The Worst Film Title Change Ever

05 March 2012

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!


Bill's the former Film Sec and Head of Publicity of Union Films. Sadly he's left Southampton now thanks to a minor case of graduation, but unwilling to let go of Union Films, we let him become a blog contributor. Also known as "Sickly Child". His favourite film is Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

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5 Comments on "The Worst Film Title Change Ever"

  1. bill
    08/03/2012 at 6:56 pm Permalink

    Bill, I am sure we can get our photoshop wizards working on the Posters so that at Union Films at least it remains ‘The Avengers’. In fact some well placed magic marker would probably do the trick!

  2. bill
    mrs peel
    23/03/2012 at 4:10 am Permalink

    You are missing the point about the title-change, like most who have been moaning about it! Mostly immature males I might add! The TV series came first, was watched by millions worldwide, (still holds the record for the TV series sold to more countries than any other), won numerous awards and is still being shown around the world some 50 years later. Will that happen to this film? I don’t think so! Stop pandering to the US-we have enough UK politicians doing that! America is the country that decided to call a sport “football” despite the fact that a sport of that name existed and has been played everywhere in the world for oh just about 100 years! How would they feel if a new British sci-fi series decided to call itself “star trek” ?!! THE AVENGERS is and always will be steed, mrs Peel and the rest of the gang! So if any marvel readers are upset about the title-change then good! That’s how TRUE Avengers fans have felt for years. So job well done!!

  3. bill
    26/03/2012 at 12:22 am Permalink

    Mrs Peel, if that is in fact your real name, you are missing the point of this blog. I’m not saying that the film has more of a claim to the title than the TV show, nor am I questioning the TV show’s credibility or quality (though I must say, I’m no fan of it). I’m saying that it’s silly of Marvel to assume that UK audiences will get the heavily hyped and long-gestating superhero flick confused with a detective show from the 1960s, and even sillier of them to replace it with what is an undeniably bad title. It’s perfectly possible for both the show and the film to co-exist with the same title.

  4. bill
    12/04/2012 at 9:04 pm Permalink

    i was with bill until i got to the ferris Bueller part
    oh dear

  5. bill
    11/03/2013 at 9:35 pm Permalink

    I’m pretty sure the title change was due to potential of legal action from the rights-holders of the Avengers TV series, not because of potential audience confusion.

    Anyway the worst title change in 2012 was dropping “of Mars” from John Carter (one of the many marketing missteps related to that film).

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