Thursday, November 06, 2014

Star Wars: The Phantom Titles

Today we learned the title of the next Star Wars movie; it's going to be called The Force Awakens, which sounds more like a video game than a movie to me at first blush. But perhaps that's not a fair assessment.

According to Hollywood folklore, George Lucas' original vision called for nine (or twelve) movies in a vast saga echoing the structure of movie serials from the 1930s and 1940s; hence "Episode V" and so on. So it's perfectly reasonable that the Star Wars films should have subtitles that sound like the chapter titles of yore.

Compare the chapter titles of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)...

The Purple Death
Freezing Torture
Walking Bombs
The Destroying Ray
The Palace of Horror
Flaming Death
The Land of the Dead
The Fiery Abyss
The Pool of Peril
The Death Mist
Stark Treachery
Doom of the Dictator the subtitles of the Star Wars films:

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
The Force Awakens

Historical revisionism of A New Hope aside, I can't really fault Lucas and his successors for naming the films the way they have, since they're paying tribute to a particular genre and form. The Phantom Menace is my favourite of the titles, capturing both the theme of its particular film and a very 1940s sensibility. It's evocative, while the others are mainly descriptive.

Were I to name the remaining films in the series - despite not knowing anything about their content - I'd suggest the following:

The Forbidden Abyss
The Final Apprentice

I'm being a little cute here, using the same initials for all three films in this new trilogy, both for symmetry and to suggest a traditional three-act structure - only one with a false ending, since in my scheme there will be one final trilogy:

From Long Ago
Planet of Death
Fate of a Galaxy

My first title attempts to evoke the famous "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." line that opens each film; at the same time, the title hints at something even deeper in the past will be crucial to the film's plot; perhaps an ancient threat of some kind looms, or the protagonists need some wisdom or weapon from the past to complete the hero's quest.

Planet of Death is an attempt to create a flat-out hokey title in the spirit of the serials (and Attack of the Clones). The planet of death in question could be a battleground or trap for the heroes, or a long-abandoned place of peril that holds a key secret.

Finally, the last film in a twelve-film epic needs a suitably grandiose title, hence I've chosen something quite literal. Since there's a battle in every Star Wars film, it should end with the biggest Star War of all, the one that decides the fate of a galaxy - literally.

I've no doubt that the titles actually chosen for the remaining films will follow the established pattern, the one started by Lucas himself a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away. 


Totty said...

By having 4 trilogies you've upset the symmetry, you'll need to extend it to either 2 or 5 quadrilogies of trilogies to balance things. Like the Force.

Earl J. Woods said...

You won't fool me again with the same ploy, Mike T.