It's a hunkfest this weekend as two major films open this weekend, Real Steel and The Ides of March, featuring a face-off between Hugh Jackman and George Clooney (and, for some, Ryan Gosling).
One envisions a world in which robots controlled by off-stage handlers are pitted against one another in brutal, emotionless combat that destroys everything around them. The other is about machines in the future that box each other for money.
In both of these films, one can find timely marketing tie-ins. In Ide's case, the producers took a common product placement technique and twisted it for maximum effect.
The primary marketing poster for political thriller The Ides of March uses a TIME Magazine cover to suggest the duplicity and potential drama of the plot. Of course, real life magazine covers used in films have a long history.
Filmmakers use the technique to ground their onscreen worlds in reality, using the brand reputation of the magazine as character development. For example, In Sex and the City 2, Carrie was concerned about the review of her new book in The New Yorker.
The use of The New Yorker, instead of Cosmo, tells the audience her book is a serious piece of literature. (Incidentally, New York magazine played a large role in a previous Sex and the City plot.) In the recent film adaptation of the graphic novel The Watchmen, producers used a slew of Photoshopped "real" magazine covers to suggest just how important the heros were.
By contrast, this technique was used in Tootsie to say something completely different about its hero.
TIME, of course, is one of the most commonly used magazines brands in films. Its characteristic red-framed cover is instantly recognizable, But also, audiences know that being on the cover of TIME is meaningful, communicating — without saying as much — "This person is a VIP and newsmaker."
For this reason, TIME's cover has been used as an integral plot point throughout the years in some of Hollywood's most iconic films. In 1984's Ghostbusters, the gang's appearance on the TIME cover signaled them going from laughable hacks to serious, household names. In 1989's Batman, the cover was used to demonstrate just how serious Kim Bassinger's photojournalist character Vicky Vale was.
Ides isn't the first to skewer politics using a fake TIME cover image. In 1992, Bob Roberts placed its namesake underhanded campaigner (played by Tim Robbins) front and center.
TIME isn't the only media brand used this way, naturally. Earlier this year, the film The Adjustment Bureau put Clooney pal Matt Damon's face on the cover of a fictional GQ to help audiences better understand exactly what type of Senatorial candidate we were dealing with.
Ides of March is leveraging its fake magazine to greater effect, however. The film takes on modern politics with a nod and wink to the most recent presidential race by borrowing a little of the now-famous President Obama "Hope" iconography. That the film means to skewer current politics is evident also in how it sets up its TIME cover.
The Ides of March version of TIME borrows two elements from the magazine's recent presidential campaign covers. The first is from an Oct. 23, 2006 cover featuring Obama which reads, "Why Barack Obama Could be the Next President." The TIME of Ides poster in turn asks, "Is this Man Our Next President?"
This sort of TIME cover is typical; a recent (real) cover showed Texas Governor Rick Perry looked nearly like a promotional tie-in for Ides.
More evocatively, the Ides of March poster suggests the May 5, 2008 TIME cover that split the faces of opponents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both then vying for the Democratic nomination.
The Ides poster accomplishes the same effect the TIME cover did, to frame the two as antagonists. And just as TIME did, Ides is telling us something about these two characters before the film ever starts.