Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why bland titles work for movies.

Snakes on a plane surely sounds more appealing than say Flags of our fathers. Assuming cast-parity and zero word-of-mouth to influence your decision, you will be tempted to check out Snakes on a plane first. But if and when you commit that mistake, you will realise that Snakes on a plane is all about Snakes on a plane. There's nothing more to the movie. The chills and thrills simply don't turn you on as you know what to expect, thanks to the tell-all title. That won't be the case with Flags of our fathers. It just sets the tone for the movie. Doesn't reveal too much. And above all makes you watch the movie with very low expectations. Me thinks the trick is to lower expectations. Some of the greatest flicks did precisely that. Could anything be more bland than On the Waterfront? City Lights doesn't hold any promise. The Graduate sounds so matter of fact. The Matrix could have passed off as a documentary by a math professor. Fun with Dick and Jane is a lot more sexed up than The Mask, but ask yourself, which worked better? The point I am making is simple. Movie studios needn't waste their time thinking of a clever name. Study the script first. See the rushes. If the cast has created expectations, lower the hype by using a bland title. If you've got a movie with a thin plot, keep the name simple. If you've got a film with many layers, opt for a seemingly unassuming title. Because at the end of the day, movie making is all about expectations management.

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