Well, Jurassic World just came out, and it was pretty epic. Visually spectacular and suspenseful as all hell, it was one of the most thrilling action movies of the summer. One problem: (aside from a few hints of green) it’s entirely orange and blue. Take a look.
But this is nothing new. It seems that nowadays almost every movie is shot in orange and blue. But what is the reason for this trend in filmmaking technique? Let’s start with the science.
You see this color wheel? Notice how orange and blue are on opposite sides of it. This means that they’re complementary colors, i.e. they look pretty when you put them together. This is also why superhero costumes are usually blue, red, and yellow, while villain costumes are usually purple, green, and orange. It looks really pretty.
But why is every movie and every poster orange and blue nowadays? Well, that’s a bit more complicated. First of all, it’s important to note that movie posters have used orange-blue contrast since forever.
There was no point when this trend went dormant for a while, either. If you open up Google Images and search for any year followed by the phrase “movie posters”, you’re bound to find a few examples. But when did people start using it in the movies so much? Well, once again, it’s been around longer than you think. Animated movies have been doing it since 1940’s Fantasia.
But I get what you’re saying. You’re not talking about just any movie using orange-blue contrast. You want to know what kickstarted the trend where every movie has that same color scheme. Well here’s the thing: trends like that don’t just happen overnight. It’s always been pretty commonplace for action blockbusters to use this color scheme, dating back to the first movie of its kind, Jaws. But if I had to choose a point where the trend exploded, it would be:
This movie came out in the right place at the right time. It was directed by Doug Liman, who had used similar color-coordinating techniques in his previous films Go and Swingers, it came out during the height of Matt Damon’s career, hot off the heels of Ocean’s Eleven (which uses these same colors throughout the majority of the film), and it was during a time when digital color correction was big, thanks to 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou?, which revolutionized the field. It was a smash hit, and with the help of another orange-blue action blockbuster…
…it pretty much ruined action movies forever. By 2004, established franchises like Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and Living Dead had all gone orange and blue, and you were hard-pressed to find a movie that wasn’t. And it only got worse from there. Batman Begins. Narnia. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Fantastic Four. Superman Returns. Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Night at the Museum 3. Mission: Impossible 3. Crank. Eragon. Happy Feet. Tokyo Drift. They just kept coming, each year more than the previous.
Soon TV shows started doing it. Doctor Who. CSI. Fringe. Burn Notice. Even critically acclaimed video games like Mass Effect and Portal were doing it. Hell, even Beyonce was doing it.
The good news, however, is that this trend is hardly a thing anymore. Yes, even though I started off this article saying that one of the summer’s biggest hits is using it, the trend has died out in recent years. Action movies have started playing with different arrays of colors like red and green…