Fox apologises for "offensive" X Men poster featuring Jennifer Lawrence.

Movie billboards are designed to get people talking. But there’s little doubt Fox had a different conversation in mind when they distributed the latest poster for X-Men: Apocalypse.

Rather than generating buzz for the box-office blockbuster, the poster has sparked a conversation about the promotion of violence against women.

The billboard in question features an image of the film’s villain, played by Oscar Isaac, with his hand around the throat of Jennifer Lawrence’s character Mystique. The tag line: Only the strong will survive.

Concern about the content of the poster had been filtering into social media, but the outrage began in earnest following comments by actor Rose McGowan in The Hollywood Reporter.

“There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film,” McGowan said. “There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid. The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society.”

Twentieth Century Fox has issued a statement of apology, pleading ignorance about the image’s potential to offend.

“In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.”

However, the criticism has not been universal. Several commenters and social media users have expressed the opinion that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

Neither Jennifer Lawrence nor Oscar Isaac have commented.