Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

What’s with all the title tinkering?

For most of its 100-year gestation the film you know as John Carter was called John Carter of Mars. Then, just last year, Disney were saddled with a conspicuous flop entitled Mars Needs Moms. Jumping to the wrong conclusion, the …

Wed, Mar 14, 2012, 13:54

   

For most of its 100-year gestation the film you know as John Carter was called John Carter of Mars. Then, just last year, Disney were saddled with a conspicuous flop entitled Mars Needs Moms. Jumping to the wrong conclusion, the company decided that the problem was to do with the title rather than the film itself. Women don’t want to see a film set on Mars. As a result, the picture ended up inadvertently selling itself a spin-off from ER. You remember. Noah Wyle played John Carter in that series. And, as far as I remember, he wasn’t from Mars.

Then there is the business of The Avengers. As anybody who has been to the cinema in the last three years will be aware, Marvel’s motion picture division — after stealth-trailing the event repeatedly — is finally set to release a film featuring a bunch of their most popular superheroes. But hark. It seems that, in these territories, the film is being marketed as Avengers Assemble. The story goes that Marvel wants to avoid confusion with the elderly, high-camp TV series and the appalling movie it spawned. They don’t seem to have much confidence in their own marketing skills. Samuel L Jackson has been flogging this film since 1922. Look, there he is making a cameo in your living room. Yet Marvel and Disney (them again) feel the message has yet to get through. Nobody will be wearing a bowler hat. Diana Rigg will not be retrieving her cat suit.

What about The Pirates! in and Adventure with Scientists. The latest Aardman Animation picture — their first claymation in an age — is adapted from a Gideon Defoe novel of that name. Okay, it’s an awful title. But you have to praise Sony Pictures for sticking with it through thick and thin. Wait a moment. It looks as if they are sticking with it through thin, but are not quite prepared to stretch as far as thick. In the US, the film is being launched as The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Are Americans really that scared of Scientists? Well they were, apparently, sufficiently wary of philosophers to persuade J K Rowling’s publishers to swap that word with “sorcerer” in the title of her first novel.

Do these things really matter? Can a film be made or ruined by its title alone? Sad to say, it probably does have some significance. More than a few punters fail to absorb any publicity material or press commentary on the week’s new pictures. If such a person arranges to meet his or her date at MegaPix and Harry Potter 26 is all full up that discombobulated fan may well lunge towards the first title that catches his eye. Look, it a film about the caring rich bloke out of ER. Out of my way!

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