I’ve always been a girl with bad timing — our own Joshua Miller just mentioned this book yesterday which spawned a pretty lively discussion on our forums. But I was supposed to review it, mistakenly thought it was embargoed, and in my jam-up of a schedule, I fell behind.
But this is Drew Struzan, and a book like this deserves many mentions and discussions. Because what The Art of Drew Struzan is really about isn’t just about the creation process for The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China – it’s about the death of creativity in moviemaking. We lament this all the time here on CHUD, but it’s even more depressing when you hold the death knell in your hand. And you do with this book.
I’m not exaggerating. The Art of Drew Struzan is a celebration of a career, but it’s also one hell of a lament. Struzan makes absolutely no bones about his feelings for marketing, studio executives, polls, and Photoshopped posters. While a lot of his stories are joyful and enthusiastic, especially when he’s describing his heyday, there’s an undercurrent of sadness. By the end, it’s downright bitter, and it should be. Struzan goes from chatting with John Carpenter — whose approval gets a poster in the multiplex — to watching the artwork for Hellboy and Zathura yanked right out of Guillermo Del Toro and Jon Favreau’s hands. He describes an industry controlled by a lot of shadowy, ignorant, and mean-spirited suits who will go out of their way not to use a particular piece of art. It’s depressing. It’s easy to see why Struzan retired, and every page tells you why he shouldn’t have been allowed to. This is what people love about movies — every one of these posters just winds you up, transports you, and makes you desperate to see the adventure it’s promising. Even when it’s Waterworld, you want to go.
This is an incredible book. For aspiring artists (and even filmmakers), it’s a must. For movie poster junkies, it’s a must. For film fans in general, it’s a must. There’s a lot of artistic and cinematic history crammed in these pages. There’s a lot of “if only” moments too — if only the studio had used that one — if only he’d finished that one so I could buy it. (I had this moment with one of the Mad Mad Beyond Thunderdome posters. Can we all donate a dollar and make it happen?)
Again, I feel a bit silly writing this after Joshua gave it such a nice mention. But Titan Books was gracious enough to send me a copy, and I don’t like being the slob who takes and never reviews. I’m also silly enough to think that celebrating it and talking about it makes a difference. In an ideal world, every copy sold would be a message (one reinforced by the mad rush on the Mondo’s Alamo posters) to Hollywood that average moviegoers — the ones they’re convinced love Photoshopped heads — still have a healthy love and respect for beautiful, original things. Struzan’s original poster for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will stand the test of time. It immediately evokes magic. It will be hanging on future dorm walls. (It probably hangs on a few right now.) The ghostly, pale, photoshopped atrocities they’ve done for the remainder of the series are just forgotten bits of marketing.
The Art of Drew Struzan is in stores now. Buy a copy for yourself. Depending on who you are, you may even want two just so you can dismantle one for framing ….
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