Welcome to needless rant corner! Your host for today; yours truly.
In one of the most irritating trends of recent years, it seems increasingly okay in games and movies to drop all admittance of serialisation and with brash and unapologetic disregard simply use the original title of the first installment; “Star Trek”, “Tomb Raider”, “Devil May Cry”, “Aliens vs Predator”, “Sim City”; as though we’d forgotten there was one already. Games are particularly guilty of this.
To a categorising brain like mine this is just… no. You are duplicating the primary key as far as I’m concerned. A film or game has a full title which should be unique, certainly within a series. I don’t care if it’s a large number of sequels, or if the original is really old (from over twenty years ago, maybe). The only thing worse than a ridiculously big suffixed number for a sequel is to simply drop a differentiator altogether and act as though it never happened. If they’re worried about a number making it sound un-original- well, there’s your clue: make something original.
What I think actually bothers me though is that it feels like an insidious attempt at replacing the past. It is eerily reminiscent of the role of protagonist Winston Smith, in the novel Nineteen Eighty Four:
“As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date.”
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
I’m not one for spouting Orwellian doom (as much as I enjoyed the book itself), but this is essentially what “retconning” is all about: changing the past to suit the present. Only instead of a political agenda, today’s Ministry of Truth is a commercial one; refactoring works of the past to ripen them for modern consumption. There are those that may argue the original still exists and that the retcon is just an “alternate reality” branch-out, if you will. But this is only true where the two can be distinguished; take Marvel’s “Ultimate” prefix for example. Without differentiation, the line between past and present becomes confusing. Now, I know rebooting old series is hardly a new thing. But the frequency of it, as well as the audacity in how it’s done, seems to just keep on increasing.
What if the title changes slightly? The Amazing Spider-Man may be confused with Spider-Man, but it is technically not the same title. So at least they’re making an effort.
Regardless of how many “nods” or “homages” you make to an original, taking its title is a kind of violation (intentional or not). If you’re going to whine about lengthy or number-ridden titles, don’t make sequels. And if you must reboot a series, fine. But enough with the confusion if you please.