When it comes to cinema there are a million reasons a film can fail and another million reasons a film can succeed. One of the reasons that is often overlooked, is the title. This week I went along to see The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, a charming film from the director of Amelie, Pierre Jeunet. It was by no means my film of the year, but it was a sweet touching film about a genius child attempting to deal with the death of his brother and the rather eccentric family he has been born into. Now despite this film coming out in a week that was, to put it nicely, slightly lacking in strong cinema releases, it completely failed to scrape the top ten. So why was this? Well the only thing I can think of is that people are being turned away by the title.
Now this particular title comes from the book the movie was based upon. I’m not here to discuss the book however, and I personally think it’s a truly awful title for a movie. If you’re a young family going to the cinema unsure of what to watch, are you going to pick the relatively safe territory of Rio 2 or the unknown and, judging by the title, potentially very dull Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. It’s a title that does nothing to entice you into the cinema and it’s a title that anyone under a certain age is instantly going to turn their nose up at, despite the fact that the movie itself crafts a colourful world, that I’m pretty sure most children would enjoy.
A different, but yet similar, recent example of this is Edge of Tomorrow, a movie that has in the whole been very well received, yet it has also failed to make waves at the box office, struggling despite it’s star studded cast. Now Edge of Tomorrow isn’t an awful title, but it has no meaning and there is nothing about it that sells the film. If I’m going to see Star Wars without any prior knowledge, I can have a fair guess at what I’m going to get, Edge of Tomorrow could be a rom-com. Now if it had gone with the source materials original title, All You Need is Kill, I can’t help but feel it would have been that little bit more successful. It’s a title that screams cool and instantly lets you know what kind of film you are going to watch.
Now I’m not saying every film needs to spell itself out in the title or even that they should purely judge themselves by the box office. Both of those are things that many films do too much. Yet I do truly believe that the title is one of the most important parts of a film. To most movie goers it will be the first thing they hear about a movie, if it sounds dull or stupid or offensive, it will turn them against it. Movies like T.S. Spivet are a lot better than the title they bear and yet it may be because of that title that they will struggle to find their audience.