Tom Hardy’s new crime drama Legend, in which he plays dual roles as brothers who once ruled the London underworld, hit UK cinemas this week, and so far it’s been pretty well received. A number of critics have given the film four and five-star reviews, with particular emphasis on the excellence of Hardy’s performance.
Some critics did not care for the film, though, and The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee is one of them. His review praises Hardy’s “flashes of brilliance,” but ultimately finds the film “disappointingly shallow.” In the end, Lee rated the film two stars out of five. Fair enough. You’d think everyone would just move on from there, particularly since many other critics adore the movie.
The marketing team behind Legend had other plans, though, and opted to use Lee’s rating of the film in a poster that rounds up its overall critical reception. Check out the poster, and pay particular attention to the space between the dual Hardys’ ears.
Incredible way of making my two star review seem like I didn’t hate the film pic.twitter.com/zvOyIxHQ3h— Benjamin Lee (@benfraserlee) September 8, 2015
Yes, Lee’s two-star review was conveniently sandwiched between two figures on the poster, and since the much more positive reviews both below and above it are partially obscured by Hardy’s heads, the casual eye can quite easily assume that there are at least two more stars hidden in there somewhere.
Honestly, it’s a very clever visual trick, but in the end you have to wonder why the poster’s creators felt it was necessary. There are 12 other outlets singing the film’s praises in this image, more than enough to make the point, so why the trickery? Well, taking reviews of everything from films to plays out context is absolutely nothing new. You can write that a horror movie is “depraved” in a review with a negative connotation, and the next thing you know the film’s producers are using that single word to make it look like you loved the movie. At this point, it’s almost predictable.
The real question is how much longer will movie marketers feel the need to use reviews out-of-context at all? At this point, if critics hate a movie, the marketing team will just grab a bunch of quotes from average moviegoers who tweeted after their promo screenings and make it look like the film’s a hit. That’s what marketing’s for. In the meantime, maybe just go find another four-star review instead of trying to sneak a two-star onto your poster?
Legend arrives in U.S. theaters on October 2.