There’s a Hollywood Video a few blocks away from my house, and I go there often to rent video games and DVDs. Hollywood Video, like most other video stores, advertises new releases by way of gigantic posters in their windows. This is fine by me – advertising is advertising, after all – but for pretty much the entire summer, one poster has dominated the window that I must walk past to enter the building. It’s the poster for Nim’s Island, a children’s fantasy movie that was ever so briefly in theaters and has now been deposited on the filthy doorstep of the home video industry. Indeed, I feel like the poster has been up in the window for longer than Nim’s Island was in theaters at all, because I’ve been walking past it for weeks upon weeks. I can only assume that the producers of Nim’s Island are trying to make me care about Nim’s Island, something that I resolved I would never do. But alas, my utter disdain for this movie’s poster has finally spilled over, so I hope you’ll join me for the next 1200 or so words as I dissect everything I dislike about the poster for Nim’s Island
Let me begin by saying that this poster is just too damn silly. I understand that this is a children’s movie – I know that nobody went into this expecting to win an Oscar, and that the screenwriter(s) probably didn’t bring their A-game on the dialogue as this film’s target audience seldom sits still for more than 5 minutes unless they’ve been medicated. That being said, I think that children – noisy, detestable little urchins though they may be – still deserve a somewhat greater level of respect than this poster is giving them. This poster attempts to pander to the young child’s love of silliness, but it tries so hard that it goes way, way overboard, and the result is a poster positively dripping with silly, which is about as enjoyable as eating a sandwich positively dripping with Dijon mustard. Please do follow my numbered talking points as I attempt to support my thesis:
Yes, I know this image is hella pixelated, but there's only so much I can do. Feel free to consult the original image.
EXHIBIT 1: LIZARD WEARING SOMBRERO RIDING OTHER LIZARD
So what the hell is going on here, exactly? What I’m seeing is a lizard astride another lizard, riding it as one would a horse, and the equestrian lizard is wearing a sombrero. Now, I can’t imagine why a lizard would want to wear a sombrero, as a sombrero is a hat designed to keep the sun off of the wearer, and the lizard is an animal that relies on the sun for energy. The fact that the lizard, by wearing the sombrero, is depriving himself of energy, explains why he has to ride another lizard to get around, but it doesn’t explain why the other lizard appears to be a beast of burden. This question is a lot like the age old puzzle of, “Why, if Pluto and Goofy are both dogs, does Pluto have to live in a dog house and eat dog food while Goofy gets to act like a person and talk to the other characters?” It implies that there is some sort of lizard hierarchy at work here, that the horse lizard is at the bottom of it, and that the riding lizard is at the top – a member of the lizard bourgeoisie, perhaps, with such an easy life that he can afford to wear a hat that saps his energy. Is this really the sort of thing you want your kids to watch?
EXHIBIT 2: SEAL CARRYING BINOCULARS
Let’s forget about wondering where he even found binoculars in the first place. Let’s not ask how he manages to grip them using only his wet, smooth flippers. Let’s take it on faith that he’s found some way to adjust the focus using those big, floppy appendages of his. What I want to know is this: What does a seal need with a pair of binoculars? What possible position in life, even in a magical fantasy world such as the setting of this film, could a seal be in that would require him or her to own and operate a pair of binoculars? A seal is a water dwelling creature; it eats lots of fish. Binoculars don’t help it find fish because fish are almost always underwater, and binoculars aren’t much good down there.
EXHIBIT 3: SEAGULL WEARING FLIGHT GOGGLES
Flight goggles? Okay, I will admit that they’re fairly practical for a seagull (certainly moreso than a pair of freaking binoculars), but it makes me worry that, if one seagull needs to wear eye protection when it flies, maybe all other seagulls need eye protection too, but simply don’t have access to it. Are their eyes getting all dried out while they fly around? Suddenly I want to start a trust fund to buy flight goggles for underprivileged seagulls, which is far from the intended purpose of this poster.
EXHIBIT 4: STACK OF TURTLES
Why are they doing that? What does it mean? Why are they stacked up like that? Is that a thing they do in the film, or did the design team just whip that up in PhotoShop to create something good and silly for the poster, so all the kids would badger their parents into seeing the turtle stacking movie, perhaps under the misconception that it was related to the Dr. Seuss book that dealt with similar subject matter. Also, I’d like to point out that at this point, all the elements I’ve criticized have been animals standing on one another. The movie could just as well be called Island Of Anthropomorphic Animals Standing On Top Of Other Anthropomorphic Animals.
EXHIBIT 5: GERARD BUTLER
Pardon me Gerard, or should I say King Leonidus, but what exactly are you doing to your career? You were pretty much the baddest motherfucker on Earth in 300 - the John Shaft of ancient Greece, if I do say so myself. All my friends and I, man, we worshipped you in that movie. And all the girls I know? They wanted you! In all sorts of nasty, obscure ways! And then you turn right around and make P.S – I Love You, and now you’re sharing space with a stack of turtles and a seal with binoculars? It’s like the captain of the football team joining the swing choir and starting the Tolkien Club.
EXHIBIT 5.1: ABIGAIL BRESLIN
Pretty much the same thing here. You started really strong with Little Miss Sunshine, and then you did No Reservations, which I hear they’re permanently screening in Hell, and now you’re starring in this? You’re aiding and abetting Gerard Butler’s downfall, not to mention hastening your own, and I don’t like it one bit.
EXHIBIT 6: JODIE FOSTER
This isn’t a complaint – I just wanted to say, Ms. Foster, that you’ve aged really well. This lady got nominated for her first Oscar when my parents were getting married, folks. Let’s give her a big hand! I mean, shame on you for being in this movie, but still – your bright smile and thoughtful eyes are by far my favorite part of this poster.
EXHIBIT 7: NAME ARRANGEMENT
You’ve got the names of the film’s stars at the top of the poster, and you’ve got all three stars below the names – I see little reason to not put each name above the relevant actor. There’s no joke here. This is just a guy pointing out principles of freaking design.
EXHIBIT 8: MISSING COMMA
There ought to be a comma after “Media”, so that the reader gets a second to breathe. As it is right now, I feel sort of like the poster is so eager to mention that these are the same people that made Charlotte’s Web that they’re rushing their words, shouting to you like a greedy hobo trying to get your attention before you get on the bus. “Hey! We made Charlotte’s Web, so this movie is going to be really good too! Hey! Buy this movie! Where are you going? No! Listen!”
Now, I’m not making any comment on the quality of the movie itself (although, from the Wikipedia summary, it looks like a mess) but I’ve got to say that the poster isn’t doing Nim’s Island any favors. It’s so dedicated to conveying a sense of whimsy and silliness that it becomes visually busy to the point that it’s distracting – so distracting that I could write an entire blog entry about core elements of the poster without even knowing what the movie is about. Compare this to the posters for excellent children’s movies and you’ll see that they all convey a similar sense of lighthearted fun, but without contributing to the ADD nature of our media.
So are you satisfied, Hollywood Video? That’s what I think of the poster. Feel free to take it down now.
Truman Capps apologizes for writing a blog about such a narrow subject, but that poster had been challenging him every day, and he will not back down when faced with a picture of a stack of turtles.