that has different tastes, the Chinese poster perhaps fulfilled its role accordingly. Either way, both posters delivered what they were meant to deliver in order to attract movie audiences.
Designers Drew Struzan, Roger Kastrel, and Tom Jung have been art directors of Star Wars movie posters and were also set to design Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster as well. However, it was Bryan Morton, a newcomer who designed the latest poster. Morton borrows much from previous Star Wars art directors to pay respects to the ones that came before while maintaining the theme and expanding on the ideas that will come in the future. It has more texture in its images, more layouts and a lens flare, much of which constitutes Struzan’s style and what other artists have done in the past. Morton used different methods to achieve the same results for the modern audience. Morton has made his mark as one of the talented art directors of the Star Wars franchise and in the movie industry.