Thursday, 28 October 2010

Cinemaniacal: Title This Post Please

Welcome to the show folks....

Titles are hard.

Why do you think I categorize my posts with things like Hollywood Babble On & On, Cinemaniacal, or some other inanity because it's because coming with a clever, snappy, title, is hard work. So I distract you with standardized titles and numbers, and some piece of sarcasm to tell you what it's about.

Movie titles are in the news lately, especially the titles for the third Christopher Nolan Batman movie
Dark Knight Rises, and just today Paramount announced the title of their next Tom Cruise spy vehicle, the grammatically enigmatic Mission: Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol.

Really: That's: Paramount's: Title: For: Their: Movie?

Well lets look at the pros and cons of each title.


1. It creates an immediate connection to Nolan's
Dark Knight, which people are still talking about for it's masterful elevation of the superhero movie into the crime epic.


1. It's sparked a lot of naughty and saucy comments all over the internet, including at this very blog. Yes, I admit it, I'm weak.


1. The name and number reminds people that it's yet another installment of the
Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise.

Ghost Protocol sounds all mysterious, and possibly high tech.


1. The name and number reminds people that it's yet another installment of the
Mission: Impossible franchise starring Tom Cruise. That franchise has been very uneven, and often disappointing, and subject to the wild ebbs and flows of Mr. Cruise's ego.

Ghost Protocol doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. In fact, it sounds like a rejected title from a rejected script for a James Bond movie. (Which I will get to in a second)

Like I said, coming up with good titles is a hard job. Especially in this day of sequels, franchises, reboots, remakes, and their sequels. The old days of just slapping a number onto a title just isn't enough anymore. No doubt the studio marketing people are justifying their existence by telling their masters that they need something to make each film stand apart that doesn't involve roman numerals.

Interesting enough, the first sequel that I could find to use a number in the title was Quatermass 2, the sequel to the British sci-fi classic The Quatermass Xperiment. The practice didn't catch on in Hollywood until Francis Coppola slapped "Part II" at the end of the title for his sequel to The Godfather.

Nowadays, having just a number screams repetition, no thanks to over-flogged horror sequels like the Saw franchise.

The James Bond franchise predated the number trend coming to Hollywood, but they had the great resource of Ian Fleming, whose skill as a writer was matched only by his knack for catchy, stylish titles. One of his best tricks was to take an old cliche, and tweak it into something like Live & Let Die, or You Only Live Twice.

The movie franchise has continuously dipped into the Ian Fleming title canon, stripping them off the novels, short stories, and even the name of Ian Fleming's house for Goldeneye. The times where they tried to come up with titles of their own, they got Die Another Day & License To Kill, which were more imitation Fleming and without his linguistic playfulness.

I'm sure Fleming would have been happier if all he had to do was slap a number after James Bond's name. It's a lot less work.

This is where I'd like your opinions. What do you think makes a good title?


  1. Hmmm.... A good title.

    That's a toughy.

    It needs to grab my attention, tell me just a bit about what to expect (but not too much), tell me if it's a sequel, be reasonably short while still fulfilling the first bits, and not be offensive.

    Much as I hate to give credit to Lucas I'll say that his titles work. At least for the first three. (He kind of lost me with the whole Episode # thing he went with later) Especially since the 2nd and 3rd kept the "Star Wars" in small print around the main title, just to remind us it was a Star Wars movie but leaving the main title to carry the show.

    Star Wars.

    To the point. There are Stars and they are at War. I was 13 at the time and can't remember if "A New Hope" was even mentioned in the original release.

    Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

    Again, to the point. We know the good guys won the first round and this one is going to get hairy as the Empire reacts to the events in the first one.

    Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

    By this time we all knew what a Jedi is, that Luke is the last one, and the title tells us they are coming back. Cooooool! Luke's a Jedi master now!

  2. I hate to give credit to Lucas I'll say that his titles work.

    I disagree. I went into Star Warz without any idea what the heck it was, but I knew it had a hokey amateur title. It wasn't until it turned out to be a great movie that the title suddenly morphed into something good.

    The same thing happened to the Seattle Supersonics lame uniform when they won the championship. Suddenly the stoopid stripe across the chest didn't look so bad.

    So give me a great movie and I can pick a name for it almost immediately that will be considered "great", give me a lame movie and it gets a bit more difficult.