That Emily Blunt's going to get a scraped knee
I'm very taken with The Adjustment Bureau, I must say. No, not the film: I'll steer clear of that. I can't get enough of the poster, which I just saw sail past on the side of a bus and which made my day. It immediately put me in mind of Matt Damon, as envisioned by the makers of Team America: World Police ? a wooden puppet only capable of saying "Matt Damon".
The poster in question depicts said Matt Damon looking intense and running off towards the left, while holding hands with a pretty girl (Emily Blunt) who's looking gormless and not really running so much as standing on one leg and facing off at 45 degrees from him. "They stole his future," the strapline tells us. "Now he's taking it back."
The immediate future, at least for Damon's foxy friend, seems to hold a twisted ankle and a nasty scrape on the knee. Have you ever tried to run away from a shadowy government agency while holding the hand of a woman in a satin dress and impractical shoes? Experience tells us all that it's next to bloody impossible. The shadowy government agency is usually on you like green on Kermit.
Holding hands is good for skipping, like a great big flower-collecting girl. It's not good for shadowy-government-agency fleeing. Yet here it is ? and in posters like this, the composition of the shot demands that the girl be facing in a slightly different direction, which is as much as to say it demands that she be about to topple over.
The poster's deliberate subtext is that Matt Damon's current movie is basically another Bourne movie ? ie, another film in which Matt Damon or someone like him spends an hour and a half fleeing a shadowy government agency with a gormless girl attached to his hand.
Is it the most generic movie poster ever? Certainly, it is a solid-gold classic of the determined-man-about-to-yank-a-hot-chick-over genre, itself a subset of the determined-man-looking-in-one-direction-while-hot-chick-looks-in-another genre.
Those poster genres are no more than heterosexual cousins of the two-determined-men-looking-in-opposite-directions posters, or the two-determined-men-with-guns posters. (The two-wacky-men-jumping-in-the-air posters are a different kettle of fish altogether.) Single men on posters are normally looking determined directly at you, unless they're Tom Cruise, who is looking off to one side and standing on a box. Occasionally, if they're bald, you get the back of a head and a strong sense that the face on the other side is looking determined.
If there's one thing more gloriously dim and formulaic than blockbuster movies, it's the posters for them. Private Eye runs a feature pointing out lookalike book jackets, but it wouldn't even be worth doing with film posters. Everything in them comes pre-chewed. "This summer . . . " "They did X. Now he's doing Y." "He was an X. She was a Y. Together they Z." "It was a time of X. It was a time of Y." "One man . . . "
Women on posters get a worse deal even than they do in the films. Have you ever seen a woman on a film poster dragging a man about by his hand? No you have not. Women are there to wear bikinis or fall over. If they have a gun, it's either because they are a super-cool bikini-wearing Femme Nikita-type girl assassin, or because the man in the poster (see Knight and Day) is helping her hold it so the dear thing doesn't get knocked over by the recoil like Britt Ekland in that Bond movie where she falls off an oil rig wearing, y'know, a bikini.
Women don't do too well in posters for horror films, either. There are really two types here: the Terrified Hot Chick with one half of her face obscured by red splodge/knife blade/spooky-looking forest; and the Terrified Hot Chick squished half-naked against a glass window/bit of wire mesh/plastic sheeting.
Then there's the kids' stuff. Thanks to the stigma surrounding people who used to play Dungeons and Dragons, the words "adventure", "magical", "epic" and "journey" are only ever used, humiliatingly, to refer to computer-generated squirrels who get lost and form unlikely friendships with computer-generated polar bears. You're forever being invited to "prepare yourself" for "the ultimate adventure" or "the ride of a lifetime" ? though the latter boast, I can tell you, does nothing to impress those of us who remember Space Station Zero at Thorpe Park in Surrey.
But back to the poster in hand: could there be more going on after all? The girl is pointing in one direction; she is being dragged by her hand in another; she may fall over. Could this be, like, a metaphor?
I think it could. On The Adjustment Bureau's website, as well as being offered the opportunity to "like" the film on Facebook, visitors are encouraged to pitch in on the question of whether we exercise true free will or are helpless victims of determinism.
"Fate or free will?" it asks. Join the debate! The greatest minds in the history of western philosophy have grappled with the question unsuccessfully. Now it is the turn of Matt Damon fans. Who knows? Perhaps we'll have a breakthrough.