Design Movies

Suicide Squad: How graphics can alienate an audience

How not to use display font. And how graphics can make a movie not-so-great.

Everyone knows about the movie Suicide Squad. When I heard it was being filmed in Toronto started to anticipate watching the movie in theatres. Well, to cut to the end of this part of the story the movie was not good. When I was watching the movie I felt old. Almost like the movie was not meant for someone like me even though the production staff stated it was made for the fans. It wasn’t or if it was it wasn’t made with most people in mind. This is not so much about overwhelming elements that destroyed the story (plot holes, characterization, motivations) but the graphics they used can really be distracting.

The type of font choices added on special effects or colour choices were done by a team of people who choose what they liked instead of what was best fitting for viewing. Design like this on paper would look like the audience was to appeal to only teenagers and early twenty years olds not people who can’t read black font over dark gray surfaces, display font as text font, neon everything, kitschy graphics of objects inserted when the plot shifts or graphics that don’t add anything to the story but misplaced atmosphere.

Readability is very important in design. The person you attend to be reading your content must be able to see the content without trouble. The writing must be clear. Hence why make important information like the location of the next scene be in black over black shadows. This is important information because the movie spends 20 minutes of setup in the prison on top of brightly coloured graphics cards in the previous scene.

The introduction card for the prison
The introduction card for the prison

A lot of the title cards for the characters being introduced us unreadable and too small. The font seems to go a distance away from the reader or in a font that is so legible it would have been better than the writing wasn’t there. But the font choices are just terrible. All of them are display fonts and too stylized for a lot of writing.

Display fonts are good when you need a small portion that needs to be emphasized. But if it is a portion meant to be read like a paragraph most display fonts turn from fun and quirky to stupid. This is a basic readability test for font selection. If it can’t be read don’t use it.

The size of the fonts is also an issue especially if it is too small to read. This creates eye strain and makes people turn away from reading your text. Plus the fonts are display fonts and can be unreadable at times.

When the font looks questionable when it is still, making them move would make it worse. We work harder to see the writing. In the movie, it goes smaller emphasis the problem of the font choices. Also, if the writing is not up on display long enough to make anyone read it what’s the point. The focus to fix with the font moving is the sense of time of how long it should be up to read. Each second is 24 frames so making the frames long enough to read is always best.

If the font was meant to be decoration only then less writing should have been used. All the writing was semi-important to know about the character’s backstory (after the spoken backstory from Amanda Walker.) Therefore, it’s a lot of informational writing to read. But the information to read is actually pointless because it really doesn’t add anything and is just on display. In a movie, it is possible to use fonts like that without it looking bad and that’s less is more. If a pause button is necessary to know what was written the effect is pointless.

The introduction card for Enchantress
The introduction card for Enchantress

But that’s just font choices. With the graphics in some of the scenes, it looks very bright. These colour choices in a movie like this can set a mood. In a Batman movie, this is important because in recent times Batman was seen as a dark bruting character and most of his movie tend to focus on dark lighting. It makes sense because Batman mostly works in the shadows of night and supposed to be menacing. But this is a movie with Batman villains and without Batman. And the comics are colourful too. Hence the movie will have a lot of greens, purples, pinks and reds. Just like The Joker’s colour palette. If they were not going to use the Joker as the main villain at the end changing the colours just a little bit on the posters, commercials, and other graphics. Using colour as a misdirect is new and shows that key points were changed before release. This could have been avoided by using a consistent colour scheme that was found throughout the movie – blues, greys, oranges and mint green. Besides the mint green, this is a basic colour palette for most movies because it’s more honest to the plot. It also will not make the movie look dated and for youngsters only.

The introduction card to Harley Quinn.
The introduction card to Harley Quinn. This says “Accomplice to the murder of Robin”

The motion graphics animations were okay in some scenes. But when it was the end credits that essentially the title cards of the characters, this seems out of place. The kaleidoscope effect is cool but once again too much and it doesn’t fit in. This just emphasizes how much this was done as an afterthought without looking at the film.

Without mentioning the plot, special effects, and Harley Quinn costume. This movie was not edited well. If you remove all of the music, motion graphics of writing and the glitchy editing tricks, and left the original plot with nothing cut, it might have been just a bad movie instead of an irritating one. I would suggest watching this movie like a time capsule movie in a few years to see what fades were big that one year.

Colour selection can date a movie or generalize it for a certain demographic to enjoy instead of anyone to enjoy. This was branded and it shows which makes this one of the biggest downsides of this movie. It seems like the branding should have came afterwards instead of during the editing process. A “fun ” and “quirky” movie looks messy with a bad narrative.