Something that has been nagging at me for a number of years is the way in which movie posters, especially DVD box covers, tend to be almost exactly the same. There’s a random shot of the main character in a pose never seen in the actual film coupled with too many words and lots of color. They’re uninspired, but that’s almost to be expected. However, if we turn to look at the movies of a particular Hollywood A-lister, the results become much more troubling.
See if you notice anything similar about the following movie posters:
If you look very closely, you might be able to see it. Closer. Closer. Have you guessed? They all feature Tom Cruise and only Tom Cruise and they all feature the same side of his head. Now, I don’t like to disparage anyone, certainly not someone as handsome and successful as Mr. Cruise, but don’t you find it a little weird that marketing companies have chosen that specific attribute to showcase? It certainly seems to be a selling point, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Is his proboscis somehow better than anyone else’s? Does its power show box office results in ways other actors’ do not? It seems like nary a piece of marketing can exist without, in some fashion, accentuating Tom Cruise’s – Oh, I’ll just say it – his distinctive nose.
Look at the following poster for Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut:
Most of Cruise’s whole self is cut off by the picture frame. While this image comes from a particularly risque scene in the film, in poster form our eye is drawn to two things: Nicole Kidman’s eye, which looks at us and is clearly wide open (or shut) and Tom Cruise’s nose, essentially engulfing the nose of his costar and former wife. The marketing here wants us to know that this movie is sexy, this movie is shocking, this movie stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and this movie has Tom Cruise’s nose at the forefront.
Occasionally, the poster will allow the other side of Tom Cruise’s head to be slightly more visible, but he’s always turning his head a bit so that we make sure we still get, if not the full effect, the overall impact of his olfactory organ.
War of the Worlds, 2005
Vanilla Sky, 2001
Who do they think they’re kidding?!? It’s as clear as day! Nobody has to look over their shoulder that much. It’s a shameless attempt by the marketing of these films to show us what they think we want to see. But do we want to see it? I don’t understand! Someone tell me!
The most blatantly copy-catty poster designs are for the Mission Impossible movies. That series is really notable for having a distinctly different director for each outing, making the premise and Cruise’s character in general the only constants and as malleable as the respective maestro’s own mind. The posters reflect the different takes on the source material, with one very prominent factor remaining almost unchanged. Please, see if you notice.
Mission: Impossible, dir. Brian De Palma, 1996
Mission: Impossible II, dir. John Woo, 2000
Mission: Impossible III, dir. J.J. Abrams, 2006
Now I know what you’re going to say; that third one really screws up your theory, Kyle. It’s not the same at all. Well, allow me to change one thing real fast in order to prove the insidiousness:
They may as well have used the same picture in all three posters and just used Photoshop to make it fit the tone of the film. Mission: Impossible III breaks new ground by having Cruise face the OTHER way. It only took ten years.
With the fourth film in the series, though, the marketers shake things up in a way these posters never have before, taking things in a whole new direction…
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, dir. Brad Bird, 2011
…and that direction is FORWARD. While this may seem incredibly drastic, it was done for one, very practical reason: Ghost Protocoling. In order to go Ghost Protocol, one must have their hood up; everyone knows this. If they’d wanted to do the time-tested poster style, we’d get all hood and only the tip of his nose, and that’s just not enough nose for the studios. But, just look at his eyes in that poster – he’s angry, and likely he’s angry at having to look at the camera.
This didn’t become a trend, though, and the studios knew they had to bring his head back around. For last year’s exceptionally good sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow, we return to the old ways, and this time poor Emily Blunt is dragged into it.
Edge of Tomorrow, dir. Doug Liman, 2014
I’m no closer to getting to the bottom of this conspiracy, but now I’ve at least shared it with you, dear readers, and perhaps, even if I am silenced, my work will live on. Tom Cruise. Nose. It’s a real thing.