Why do movie advertisers think that we will be more likely to go and see a film if the poster features a freeze framed shot of the leading actor / actress in mid sprint?
I get the theory. The promise of action and dynamism. The attraction of a lithe, well-honed human body pushed to full exertion, pitched against the elements, stripped away from all mechanic help and motorized aid to pit itself against [insert generic forces of darkness here]. See our leading lady’s muscles tauten and flex as she runs gun in hand down the blazing sidewalk. Marvel as our leading man’s 6-pack ripples impressively as he runs a 4 minute mile to hurl himself over the bonnet of his assailant’s car and artfully wound himself – just a little – above his right eye so that the blood runs down and even more delineates his finely chiselled features.
Even better if there’s wind and rain. Running through the raw elements is always a winner. Or a spray of bullets. We love it when they run through a peppershot storm of lead and come out the other side totally unscathed.
Man. Running. I’ve got to go and see a film with running in it right now!
Except, I don’t. Not really.
Because running on a movie poster always looks a little bit stupid. And a whole lot contrived.
Let’s be honest, when a human being runs they don’t, as a rule, look cool. I know anthropologists make the case that human beings are designed to run (it’s all about our buns apparently) and certain individuals like Usain Bolt certainly manage to look magnificent when they run… but, by and large, the rule for the rest of us is: when we run we look like we really don’t want to be doing it and medically we really, really shouldn’t even have attempted to do it.
And that’s when seen at actual normal running life speed.
If you take a freeze frame of the average Joe (or Joanne) taken at full pelt, well, we just look like we are in pain. Like we are a huge chain of human sausage meat linked by a bizarrely jointed chain of hernias. Like our flesh is attached to our skeletons with cheap chewing gum and one more heavy footfall is going to see the whole lot slide off our bones with a wet ripping noise and ooze off down the nearest drain.
Depending on how much excess weight you are carrying you may even find your nipples have individually swung to different sides of your body. I’m not talking left and right, here, I am talking front and back.
We do not look pretty when we run.
Which is why movie posters have to lie about it.
But there is an art to this lying. If it is done badly, for all our leading man and leading lady may still look buff and muscle perfect, they will inevitably look ridiculous.
Take the movie image for Breaking Dawn Part 2. It’s all over the place at the moment. It features Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner running heroically towards the camera.
At least, that was the brief.
They look like they are jogging desultorily. That kind of half-assed shambolic, scurry-run that people do when they half-heartedly run for a bus which is already pulling away and they know won’t stop. The run that is the start of a run but kind of runs out of momentum after the first stride. I’m going to run, I’m going to run, I’m going to… oh I can’t be bothered. They look like they were told to literally run exactly one step toward the photographer and then stop. Don’t move a muscle. Hold it right there. Make-up touch them up and sort out their hair. Hold it. Hold it. Pressing the shutter release button now. Click. And relax. Thanks guys that’s really nailed it. So much better than speedwalking.
Take a look at this image when you get the chance. They have created something quite unique. A “vacuous run”. A “non-committal sprint”. The kind of run you’d undertake when the person you hate most in the world is lying before you, being kicked by everyone they’ve ever hurt and betrayed and they’re calling you for help. Yeah. I’m coming. I’m getting there. I’m just going to take a very long time doing it.
This image doesn’t say dynamism. It doesn’t say action.
It says I refuse to look as sloppy and out of shape as every other human being on this planet does when they run anywhere very fast.
It says I can’t even act convincingly like I’m running despite moving my limbs like I am actually running and being paid a massive fortune to do it.
This, Hollywood movie poster makers, does not sell the movie to me. Not at all.
But it does make me want to run.
Just not to the cinema or the DVD vendor…
Before the starting pistol is even fired, somebody just lost the race.