The Worst Film Title Change Ever
Imagine it’s Christmas 2012, in a parallel universe where DVD categorisation means nothing to me and I can group films together according to logic rather than alphabet (like actually being able to put Batman Begins and The Dark Knight together). Parallel Me has just received all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on DVD as a present and is readying the shelves for impending superheroes to make their new home. Picture it. It’s a beautiful thing. All those DVDs lined up in order of release, like they’ve always supposed to have been: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and…Avengers Assemble?
Wait. That can’t be right. I asked for The Avengers, not this crap. This must be one of those cheap knock-off films that Z-Movie studio The Asylum are so famous for producing, like Snakes on a Train or Transmorphers. Silly Mummy bought the wrong film! Better check out the box to make sure. Nope, there’s Joss Whedon’s name on the credits, and there’s Downey Jr’s handsome mug plastered all over the cover. This is the right film, all right. So what’s the deal with that godawful title?
Well, says Non-Parallel Universe Bill, I’ll tell you! It would seem that Marvel think their UK audiences might confuse this titanic, once-in-a-lifetime blockbuster, one of the biggest releases of the year and starring some of the biggest names on the planet, with a shoddy spy TV series from 45 years ago, and have whacked an Anchorman-esque “ASSEMBLE!” on the end of the title for the UK release. Never mind the fact that The Avengers has been building up huge amounts of hype for about five years now UNDER THAT NAME (not to mention all the posters and trailers floating around that bear the film’s original name). Never mind the fact that about .01% of the film’s target audience will have even heard of the TV series, let alone seen it. And never mind the fact that literally everyone who goes to see it will ask the lucky popcorn monkey for a ticket to see “The Avengers”, because there’s a tiny minority of people who think it’s going to feature a considerably older Diana Rigg helping some forgettable, decrepit old man to solve crimes, and damn it all, that tiny minority needs catering to!
Renaming films to avoid confusion with other films is nothing new – M. Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of Nickelodeon’s cartoon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” dropped the first word in that title to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s behemoth, with hilarious results (Dialogue sample A: “I could tell at once that you were a bender, and that you would realise your destiny”). Roman Polanski’s The Ghost was changed for American audiences to The Ghost Writer to make it less similar to unfortunately-departed stallion Patrick Swayze’s masterpiece. Quite sensible, if not a little expository, given that it’s about a ghost writer, but ultimately forgivable. Just last year, Fast Five was renamed “Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist” and then just “Fast & Furious 5″ about two weeks before its release, because apparently there are way too many other films featuring Vin Diesel driving fast cars and throwing down with The Rock and there was potential for confusion. The original title then remained in the actual film, and everyone referred to it as Fast Five in conversations, reviews, articles and end-of-year top 10 lists (Time Magazine, before you ask), cementing the title change as a pointless endeavour.
Back to The Avengers, and you really have to wonder who’s in charge of Marvel’s UK branch here – is it honestly worth jettisoning thousands of pounds worth of UK marketing, as well as violating the metaphorical rectums of thousands of Marvel fanboys (mine included), just to avoid the risk of some old curmudgeon sitting down in the cinema, watching Loki blow shit up for 15 minutes, and then having the epiphany that the film is in fact not about the adventures of John Steed and his shapely young assistants, before going back into the foyer to demand a refund? I don’t think so, because THAT WOULDN’T HAPPEN!
Not surprisingly, there’s been some considerable backlash against the title change, so hopefully Marvel will correct it. It’s doubtful that the cinematic release will revert to its original name, given that its UK release is a mere seven weeks away, but maybe in time for the DVD. I certainly hope so, because I’d rather import from America (a cardinal sin for the obsessive DVD collector) and have the actual title than have “Assemble!” polluting the art that is my DVD catalogue.
This doesn’t make me any less pumped for the actual film, mind – it looks as epic and off the scales as ever and I’ve got faith in Whedon and co that it’ll turn out to be a winner. Here’s the trailer again (with the proper title, and quite right too), and hopefully you’ll all be watching it at Union Films come October time!