Nonsensical Sequel Titles 2: Franchise Fiascos

So, my last post on nonsensical sequel titles , along with the current crop of films raking it in at the box office, got me thinking of another little problem I have with sequel titles – this one  has to do with sequel titles in specific film franchises (and you should also note that I’m adhering to proper sequel titling etiquette with this post – since this is a follow-up, and not a continuation, of my previous post there is no “Part II” in the title, just a regular, sequel-indicating, traditional “2”).

Now this probably speaks to the OCD side of me, but I really like it when the movies in a film franchise all maintain a similarity across all their titles. Whether it be the basic sequel numbering (as in Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3 and Scream 4) or a recurring titling structure (as in the follow-ups to 1968’s Planet of the Apes –with each film prefacing the original title with either Beneath The…, Escape From The…, Conquest Of The… and  Battle For The…), what can I say, I just love consistency.

But don't even get me started on how Halloween III is the most non-sequel sequel of any film franchise

But don’t even get me started on how Halloween III is the most non-sequel sequel of any film franchise

Now, I only find it mildly irritating when there’s just a superfluous inconsistency in franchise titles. I mean, it irks me that the Halloween franchise went from numbering their sequels with Roman numerals, to standard numeric figures, to dropping the numbering altogether, but it’s not really that big of a deal (and I do appreciate that they were at least consistent in their progression of changes).

However, when the title changes are inconsistent from film to film and choices are made that makes the titles actually stop making sense, well that’s where I have a bigger problem.

I’m pretty sure I was the only kid who was disgruntled way back in 1988 when Rambo III came out…and not because of anything to do with the actual film, but with the title. I mean, yes – everyone knew that technically this was the third movie with Sylvester Stallone playing John Rambo – but the first movie was called First Blood and its sequel was Rambo: First Blood Part II. So if the third film isn’t going to have “First Blood” as part of  its title, then “III” should not be a part of title either. Call it Rambo’s Revenge, Rambo: Still Killin’ or whatever…but calling it Rambo III would imply that there was a Rambo II, which there was not (not to mention a Rambo, which actually does exist, now — albeit as the fourth movie in the series. *sigh* I know.)

RamboSo, this brings me to the example that got me thinking about this all over again. One of the biggest current franchises is also one of the worst offenders when it comes to inconsistent sequel titling. It’s like the makers of these films have a big hat filled with scraps of paper on which are written words from the first film’s title, some numbers and maybe a random location or two, and whenever they make a new film they can only pull a certain number of scraps out of the hat before they have to make a title out of their selections. Yes, I’m talking about the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Now, just take a moment to look at this collage of titles here. It’s like some messed up version of the Sesame Street standard “One of these kids is FastFurdoin’ his own thing” – except it’s all of the kids, and they should know better and they’re not setting a good example for others.

Let’s break it down and see when and how logic leaves this franchise’s titles:

The Fast and the Furious – first film, so nothing wrong here

2 Fast 2 Furious – unintentionally amusing, but actually works, given the film (and moreso if the franchise is going to go the non-traditional sequel titling route)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – kind of odd to refer back to the original title now, but it does the job to indicate that the film belongs to the F&F franchise but might not be an out-and-out sequel. Lack of a “3” is in line with the non-traditional sequel titling.

Fast & Furious – ooookay, things are starting to get shaky. Title loses a couple of  “the”s  and swaps in an ampersand for “and”, making it all right in line with the off-putting recent trend of sequels just modifying the name of the original film, like they’re trying to hide the fact that they are actually a sequel (see also: The Final Destination, the aforementioned Rambo, The Wolverine). Still, marks for being consistent in avoiding the traditional sequel numbering though.

Fast Five – Actually kind of genius. Shortens the title even more (since at this point audiences know what the franchise is) and by spelling out “Five”, it manages to convey it’s the fifth film while still avoiding the traditional sequel numbering.

Fast & Furious 6 – Good lord, here’s where it all blows up. Someone decided “screw creativity” and that now, six films in, would be a good time to fall back on the traditional sequel titling and numbering. The thing is, “Fast & Furious 6” used as a title would logically indicate that it is the fifth sequel to a film called “Fast & Furious”. But, since the franchise’s title was never officially shortened (as it would’ve been if they had released the fourth film as “Fast & Furious 4”) “Fast & Furious” only refers to the fourth film, not the franchise (which is still “The Fast and the Furious”)…thereby making Fast & Furious 6 this year’s Rambo III – a sequel title with no immediate predecessor.

Of course, just like Rambo III, everyone knows that this film is the latest installment of a popular franchise, so it’s not like this is having a negative effect. What it is doing though is sending out yet another message that filmmakers care less about logic and sensibility when it comes to titling their sequels – they just want to get their films out there with the least complicated, most recognizable branding they can (which of course, isn’t really a shocker).

Am I being nit-picky? Absolutely. I can’t help it, but I just find it to be a problem that something as simple as title consistency just gets brushed aside with so many big money-making franchises.

However, if they decide to title the next installment Mo’ Faster, Mo’ Furiouser, then I’m all in – consistency be damned!

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