Blu-ray cover art is depressingly bad
Over the years, I think we’ve all become desensitized to how bad most DVD cover artwork is compared to the original movie posters. Sure, most DVD covers are aimed at the lowest common denominator, but at least it’s easy to see the reasoning behind them: For one thing, a DVD cover is much smaller than a movie poster hanging in a theater lobby, so visual elements have to be bigger to stand out—hence, the usual “giant floating heads” you see on most DVDs.
And whereas a movie poster’s job is to build up intrigue and curiosity about an upcoming film, a DVD cover is mostly there to remind you of what you liked (or at least remembered) when you saw the movie in theaters. Which is why a visual/story element that was only hinted at on the poster can sometimes become front and center on the DVD.
With the advent of Blu-ray, we’re now seeing a wide array of films getting rereleased in the new format. But instead of simply reusing the (already substandard) DVD art, these releases often take things to a whole new level of suck, with lazy artwork that seems to have been slapped together in less than a day by unpaid interns.
Unfortunately, I can kind of see the reasoning here, too. Thanks to streaming and illegal downloads, Blu-rays haven’t caught on nearly as quickly as DVDs when they were first introduced. One can easily imagine distributors deciding it’s not worth the time and money to come up with new and interesting artwork.
But does Blu-ray cover art have to be this bad? Here’s just a small sampling of the terrible cover art seen on Blu-ray discs, presented here with the original movie posters to show just how much things have devolved.
The original poster features a now-iconic painting that only hinted at the appearance of its villain Freddy Krueger. So let’s just slap together a Freddy silhouette (presumably, to avoid paying Robert Englund to use his likeness), a random “bloody” texture background, a completely generic font, and voila! You’ve now got a Blu-ray cover that looks like it took all of an hour to make, and doesn’t come anywhere near being as creepy as the original poster.
No matter how you feel about the actual movie, the original poster is a classic. But for the Blu-ray, they decided to make the movie’s logo so huge (tacking on an unnecessary subtitle in the process) that they only have room to include a photo of one guy, who may or may not even be star Jeff Bridges (it’s impossible to tell, thanks to the shadows on his face), standing in an awkward pose in front of a generic grid background. This is how you sell an action movie?
This Blu-ray came out in 2008, and its awfulness is now legendary. Granted, the original poster art wasn’t fantastic (though, not terrible by 1966 standards), but the Blu-ray is stunningly misleading: There’s no trace of Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, or anyone else who’s, you know, actually in the movie. It’s a brazen attempt to make it look like one of the newer Batman movies, in the hopes that someone reaching for Tim Burton’s Batman and not paying attention will grab this instead. I honestly can’t think of a worse way to sell this movie.
Dear god. What the fuck is Marilyn Monroe supposed to be doing on the Blu-ray cover? She seems to be singing, winking, doing jazz hands, and getting the kinks out of her neck all at the same time. And I’m convinced the intern who put this together didn’t realize the other two characters are supposed to be Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag; they might have thought these were just really ugly women, and in feeling sorry for these super-ugly women, actually tried to airbrush out their imperfections.
This film appears to be a victim of the big trend of a few years ago where anything featuring vampires had to be made to look like a Twilight sequel. You might be getting a slightly less romantic vibe from the original poster; that’s because Near Dark is actually a pretty gory horror-comedy, and the romance element that dominates the Blu-ray cover is just a small part of the film. And despite what the misleading artwork suggests, it’s the girl who turns the guy into a vampire, not the other way around.
The original poster might be a bit quaint, but I will say this for it: it actually shows us 12 men, who are in fact angry. Whereas the Blu-ray cover hilariously tries to make this stagey drama look like Ocean’s Twelve. They’ve awkwardly photoshopped the cast together, but astoundingly, they left out three of the actors. Why not rename the movie 9 Mildly Annoyed Men while they’re at it? Or maybe 9 Dudes Waiting to Use the Men’s Room, because that seems to be what’s depicted here. And I especially love how they randomly threw in a knife on the bottom right (it wasn’t enough to have Henry Fonda holding a knife?) just to fill up empty space. (Thankfully, this is one title the Criterion Collection later got the rights to release, and as you’d expect, they did a much better job on the artwork.)
Obviously, the original poster was heavily photoshopped (Brosnan’s arm is the same apparent length as his gun) but even by “heavily photoshopped” standards, they screwed up big time on the Blu-ray cover. Brosnan looks okay, but it appears they wanted to include Halle Berry in the bikini Ursula Andress made famous, but didn’t have a photo of her in it and looking at the camera. So, they just pasted on her head from a totally different photo, and then tried to add more shadows in a vain attempt to cover up the shitty job they did. As a result, Berry appears to have a swollen black eye. Congrats, everybody: it now looks like Bond pistol-whipped Jinx in the face right before this photo was taken.
Wow… that’s it? The original illustrated poster is awesome, and shows you exactly what you’re going to get in Last Action Hero: Namely, Arnold and lots of other larger-than-life characters bursting out of the movie screen and into real life. But for the Blu-ray, we get a hopelessly boring shot of Schwarzenegger that could be from any movie he made between 1990 and 2000. Actually, they previously used this shot for the pan-and-scan DVD, but for this release, they’ve applied a posterize filter for no reason whatsoever, just to give it that extra bit of hideousness. Why would I want to buy this, again?
The original poster is not the greatest, but at least it’s unique and somewhat interesting. The Blu-ray cover, on the other hand, is a hodgepodge of horridness: stock photos, an Instagram-like filter, the pointless lens flare; this thing has got it all. But the worst part is how they’ve clearly pasted Pacino’s head onto someone else’s body.
…And Justice for All is not a well-remembered film, but everybody at least knows the scene where Pacino is held in contempt for screaming, “You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” So why not use a still of him being dragged out of the courtroom? Or am I making too much sense?
I suppose the face of Cary Elwes is slightly less of a draw than it once was, so they reasonably decided to throw the entire cast of the movie onto the Blu-ray cover. But look closely at it. Does it remind you of anything?
That’s right: they made Robin Hood: Men in Tights look like Epic Movie. I repeat: they’re selling a film by Mel Brooks, the godfather of the spoof genre, as if it were a Seltzerberg parody. I’m guessing Brooks hasn’t seen this, otherwise he would have already killed himself just so he could roll over in his grave.
Oh boy. I don’t even know where to start with this cover. I guess I’ll begin with the hideous halo around Clint Eastwood at the bottom, done by someone who apparently just learned how to feather selections. Then I’ll direct your eyes to the dopey-looking still of John Malkovich that could have been taken from when he played Lennie in Of Mice and Men. And to top it all off, it seems they couldn’t locate two different photos of Eastwood: They just flipped and shrunk the one at the top and pasted it down at the bottom. I’m no photoshop expert, but I’m fairly sure I could have made a cover like this in under an hour.
All ten of the “prime universe” (gag) Star Trek movies were released on Blu-ray at the same time, so I can understand wanting to give all ten of them some common visual element. But did they really have to completely throw out all those classic posters for a massive Starfleet insignia that takes up the whole cover? All that empty space makes Spock cry.
Naturally, each cover gives us the “giant floating heads” motif we’ve come to expect from DVD covers, only this time, they couldn’t even be bothered to find floating heads all looking in the same direction.
On top of that, they added roman numerals to all the film titles, even the ones that didn’t originally have them. Meaning, they’ve made it look like the one with the Son’a has now been retitled “Star Trek IX: Insurrection”, which just looks stupid. Are there really people out there who are confused about the order in which to watch these movies? If you’re that clueless, you’re probably not going to be able to deduce that “IX” is movie #9 anyway.
I’m guessing this is the one Blu-ray release that most people had on their minds before they even clicked on this article. You’d think with a trilogy that made over two billion dollars in theaters, they could have spent more than $10 on the cover artwork. Could there be anything lazier than grabbing random images from the movie (and not even remotely interesting-looking images, at that) and pasting them onto a solid background? It’s almost like Sony got a special deal on blue ink.
And just like with the Star Trek Blu-rays, it seems they were really worried that people might not know what order to watch these movies in, so they put numbers down at the bottom of each cover, even though two of the movies already have numbers in their titles.
There’s plenty more to nitpick on (what exactly is going on with Doc Ock’s mechanical arms on the cover of #2, anyway?), but I don’t think it could be any more obvious that they just didn’t care.
Other than a few examples of “appealing to the lowest common denominator” above, it seems the driving force behind these “new and improved” Blu-ray covers is sheer apathy; they know the people buying Blu-rays of older library titles are generally film buffs who don’t particularly care about the packaging, as long as the movie inside looks good on their HD sets.
But there’s no reason we can’t have both superior image quality and cover artwork that doesn’t cause permanent eye damage. Again, look at Criterion, a company that doesn’t have the billions of dollars at its disposal that Sony and Paramount have, and yet is still able to create fantastic Blu-ray cover artwork.
When I said this was just a “small sampling” of awful Blu-ray covers, I meant it; I’ve seen enough bad artwork to come up with many, many more articles on the subject. And of course, new terrible Blu-ray artwork is coming out all the time. So there’s much more to come… unfortunately.