Poster Roaster: War Horse

8 Apr

By all accounts, ‘War Horse’ is a gorgeous play. Originating in London and traveling across the pond (finally!) to Lincoln Center, the play features horse puppets that are nothing short of breathtaking. So why, then, is the poster so meh?

First of all, just look at that poster for a bit. Did you check to see if you had goobers in your eye? I did. Why? Because if you’re like me, it’s almost impossible to look at that poster and not be drawn to the horse eye goobers that take front and center. And yes, I know that this is the face of a real horse, and they are animals who poop and pee and get eye goobers, just like the rest of us. But it seems like an odd choice to highlight the reality of the horse in the picture, when the play itself creates its own reality using stylized puppets – why not spotlight one of them?


But goobers are not the end of my problems with this poster. For one thing, that bridle looks miiiighty contemporary to me, which, for a play set during World War I, is perhaps not the best choice. Then you’ve got the silhouetted soldiers on the bottom, who are visibly period (and I like the simplicity of having them be only silhouettes), but what are they walking into? Was Jennifer Beals’ welder from Flashdance part of the British artillery?

The soldiers are also reflected in the horse’s eye, which might have been a nice touch if this were a simpler poster. But with all that’s going on, it just leads to a strange play of perspective and scale – where are those soldiers? In the far-off distance? Actually crawling over the horse’s nose like little army men? Normal sized, but presided over by the giant head of a goobery horse deity? I’m confused.

So far, we have an issue of too many elements. You’ve got your realistic horse photo, your anachronistic bridle, your silhouetted WWI soldiers of questionable size, your soldier/horizon eyeball reflection, your ‘What a Feeling’ burst of light. At least you still have the title, which should be an opportunity to tie some of this stuff together, right?

Apparently not. We have the title written in the kind of simple, low-key font that you could probably buy at IKEA, if things like fonts were sold. Which is fine – minimalist contemporary actually probably matches the look of the puppets – except for they’ve already moved away from that with the rest of the cluttered poster. Nor do the two colors, red and yellow, seem to have much to do with… well, anything, really. A blue or gray would pull out the color from the bridle and around the eye; the colors combined might bring out the brown from the horse’s fur, but separated into red and yellow, they just make you crave a trip to McDonald’s, or Spain.

This is certainly a head-scratcher, this one. And I will say that I haven’t seen the play yet (I am really looking forward to it, though), so it’s possible that I’ll go and the poster will suddenly make complete sense. But unless the play is about contemporary horses who just woke up to find tiny army men on their way to see ‘Flashdance’ at Ikea, somehow I doubt it.


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