Movie Poster Textual Analysis

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Year 10/11 GCSE Media Studies Textual Analysis Coursework Assignment One (Print-based)


Dark skies, but bright landscape, awkward weather

Only main actors name shown, wide on top.

Depth-of-vision effect, unclear landscape beyond buildings, builds on spooky effect.

Tagline in the middle, dark sky, small font.

Characters face not shown, building on mystery theme, a unique selling point. Slight silhouette effect from bright background,Businessman in suit with gun is a common convention in action/spy films

Flooding water, contrasts city image, adds to mystery

Similar font used throughout, except title. Intertextuality demonstrated. Only one pistol, no other weapons, explicit action, gore or clear violence etc.

No information on ratings, reviews, or accolades, which some other films may have. Does not explicitly advertise the movie. The director himself and other details (production credits) are less obvious than the rest of the poster.

Film title in red, clearly displayed, contrasts rest of poster, prominent. Clearly shows another successful film by the same director, drawing in attention. Website is advertised, contains more information online. Rough date of released is slightly more prominent, presented in a tagline-esque

Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was an action-thriller science-fiction released in the summer of 2010. The movie was another joint production between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, after other films such as Batman Begins in 2005, and The Dark Knight in 2008, also directed by Christopher Nolan. In this poster, it is actually very hard to figure out what the movie is about. The poster is of an abstract, mysterious nature. Nothing is clearly presented to the audience, instead prompting them to think and wonder about the movie for themselves. This contradicts the typical action and science fiction conventions. The emphasis of the enigma and mystery of this poster are the unique selling points of this poster. The poster was produced with desktop publishing (DTP), and the advanced use of computer graphics and editing seen in the poster (vanishing point effect, contrasting colours, sky is photoshopped to look unnatural etc.) already suggests a high production value, and thus a high budget film, which is often attributed with high quality, drawing even more attention to the film. The main font is a smart, plain white font, which varies in size throughout the poster. This font is intertextual, and as mentioned before, is also used in other media texts, such as the films website, downloadable media (such as computer wallpapers), and the trailer. However, the title uses a flashier, and much larger font, and also utilizes a dark red instead of white, standing out from the rest of the writing in the poster. The same format of the title is also used in other media texts, and other versions of this poster, thus seems to be almost like a logo, that viewers can quickly recognize. Although void of any reviews, ratings and accolades information, the poster does include a website. This works well in conjunction with the lack of information in the poster. The uses and gratification theory comes into play. The viewers already have a lot of interest for the movie, and because there is very little revealed, the audience would naturally want to know more, and providing a website will allow them to satisfy their interest. The website for this film includes a lot more information and media. It functions in telling more about the film, as well as supplying other means of advertising (most importantly, an online forum, which can facilitate in magnifying the effects and the rate of word-of-mouth marketing).

It is not easy to choose a genre for Inception when just studying the poster, since there is so much fluidity in the icons and genre conventions. We can study the icons first (Buscombes theory of iconography). The location itself, a modern developed city, does not seem to be a conventional science-fiction icon, but can be seen in some other action films, such as Die Hard and consequent sequels. The character himself does not appear to be a conventional sciencefiction character nor action character. However, as previously mentioned, the character carries the conventional spy character icon (business suit and pistol). There is a lack of tools too, save for a pistol held by the character. Despite this, the unrealistic weather, flood, and overall unnatural environment, is not a conventional action film image, but rather, a science-fiction related one. We can further study the genre of Inception with levels of classification. The mode of the film can be determined as myth, as romance and comedy are not suitable in this case, tragedy is not a core idea in the plot, and it is hard to find any ironic elements in the poster or film. Furthermore, myth seems to be a suitable mode for a science-fiction film. Focusing on the specifics, the genre can be classed as science-fiction, obviously due to its visionary and imaginative plot based around dreams and thought-stealing. Going one step further, we can say that the sub-genre is crime-mystery, for it revolves around the idea of the gradual resolve of an unsolved mystery, which happens to be completing a complex criminal act. Film reviewer and analyst Roger Ebert states in his review of Inception that the film was structured with action movie basics, but didnt clearly outline the genre of the movie. In a separate review, Nev Pierce of Empire Online describes the film as great sci-fi with brainfrying, subconscious-spelunking, time-dilating structure. Other reviews also seem to agree with the blend of an action and sciencefiction genre, with a hint of thriller genre, emphasizing on suspense and excitement through building up mystery.

Breaking down the poster Point Description Layout, Barthes codes and conventio ns of narrative The layout of the Inception poster, however, is not entirely original, and in some ways, it follows the genre conventions of science fiction films. When comparing with another science fiction/action film (with a somewhat similar plot), The Matrix (1999), one should be able to recognize the similarities in the layout of the poster. In this poster for The Matrix, the main actors names are put on the top of the poster, and although there are more main actors in the film, only the two most prominent ones are written. Similarly, in Inception, there are many actors in the film, but only the most prominent actor is written, also on the top edge of the poster, in relatively small font. Also, in both posters, this font style is consistent with the rest of the poster, and in other versions of the posters and other media texts (trailers, websites etc). By having the main actors names on the top, the viewers should be drawn immediately to the poster when reading it, as people have a tendency to read from top to bottom, and the actors in both posters are well-known celebrities. Like Inception, The Matrix features the main characters in the centre of the poster, followed by the title of the movie, which is in a different format and font, thus stands out from the rest of the poster. Below this, both posters have its production credits, website, and also its release dates presented in a tagline-esque manner (i.e. On March 31st the fight


The poster for Matrix (1999) share many similarities in layout and overall design. Both are scifi action films.

for the future begins). It also seems to be a good idea to use a portrait format with the poster, as it aims to show both the glooming skies above, and the flooding ground below at the same time, building on the contrasting colours and shades. Since the presentation of the poster for Inception is already quite different, adopting this familiar layout from other science fiction/action films seems to be a good move, so that the audience is not completely lost when looking at the poster, and can still be able to identify that this film is roughly in the science fiction/action category. Both posters also lack any sort of review, rating or accolades information, which contrasts many posters of the same genre and category, not explicitly advertising the film like other films may be doing, and both actually tell very little about what the actual plot is about, or what the theme of the movie really is, building on the mysterious feeling, encouraging the audience to think about the film deeply, although Inception does this up to a greater extent. Instead of presenting the poster and related information straight to the audience, it creates an enigma, which challenges them to think, building up their interest in the film. It particularly emphasizes on the Hermeneutic Code and the Proairetic Code of the Five Codes which Roland Barthes described (Hermeneutic code referring to elements which are not explained completely, causing an enigma and mystery, and the Proairetic code builds tension, and prompts viewers to keep guessing

what will happen next. In conjunction with each other, these codes can keep the audience interested in the film). Narrative, Icons, Theories Similar to other science-fiction/action films, the poster of Inception is actually an adaptation of a scene in the movie. In this poster of Aliens (1986), an acclaimed sciencefiction/action film directed by James Cameron, a similar approach is used, and alien eggs, which are a core idea in the plot of the film, are shown in the scene. Both posters appear to use identifiable icons and symbols from important scenes of the movie (the glooming city in Inception from the first dream level scene, the alien eggs in Aliens when protagonist Ellen Ripley destroys most of the eggs). Additionally, in sciencefiction/action film posters, these scenes are typically taken from the third and fourth stage of