What’s in a title?

So I was scrolling through Instagram the other day, and I happened upon a new photo on the Official Star Wars Instagram feed:

And thus was the Actual Title of Star Wars Episode VII introduced to the world. Interesting!

Jason is less than thrilled with this title:

I hate to be one those fans, you know, the ones who seem to derive more pleasure from bitching about the thing they supposedly love than, you know, actually enjoying it, but I have to admit I am… not impressed. It’s become somewhat axiomatic that the prequel titles — The Phantom MenaceAttack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith –  were ridiculous and clunky (and there are even some who say the same of the original trilogy titles, A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), but I disagree. I liked them from the start, because they evoked the saga’s origins in the old Flash Gordon cliffhanger serials of the 1930s, whose episodes had titles like “The Unseen Peril” (sound familiar?), “The Prisoner of Mongo,” and “Doom of the Dictator.” They have an enthusiastically pulpy sound that I personally find appealing. The Force Awakens, on the other hand… the tone is off, to my ear. It sounds very much like the title of a fan film to me, so many of which seem to be sooooo self-consciously serious, at least in my experience of them.

I can kind-of see his point. It does sound slightly generic, and besides, can the Force really be said to awaken, if it really is an energy field created by all living things? “Awakens” seems to imply that the Force can go dormant, which isn’t entirely in line with my understanding of things. But anyway, I suppose we’ll see.

Mainly, I’m just bugged that they missed so obvious an opportunity to stick to the X of the Y pseudo-tradition in Star Wars titles. They didn’t even have to change the concept: Star Wars Episode VII: Awakening of the Force.

Titles of series items are interesting things. Some creators take an approach of similarity or formula when titling things, so we get the Indiana Jones films being Indiana Jones and the X, although the less said about the ham-fisted retconning of the first Indy film into Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the better. The Harry Potter books all take a similar approach: Harry Potter and the [Magical MacGuffin], and Robert Ludlum’s three-word titles (The Parsifal Mosaic, The Matarese Circle, The Matlock Paper) are true-form things. On the other end of the scale, there are the James Bond movies and titles, which have no traits in common from one to the next.

Teevee shows sometimes do interesting things with titles. Every episode of Friends was titled “The One With the…” or “The One When…”, in keeping with the way a lot of people of that age describe teevee shows. (“Hey, ever see the one when Ross does that dumb thing?”) Remington Steele always had the word “Steele” in its episode titles, and The Mentalist always includes a color.

My approach? I don’t try to be consistent from one title to the next. Each project has its own title, even projects within a series. It’s just better that way for me.

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One Response to What’s in a title?

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    I often have a TERRIBLE time remembering the titles of movies I've seen; too generic. Give me Shawkshank Redemption over whatever…

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