Why Is the Subtitle Font in 'Mission Impossible 4' So Lame?

Matthew Butterick is a lawyer and typographer in Los Angeles who is all about, yes, Typography for Lawyers. He really enjoyed Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ... well, except for the typeface used for the subtitles: Verdana. So he wrote a letter of protest to Brad Bird, the film's director (PDF here). "It's incongruous to put all that care (and money!) into the frame and then overlay it with an inapt font, which in its own small way, breaks the illusion. It's not Mission: Impossible - IKEA Protocol, is it." (Nice line: Typographers around the world wept a couple of years ago when IKEA abandoned the classic Futura for the uninspired—at best—Verdana.)

Well, we all have our little obsessions. (For instance, I note that Butterick needs either one more or one fewer commas in that first sentence I quote, and a question mark at the end of the second one. But I digress.) I actually agree with Butterick here, and don't think Brad Bird's rather defensive tweet is an ideal response. In films, all visual details matter, including typographic ones. How could you not be well-disposed to Thank You for Smoking after seeing this title sequence?

Presented by

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the honors program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

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