Many consider a film’s title to be unimportant, trivial even, but the name has long been a key factor in a film’s success. In contemporary cinema the role of the marketer is as pivotal as ever and the title process is increasingly fundamental in a period where a movie’s name can be the difference between a hit and a flop.
2012 saw two examples of high profile films being renamed in order to be more “profitable”. John Carter of Mars was simplified to John Carter because Disney and the director Andrew Stanton believed that “no girls would go to see [a movie called] John Carter of Mars”. It was a similar case with The Avengers, or at least that’s the film American audiences saw. UK audiences enjoyed Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, because the studio sought to avoid confusion with the unrelated, but similarly titled 1960s TV series and subsequent 1998 film adaptation.
Film creators, producers and marketing teams continue to strive for unique and commercial movie titles and their efforts have provided some curious results. At one end of the spectrum you have the alarming honesty and simplicity of Snakes on a Plane, while at the other you have disingenuous titles such as This Is Not A Film (it is), The Iron Lady (not a female-oriented spin off to Iron Man) and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver (ahem!). Here are some examples of other films that left audiences expecting something entirely different:
The NeverEnding Story
Wolfgang Peterson’s adaptation of Michael Ende’s original novel of the same name is not the high concept piece of experimental cinema that the title suggests. Audiences aren’t subject to an infinite screening in a Clockwork Orange-esque prison cinema. At a meagre 107 minutes this condensed fantasy epic barely qualifies as lengthy, let alone never ending.
It’s hard to fault audiences for expecting a level of comedy from a film titled Funny People and even though Judd Apatow’s film offers a semi-serious insight into the lives of commercial comedians, they could have at least cast funny actors to star in it. Remarkably, this isn’t intentional irony; these actors believe they are funny despite showing little evidence for it. However painful and disappointing this experience is you can only admire the audacity of a film named Funny People that casts Seth Rogen alongside Adam Sandler.
The Constant Gardener
It’s still hard to believe that Ralph Fiennes was cast ahead of Alan Titchmarsh in Fernando Meirelles’ biopic of a tenacious horticulturist.
Despite its reputation as one of the greatest British films of all-time, Danny Boyle’s allegorically titled Trainspotting suggests a gentle, Louis Theroux-esque documentary that exposes the truths behind the notoriously boring hobby. It could even pass as the beginning of an investigative trilogy where part one follows the platform-roaming, anorak-wearing spotters; the subsequent sequels tackle the hidden excitements of scrap-booking and stamp collecting.
A level of self-deprecation is expected from an ambitious filmmaker making his first mainstream directorial appearance, but Greg Mottola’s crude comedy offers a hilarious blend of teenage angst, sincerity and vulgarity. Superbad is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s by no means bad; more tolerably naughty.
Gritty, powerful and morally ambiguous, Paddy Considine’s directorial debut is a tough watch, particularly for audiences who expected a prehistoric creature. Not only does the film’s title suggest an appearance of a dinosaur, even the poster itself focuses on a T-Rex skeleton.
Continuing with the theme of ancient reptiles… Accuracy isn’t something the film industry has ever excelled in, particularly when history and science are concerned. It will pain pedants to read that the majority of dinosaurs depicted within the film – including Triceratops, Velociraptor and even the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex – are all in fact from the Cretaceous period; only a mere sixty seven million years after the Jurassic period. Then again, Cretaceous Park doesn’t sound nearly as enticing.
30 Minutes or Less
An excruciating comedy experience from director Ruben Fleisher where not a single moment is significant or memorable. Don’t be fooled into hoping the title offers an indication towards its run-time. 30 minutes or less… if only.
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is a peculiar name for a film where there’s not a Snap, Crackle or Pop in sight, but in all seriousness the film never explains why the group of anarchic teens gave themselves that infamous nickname.
Friday the 13th The Final Chapter
On release in 1984 this may have been intended as the final part of an already four film strong franchise, but it was only the beginning. With an incredible eight films subsequently released The Final Chapter marks the most blatant lie in cinema history. Remarkably they tried the same trick again in 1993 with The Final Friday, only to release a further three after that.