There’s an epidemic in Hollywood, a rash spreading through production offices like a bad case of pink eye, and it’s the trend of dumb subtitles given to franchise pictures. My #1 stupid title punching bag is Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which I call Superhero Face Punch because that is clearly a better, more to-the-point title. Also, “Batman vs. Superman” is all the title you would ever need and I don’t understand why anyone thought a subtitle was necessary. I get the implication that Superhero Face Punch is half a Justice League movie, but come on, “Batman vs. Superman” is a GREAT title. Leave it alone.
The latest franchise infected with stupid title conjunctivitis is Star Wars, which is a goddamned travesty because they have the greatest franchise subtitle of all time, The Empire Strikes Back. The official title for JJ Abrams’ Episode VII was just announced and it’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has completed principal photography. #StarWarsVII #TheForceAwakens pic.twitter.com/mFTP9YbKNN— Star Wars (@starwars) November 6, 2014
I have actually thought about this, why some subtitles set me off and others don’t, and I’ve identified three main factors in creating a good franchise subtitle. 1) No more than three words, 2) lots of hard consonant sounds or an exotic letter, and 3) escalating progression of titles. The Force Awakens isn’t as bad as Dawn of Justice, or the worst recent subtitle, Days of Future Past, which is just a bunch of nonsense, but it would make a lot more sense if it was the subtitle of Star Wars Episode IV. Swap it with A New Hope and see if that doesn’t make more sense. Check it out:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A young man with incredible untapped power appears.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Threatened by the resurgent Force and Jedi, the Empire goes on the offensive.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The triumphant return of the heroes.
Star Wars: A New Hope – With danger once again engulfing the galaxy, the Jedi must find a new hero to lead them.
Isn’t that so much better?! See how it progresses from a title that indicates beginning to one that suggests rebirth? There was no way to know back in 1977 that the franchise would still be going nearly forty years later (although George Lucas insists he’s always had this mapped out—whatever, dude, the Luke/Leia relationship CLEARLY says otherwise), but given how everything gets franchised out these days, producers really need to start thinking a little more about the subtitles. Some good movies are getting stuck with some epically dumb titles. Speaking of which, I’m calling this one Star Wars: Jedi Junior Camp.
Attached - The cast of Star Wars at the wrap party in London earlier this week.