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In 1974 the second Godfather film became the first major feature to use "Part 2" in its title, an effort to usher in an era of simplicity in sequel titles, when you could just announce yourself as the next installment in a story and move on with it. It was an elegant choice that very few blockbusters have emulated since; setting aside the occasional Iron Man 2 or Lethal Weapon 4, most sequels try to cram in the name of the franchise, some jazzy new title to set it apart from the first one and maybe even a number to appease those of you keeping track.
Sometimes it works just fine and we're allowed to look past the clutter-- Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan rolls right off the tongue, and no matter how much George Lucas may insist on Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, we all know there's just a two-word title needed. But for some reason these days the studios are getting tripped up between their own attempts at brand identity and a smidgen of creativity, resulting in movie titles that are horrible mashups of words and numbers and ideas that wind up meaning absolutely nothing, even to the audiences that supposedly love these franchises.
With yesterday's announcement that a forthcoming prequel will now be called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we decided to take a look at the linguistically horrifying movie titles coming our way in 2011… and the results were even more depressing than we thought. Including Apes there are eight major franchise movies coming out this year with straight-up awful titles, whether thanks to greedy corporate branding, lazy reliance on cliche, or one unfortunate punctuation decision made in the 60s. Check out our list of the worst franchise movie titles in 2011, and come to terms with the fact that at this point, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a title that seems downright elegant.
Hoodwinked Too!: Hood Vs. EvilIf you’re a movie executive trying to develop a title and you think that a rhyming pun is the best place to start, please go stick your hand in a fire for thirty seconds. While the idea that we’re going to see a sequel to Hoodwinked is entirely ridiculous in and of itself, this title is a complete mess. When changing “Two” to “Too” (see what I did there?), you are going from a number to a word that means “also.” This change has absolutely no context. Then there’s the change from the word “good” to “hood.” While this actually does make contextual sense, it really isn’t funny to anyone over the age of three. This is a miserably stupid title.
Transformers: Dark of the MoonThis was the title that really got the conversation going behind the scenes here at Cinema Blend, when it was first announced back in October. We even have a running contest that makes the person who accidentally writes “Dark Side of The Moon” pay for it dearly. But Pink Floyd is only half of the issue here. Say what you will about Revenge of the Fallen as a movie, but at least the name on the poster is straightforward and refers specifically to the plot. I get that the plot of Dark of the Moon has something to do with Apollo 11 and the first moon landing, but that's no excuse for leaving an important noun out of your title. When crafting a title, clarity is important. Dark of the Moon is nonsense.
Captain America: The First AvengerAdmittedly this is probably the best title of the eight featured in this article, but it certainly has its sins. Let me draw up a quick list: Spider-Man. Iron Man. X-Men. Hellboy. Thor. Noticing a pattern yet? These are all superhero movies that do just fine without the addition of a stupid tagline. But what makes this worse than titles like X2: X-Men United or Hellboy 2: The Golden Army? The bit after the colon doesn’t have anything to do with the movie at all, instead just serving as a way for Marvel to pimp next year’s The Avengers. That and to find a way to market the film overseas to countries that hate us and don’t want to see a movie with “America” in the title.
Rise of the Planet of the ApesFinally we get to the title that spawned this list. Let’s get one thing straight first: I understand that all of the previous Planet of the Apes movies included the original title somewhere and that this isn’t even the first time an Apes film has repeated the phrase “of the” (that dubious honor belongs to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). But precedent isn’t the same thing as reason or good sense. For starters, the movie is about the Apes rising to power, not the planet, so the whole thing is already complete nonsense. Next is the dreadful repetition, which is so clunky that it could cause a speech impediment. But above all else, this title’s biggest problem is that it devolved from a much better one. Rise of the Apes was clean, made logical sense, and could even be understood by those with massive head injuries. The mess they turned it in to? Not at all.
Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The WorldThe Spy Kids franchise has never exactly been known for the grace of its titles, but All the Time in the World reaches a strange new low. It seems almost sarcastic, something you say to a kid you're waiting to put on his shoes and get to school-- "Oh, don't worry, you have all the time in the world before the bus gets here." At the very least it doesn't exactly suggest the urgency of the latest mission for the titular spy kids, who according to Wikipedia are being called to "join hands with [stepmother] Marissa to put their differences aside to save the world." It's another one of those titles that sounds fancy in familiar, but becomes utterly meaningless when you look at it for even an extra second.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D ChristmasAll the basic elements here are just fine-- Harold and Kumar are back, the "very" in the title suggests a play on a classically cheesy Christmas special, and even the tiresome 3D fad seems like a great idea when used to make giant clouds of marijuana smoke pop off the screen. But the assembled title is more like a sandwich that sounds delicious only to a stoner, a bunch of things that sound great separately but congeal into mush when slapped together between pieces of bread. You'll probably eat this sandwich and maybe even enjoy it, but in between every bite you'll live with the shameful knowledge that you can do better.
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost ProtocolI don't even know where to begin with this one. Let's start with the punctuation nightmare that's been part of all of the Mission: Impossible movies, because what started as a clever name for a TV series in the 1960s has morphed into a veritable grammar gauntlet. It was tricky enough putting the number after the title-- you mean the name of the mission is "Impossible 3"?-- but adding an entire phrase afterward means you've got a colon and a dash, punctuation marks that, let's be honest, don't belong in a movie title at all. As for the "Ghost Protocol" part, I can give the benefit of the doubt and assume it ties into the movie in a meaningful way; but for now, when it comes to selling a new franchise film 8 months before release, it makes me think Ethan Hunt will be climbing into the Mystery Machine and investigating haunted mansions.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsThis one of those times that a simple "2" would have sufficed-- it worked for Robert Downey Jr. last time in Iron Man 2, didn't it? We know nothing about the plot of this film just yet that would give meaning to the Game of Shadows title, but be honest with yourself-- you know that title's not going to mean anything once the movie comes out either. It's another one of those generic, vaguely mysterious sounding titles-- there are lots of those on this list-- that add perceived weight to a franchise film without signifying anything at all. It looks great on a poster but adds more noise to a movie market already crammed with meaningless sequels.
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