Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Movie Title

Star Wars: The Force Awakens banner image based on the theatrical poster – the first time photography has been used for a main theatrical release poster of a Star Wars film, and the first time I can recall a banner configuration being widely distributed because internet.

If you were on the internet today, you may have noticed the release of the (probably) final trailer for the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga. This coincided with the worldwide release of pre-release cinema tickets that caused many a ticket sales server across the globe to crash (I'm looking at you, IMAX Melbourne!!). Although advanced bookings are nothing new for popular films, this is the first instance I can recall it occurring on a global scale. No mean feat.

The trailer was impressive, most impressive. Lifetime Star Wars fans like me no doubt got a little emotional with the whole thing. The thought and precision that goes into trailer creation to elicit responses in an almost Pavlovian manner is actually quite terrifying. But what intrigues me the most is how the episodic titling of the prequel Star Wars films has been eschewed in favour of an actual film name. Except for occasional mentions in the press and among fans, almost nobody associated with the new film has referred to it as "Episode VII". It is The Force Awakens. This is a very good thing.

The godawful prequel trilogy with their godawful subtitles (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) were almost always referred to by their episodic titles, probably in part because their official names were better suited to a 1950s B movie or Scooby Doo episode than a multi-billion dollar blockbuster. This generic naming essentially robbed the prequels of their individual identities (as if they didn't have enough creative handicaps to overcome), unlike the three original films which are almost never referred to by their retroactive episodic titles. 

The Empire Strikes Back, for instance, is an incredibly powerful title that remains a pop culture staple and demonstrates that sequels don't need need to be named [original film] 2. Likewise with Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens' creators and marketers clearly recognise this and are trying to establish an individual identity for the new film and its sequels, avoiding association with the prequels in name if not in narrative. 

I'm pretty giddy with excitement for these new films. After the disgrace that was the prequel trilogy, I assumed we'd never get to see another new Star Wars release on the big screen. Happily, I was wrong.  Although, I must temper my excitement with the memory that even The Phantom Menace's trailers were awesome. Again, I doff my hat to the trailer people for making even that unintelligible piece of cinematic shit seem exciting. It is with a certain degree of joy I note The Force Awakens' theatrical poster neglects even a passing mention to George Lucas in its credits. This is a very good thing. 

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