Friday, December 02, 2005

 

Instant Series, Just Add Money

Have you noticed the growing trend for some films to now have two titles? The first indicates the name of a series. The second, the chapter in that series. Nothing odd about that, except for the fact that, these double-titled films begin with the first installment, seeming to indicate a confidence from the producers that there will be a series. Is it me, or is that presumptuous? I mean, what if the first film flops? The recent prototype for this approach is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. New Line Cinema rolled the dice with the first installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and it paid off big, so, as most know, it was followed by The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. These films made cinematic history. In the mix of this came Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That one hit pay dirt as well, and sequels will follow. So, now Disney is rolling out The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I think the mentality behind this approach is interesting in that these are all expected to be financial winners. The approach is even used to rewrite history. When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, it was called just that. But since the sequels carried an Indiana Jones and... prefix, the first film was later retitled and is now officially known as Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Same goes for Star Wars. To give the original 1977 film the feel of a Saturday afternoon serial, director/writer George Lucas playfully told the audience they were watching "Chapter IV: The New Hope." The second and third in the series did not officially carry double titles. But, with the rebirth of the series in the 90s, all the chapters are now formatted the same way: Star Wars: Chapter IV - The New Hope; Star Wars: Chapter V - The Empire Strikes Back, etc. I guess the arrogance is what bothers me a bit. No doubt, a time will come when one of these "instant series" stops at chapter one. Then, rather than add a second title retroactively for the DVD release, perhaps the filmmakers will be forced to remove the superfluous second title from the theatrical release, and admit defeat in this ongoing attempt to manufacture assembly-line product.

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