Peter Jackson has changed the title of the third Hobbit film from There and Back Again to The Battle of the Five Armies. So what, many might say. After all, isn’t this just marketing?
No. The title of a story matters. It sets the tone. It prepares your expectations. It says something about what you’re about to see. It’s a part of how you tell the story.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a story about the military, about cold war style spy shenanigans, about people frozen in time. The name sets the tone perfectly.
The Book With No Name is a story about wise-cracking criminals and chancers, with a supernatural element thrown in. The attempt of the title to evoke something mysterious mis-sells the book, sets false expectations and generally doesn’t work.
Jackson knows what he’s doing. You might not agree with his approach to the Hobbit movies, but there’s no doubting that he’s a very capable film-maker. The change of name shows a shift in focus to epic warfare, away from the whimsy that lay at the heart of the original book. Sure, the battle was part of that story, but it was the culmination of a journey towards grandeur, not the focus of the story.
Jackson’s gone big with these films, and he’s clearly setting out his stall in re-naming the film. Personally, I think that turning the Hobbit into a multi-film epic in the style of The Lord of the Rings is a mistake, but given what he’s doing the re-naming is clearly the right choice.
Anybody got any good examples of stories with perfect names, or terribly misleading ones? I’m sure there are better examples out there than the first two that popped into my head.