The science of movie posters has become formulaic. 80% giant head of the star, small floating heads around his head looking off with appropriate facial expressions, semi-interesting stuff to look at on the bottom and giant titles. Instant quality, right? Wrong! Just Google movies from the 80’s and 90’s and you’ll see some of the most exquisite poster art ever. Not surprisingly the painted ones came from one man, and that’s John Alvin. Titan Books recently published a book of his work complete with some interesting commentary, but is it good?
The Art of John Alvin (Titan Books)
This is one exceptional art book, and doubles as a fantastic look inside Hollywood. While John Alvin has passed away and did not contribute to the commentary in this book, his widowed wife Andrea Alvin does, and having worked with him for much of his career she supplies a ton of insight into what it took to make each poster. The book is organized by Alvin’s most famous work, beginning with Blazing Saddles and going all the way to his Star Wars prequel posters.
Unused Batman poster. Radical!
As Andrea writes on each subject the detail ranges, from what it took to convince Mel Brooks to use his work, to dealing with Warner Brothers executives who didn’t have the slightest idea what they wanted for Batman. It’s this commentary that expands on the work beautifully, ranging from details on the art, the business side of things, and the state of posters and how it changed over the years Alvin worked. By book’s end, you’ll understand that Alvin wasn’t just an exceptional painter, but very passionate about the projects he worked on.
The book does not just stop at the final work either, with sketches and first takes included as well. Some of the posters you’ll instantly remember if you’ve been a movie fan and you’re in your 30s or 40s. From the Spaceballs iconic caravan spaceship to the E.T. finger touching poster, some of these posters are almost as famous as the films themselves.
The book does an amazing job recapping the work done on Blade Runner, with plenty of detail on the various posters Alvin came up with. It’s clear that science fiction was something Alvin was interested in, because he did much of the memorable work we all know and love in the genre, including Jurassic Park, Alien and even Star Trek.
Uber iconic poster!
Even though Alvin was incredible at drawing the faces of the stars and rendering almost photorealistic scenes, something that becomes a bit of a narrative in the book is the notion producers had that a painted cover would only work for animated films. It’s too bad, although it did mean he got to work with Disney quite a bit later in his career, because his style and ability to capture magic really is unique. Flipping through this book anyone, and I mean anyone, would be hard pressed not to find a poster they loved growing up.
Possibly the most famous movie poster of all time?
Is It Good?
What an impressive art book. Movie fans will learn interesting tidbits about the business and the directors, while art fans can see a master’s craft unfurled. This is a truly epic and great book.