Sunday, 26 May 2013

Voice of Reason #12: When Sequel Titles Go Wrong!



Whilst writing my most recent Rank the Films feature it occurred to me that the Fast and Furious franchise (on which the feature is centred) is a completely random hodge-podge of numbers, colons and puns. Put simply, the F&F franchise is a complete mess when it comes to sequel naming, potenially the worst out there.

Or is it? Brace yourselves people, because what follows is a fairly long rant/blog post that explores the messy consequences of when sequel titles go bad. This could get ugly...

Fast and Furious series

Fast and Furious
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
The Fast and the Furious:  Tokyo Drift (2006)
Fast and Furious (2009)
Fast Five/Fast and Furious 5: Rio Heist (2011)
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

Okay, so let's start out with the main offender. Here, we can see a franchise committing numerous offences. Not only does the second film make use of a poor two/too pun, but the fourth is too easily confused with the first; taking out the 'the' is pretty lazy.

Meanwhile, the fifth film has multiple titles that vary from country to country and the sixth film is actually the fifth chronologically so why is it called the sixth? Messy, stupid and lazy. 

I Know What You Did Last Summer 'series'

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006)

As any frequent reader of this blog will know, I don't watch horror films. However, if there's one thing I know about horror films, it is that they have really silly and cringe-inducing sequel titles. Case in point: the I Know What You Did Last Summer series.

The first title is fairly creepy and chilling. It poses questions of 'what?' and 'why?' and gets the curiosity juices flowing in the audience. Then come the sequels. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer? Really? That creative meeting must have taken 60 seconds, tops. No surprise then, that the threequel is a cheap, Z-grade, straight-to-DVD shocker.

Also, are all these films set within one year? Otherwise 'last summer' was more than a year ago. Then again, I suppose "I Know What You Did Five Summers Ago" doesn't really roll off the tongue does it?

Die Hard series

2013's A Good Day to Die Hard
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
Live Free or Die Hard/Die Hard 4.0 (2007)
A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)
Die Hardest (????)

I'm a big Die Hard fan (well, the first four anyway). But even I can admit that the film titles are all over the shop. Die Harder is a great tougue-in-cheek title, but after that it gets messy. The 3rd film commints the cardinal sin of dropping the number 3 whilst having two titles for the fourth film (one for America, one for the rest of the world) is just plain silly. Just pick one, it isn't that hard.

By the time we get the fifth (A Good Day to Die Hard) and the sixth (Die Hardest) films, all pretence of order and structure has jumped out of the window and been replaced with poor puns and play-on words.

X-Men series

X-Men (2000)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men: Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-Men: First Class (2011)
The Wolverine (2013)

Much like Die Hard, the X-Men franchise has no idea whether it is coming or going title wise. A whole hodge podge of numbers, subtitles and colons, the X-Men films lack coherent and logical titles. Also, what's up with X-Men: Origins: Wolverine? Is that two sets of colons? Madness! MADNESS!

Step Up series

Step Up (2006)
Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)
Step Up 3D (2010)
Step Up Revolution (2012)

The first two aren't that bad if you ignore the heinous pun in the second film. But trading in the title of the third film for a '3D'? Shameful.

Planet of the Apes series

James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Escape from Planet of the Apes (1971)
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Overly wordy and complicated, anyone other than a die-hard fan of this series would be able to piece together the correct order of these films. There's wayyy too many 'of's and 'the's with this series.

Resident Evil series

Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Dull, dull, dull, dull. Would an outsider (such as myself) who has never seen any of these films be able to put them in order (without using Wikipedia)? Of course not. That's how you know your titles are crap.


Kickpuncher series

Kickpuncher
Kickpuncher 2: Codename Punchkicker
Kickpuncher III: The Final Kickening
Kickpuncher: Detroit
Kicksplasher

Does this one really need any explanation? I think it pretty much speaks for itself. Dreadful, but somehow brilliant (if your names are Troy or Abed).

So how should it really be done?


Okay, so enough criticism, it's time to get constructive. We've seen the deadly sins of movie sequel titling. The real question is; how should it really be done? Well, more often than not, simplicity is the key...

Back to the Future series

Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Clever right? Easy, simple and straight-forward. Why complicate matters with messy subtitles, colons and puns?

Iron Man series

Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 3 (2013)

Again, simple and easy to understand. 1, 2, 3, 4; makes sense right? Lethal Weapon, Men in Black, Mission: Impossible (kind of) have all numbered their franchises this way and there is really no reason to get confused or lost here. 

Thank god Marvel didn't add pointless or redundant subtitles to each sequel. Iron Man: Rise of Extremis sounds a little naff don't you reckon?

Harry Potter series

Harry Potter and the Philosphers' Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Follow this formula and it'll be pretty hard to mess up titling your film sequel: Series Protagonist's Name + Hugely Important Narrative Device = Easy. Now, how hard was that?

Phew, I'm glad that's off my chest. Sometimes you just need to vent these things. Apologies for the length of the post but there are a huge amount of examples to choose from!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below! Check back this week for my next entry into Rank the Films. This month, The Fast and the Furious franchise. 

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