It’s not easy to capture a whole movie in an image and create art at the same time, but I think Paramount just did it.

The art of the movie poster is a difficult one to master. Done adequately, it can sell an actor or concept. Done well, it can capture the spirit of a film or place the audience in a specific moment. But done expertly, it can do all this and more… and become a masterpiece in its own right.

Think of the classics… Jaws (1975), Rocky (1976) or Alien (1979). All may do it slightly differently, but each takes a great image, a carefully-crafted tagline and creates something truly unique. And I think 2021 just added to that particular movie marketing pantheon.

Brace yourself…

OK, hear me out…

Five reasons why the Jackass Forever poster is a film marketing masterpiece

At this point Jackass is kind of a nostalgia act. The teen and 20-something target demographic from when it first aired on MTV is now in its 30s and 40s. And while it feels natural to get swept up in reboots of series’ from back then like The Sopranos and Dexter, Jackass is a different beast entirely.

The show comes from a time in pop culture that seems very far away now. A time where Shrek could top the box office and a band could release an album called Hooray for Boobies. Things have gotten pretty serious since then, so isn’t a return to that world of frat-boy stupidity a tough sell?

#1 It doesn’t give a fuck.

Well, you could argue that after the last two years, a new Jackass is actually an easy sell. A way to put everything behind us and return to a simpler, dumber time. But is that what this is going for?

I mean, maybe. But maybe one of the reasons the poster is a masterpiece is it has no idea what I’m talking about. I can’t possibly know if the Paramount marketing team discussed how their creatives might circumvent post-COVID audience anxieties (they probably did), but the point is it doesn’t feel like it.

In the true spirit of Jackass, this is a poster that’s here to remind you that Johnny Knoxville and his crew (or most of them) are still around and still happy to do whatever they can to entertain each other… and you, but mainly each other. Pandemic? What fucking pandemic?

#2 A majestic main image.

If the blockbusters of the last decade have taught us anything it’s that artistry is not the driving force in poster campaigns. Get the hero up front, show some action, apply the genre-applicable colour treatment – and you’re good to go.

But while this works on Marvel movies and whatever Liam Neeson is in that week, Jackass is (again) different. It doesn’t matter that it’s Knoxville being fired out of a cannon, only that he’s doing it wearing angel wings and red Chuck Taylors. It doesn’t matter that the sky isn’t a brand-approved hex colour, only that there’s enough of it to show how dangerous the stunt is.

More than anything though, what matters most is the poster lets the image do the work, capturing not just a moment from the film, but the spirit of the franchise we know… and just realised we miss.

#3 The subtly nostalgic tagline.

So as I say, this is a poster that on the face of it has no interest in reflecting on the seriousness of current world events or promoting its stars. That is, until you consider the tagline.

Remember what it was like to hang out with friends? Spending the weekend getting into crazy trouble? Waking up drunk and covered in bruises? In a hospital, or a zoo? Occasionally dressed as a gorilla? No, of course you don’t – because you’re in your 40s and that never actually happened.

Except, in a way, it did… back when you were hanging out with Johnny, Steve-O, Chris and the little guy who could kick himself in the head. And the good news – this tagline wants you to know – is those old friends are back and still want to party with you – just like they did before all this shit. No pandemic, no rules and (for you) no bruises.

#4 ‘I need to know what happens’.

The best a movie poster can hope for these days is to play its part in a wider campaign. It should lead an audience to the trailer, while being adaptable enough to be turned into a clickable banner, social media animation or just sit on the side of a bus.

Typically a trailer would provide enough material for the audience to ask what happens next. But here, watching Knoxville soar gracefully but dangerously towards the sun, we can’t help but ponder what fate awaits him. All we know is, it’s probably going to hurt – and we’re going to want to see it.

The fact the poster is one of four that use a similar mechanic (see below), suggests this was an actual campaign idea rather than a fluke – but while each are great in their own right, there’s just something so pure about this first one… I genuinely adore it.

#5 Sticking the landing.

The Jackass Forever poster has absolutely everything. It has the attitude you’d expect, it tells audiences they’ll have a great time and it taps into nostalgia for a time in pop culture where (it seemed) there was less to worry about.

It does this with a recognisable brand, a strong image and some memorable copy. But these things alone don’t make a masterpiece – for that, they have to form a cohesive whole. This poster recognises that the audience know what Jackass is, then turns on the magic by confidently showing them why they liked it in the first place and reassuring them nothing has changed.

These won’t be the last posters we see for Jackass Forever. I fully expect they’ll be followed by some studio-mandated Photoshop collage in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, I’ll just bask in the simple phallic beauty of this one.

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