I’m going to start by saying that this particularly blog post is not directly related to video game development, unlike the rest of the blog posts on my page, but I decided to place it here because I personally believe being able to analyze different forms of media is important for a game developer and will ideally lead to creating games with deeper messages.
BE WARNED: Although I will try to avoid direct spoilers from the movie, some of the symbols I talk about may or may not hint at things which could be considered major spoilers for those not familiar with some of the story lines in the Wolverine comics. I will also be referring parts of some of the trailers.
This is a poster for the 2017 movie, LOGAN, set to be the end of the Logan “Wolverine” Howlette 10 film long cinematic universe that Fox has been working on since “X-Men” in 2000, based off of the Marvel comic stories of various names involving the X-men and Wolverine. Without talking too much about 1) The various Wolverine comics, as this is set in its own universe and should be treated as such, however I may refer to previous movies in the X-Men cinematic universe, and 2) The plot of Logan (not including scenes from the trailer), as this is supposed to be what makes people go see the movie and not vice versa and I would like to avoid spoiling the movie for people reading this. In this blog post, I am going to use Semiotic analysis to make some of the symbolism of this movie poster more apparent and show the amount of meaning in such an empty poster.
Firstly, the sunset. The use of the ‘sunset’ is particularly brilliant for this film. For starters, a sunset often symbolizes “the end of a journey“. This is naturally perfect for a movie set to be the last chapter in a specific characters long and tragic story, but it gets better. It may not be a sunset at all. Given that one of the trailers presented a small child with adamantium claws, previously only ever seen on Wolverine himself, as being a main character and a key part of the story, this “sunset” could potentially be a sunrise which in contrast represents the start of a journey. Looking closely, it seems like the sun is cut exactly in half by the horizon. This is likely intentional so that it could represent the end of one persons journey, but the start of someone else’s.
Adding on to this, generally the hero walks towards the horizon. This usually represents the end of an adventure or a story. The fact that Logan is walking away from the sunset could also represent the fact that his adventure was over, but now for whatever reason he is staring another adventure. Assuming this is a sunrise, for which the movie trope of riding off into the sunrise represents a fresh start on life, this would mean that Wolverine is walking away from his chance at a fresh start on life, something that the character of Wolverine has always tried to achieve, only to have it taken from him when he gets close. For example, his wife’s death in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) which made him quit his peaceful life as a lumberjack and seek revenge on those responsible.
//A suit usually represents some level of sophistication
Another very obvious thing about the poster is how empty it is. Other than Logan, some clouds, the release date, the companies involved in the production/release and half a sun, there is literally nothing. An open/empty field, according to author Craig Hamilton-Parker, represents a desire to be free. Wolverine is a character that has always been running from his violent (understatement) past, desperately trying to escape it. Even at the end of his journey, in a world that hates mutants, its likely that hes still running. The fact that Wolverine is wearing a suit implies he got pretty close. The fact that Wolverine has his claws out implies he wasn’t close enough.
Adding to the emptiness, this man is alone. With the inclusion of “nameless small child” and Charles Xavier and the seemingly large amount of bad guys seen in the trailers, it stands to reason that it would have been easy to included other characters in the poster. The fact that Wolverine stands alone means that despite all of the other conflict involved, Logan is on his own journey.
Finally, Logan himself is cast in shadow with the sunlight creating an almost aura like shine around the character. This paints the character as a character with a dark, dangerous and mysterious past, and probably not a very nice, or good, person. The light aura paints the character as a hero showing up in a time of need, a last hope for someone in desperate need of help. Collectively, this perfectly shows the character of Wolverine. Notorious for being a terrible friend and a straight up a**hole, Wolverine is not a good person. When approached by Professor X in X-Men: First Class (2011) who is trying to recruit mutants, Logan told him to “Fuck off” before Xavier even finished his sentence. Obviously, he ends up joining the X-Men which is ultimately a force of good created to help people and other mutants, putting him somewhere in the shade of grey between good and bad.
(Who is Wolverine, as told by those who know him best)
In conclusion, it’s incredible that such an empty poster can tell such a complex story about a single person. Just by looking at this, its reasonable to assume the story will be the end of a journey, possibly the start of another, of a complex man with a dark past and good intentions who operates somewhere in the shade of grey between good and bad and has lived a life of solitude in an attempt to free himself from his past. All of that from a poster of a guy walking away from the sun in an open field.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-Men: First Class (2011)