I Am Helvetica

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I have recently viewed a couple of movies that could not have been more different!

First up was the documentary Helvetica on the Netflix Roku box and yes, it's all about the font. Actually, it was about the ubiquitous typeface and a whole lot more, including design, marketing and the psychology f typography. They interviewed a bunch of passionate folks, both pro Helvetica and the virulent anti-establishment designers who wouldn't use Helvetica if their life depended on it. I loved the passion these folks bring to both typeface design, as well as the graphic artists who both use and despise Helvetica.

The film also shows just how prevalent Helvetica has become, as it shows logo, signs and magazine covers just rotten with it, for better or for worse. It also tells the story of Helvetica, how it was invented in the 1950s as well as how it became so popular. Did you know there are directors of marketing for typeface companies? Exactly how do you sell a font anyway?

But the passion the interviewees bring to the table is very evident. I especially liked the anti crowd, like Stefan Sagmeister and David Carson, famous in the graphic design field for their wild, boundary straining covers. Carson even went so far as to use the Dingbats font for an article in his magazine that he wasn't all that happy with! Very interesting documentary.

On the opposite side of the film world came I Am Legend, viewed in its BluRay incarnation in all its 1080p, Dolby Digital glory. Will Smith stars as the last man standing in an apocalyptic world after some unnamed virus (related to rabies?), used as a cure for cancer, goes rogue and kills nearly everyone while turning a select few into raving, rabid lunatics afraid of the dark. Robert Neville, alone out of everyone in the world (somehow he knows this) is immune and searches for a cure, while prowling the abandoned streets of New York City with his dog.

All I can say is, why bother having it titled after a book if you aren't going to use it at all? While the novella by Richard Matheson had its problems, this movie had about as much to do with it as a Sean Connery James Bond had to do with the Ian Fleming book it shared a title with. Matheson's Neville is an ordinary guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances, a vigilante during the day and a whiner and drunkard at night, as he holes up in his fortified home. Smith's Neville is a heroic survivor trying desperately to find a cure. Heck, he doesn't even kill any of the mutants!

Some folks complained that the ending was too optimistic as compared to the book but given the entire disregard for the source material rampant in the movie, it seems like a hollow complaint. Maybe the movie would be better for you if you don't read the book first, but my parents who watched it didn't know the book and I don't think they were all that impressed by it either.

It sure looked nice though. Some scenes of Smith walking through overgrown fields in New York City came through crisp and clear. The soundtrack didn't really stress the speakers too much though. All in all, a very average adventure flick that goes to disappointing if you read the book. 28 Days Later did viral, apocalyptic horror much better.



4 Comments

Did you spot the Helvetica tee I posted the other day?  Hells yeah.P.S. Don't you think the crew of Galactica is going to run into Will Smith sometime in the last ten episodes?

I enjoyed Helvetica a lot. I've always thought it would be cool to be a typeface designer.

This is the second post I've seen on Helvetica in the past couple months.  It does sound like a pretty interesting documentary.In I am Legend I thought the scenes of an abandoned New York were pretty cool.  I've never read the book and I enjoyed the movie for the most part.

[this is good] I agree with you 100% on the I Am Legend movie but like ti was said the title was use to promote his book. It seems that a lot of people is not taking enough initiative on how the movie that supposed to be of their book on how it supposed to be. Then again commercial will always attract the audiences. Though the movie was different from the book in it's own way it help sold his book. I know people who bought the book first before they saw the movie and vice verse.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on June 25, 2008 5:00 AM.

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