Saturday, February 11, 2012

A multifunctional 2

Menace II Society.

Jungle 2 Jungle.

2 Fast 2 Furious.

Journey 2 the Mysterious Island?

Not so fast. It's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

But don't tell me they're not trying to have it both ways.

For as many as two decades now -- Menace II Society was released in 1993 -- the number 2 (Roman numeral or otherwise) has been substituting for the words "to" or "too" in the titles of movies. It's become an almost normalized way to indicate to us that this movie has a loose, hip understanding of the ebb and flow of language. Either that or it's just pandering to people whose lives have been consumed by textspeak, or who use language in a way influenced by inner-city speech rhythms.

So I thought -- honest to God -- that that's what this movie was doing.

Only after I'd been seeing billboards for the latest family-friendly adventure from The Rock for several weeks did I realize that the 2 was actually being used as a sequel number. And that this was actually a sequel to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

I probably never even considered that as being an option. To the extent that my brain thought of that option at all, it probably dismissed it on these grounds: "Jules Verne never wrote a sequel to A Journey to the Center of the Earth!" Ah, but silly me -- in Hollywood, such things are possible.

It's funny how quick I was to interpret the number 2 as a preposition, rather than the way it is far more commonly used in movie titles. Even in the posters, the number 2 gets the same prominence as the word "Journey," with "The Mysterious Island" appearing in conspicuously smaller print. I guess it's probably a representation of how my mind works, trying to link words together grammatically first and foremost. It was logical for me to read the whole thing as "Journey to the Mysterious Island," and just assume that the 2 was being repurposed for greater hipness. It also helped that there's no colon in the poster, but then again, there rarely is. I'm sure I would have gotten the connection to Journey to the Center of the Earth a lot sooner if it had been Brendan Fraser barreling forward out of this poster rather than Dwayne Johnson. (Because that's another thing that never happens in Hollywood -- actors being replaced by other actors in sequels.)

Still, I do think they're being a bit cheeky with the title. They know it has that second meaning. And this, of course, I applaud, if you read last Friday's post in which I sung my praises for the dual meaning of the title Dolphin Tale. I'm all about the cleverness.

But making sequels that never existed to classic novels from the 19th century? That doesn't sit so well with me.


Chris, a librarian said...

Thanks for deciphering the code for me.

I belive I will Journey 2 a theater that isn't showing Journey 2...

Travis McClain said...

I've been wondering just what the hell the first Journey was. I don't think I would have pieced together that it was somehow related to Journey to the Center of the Earth. I didn't see anything in the one TV spot I saw for it that emphasized that point, and while I didn't see the most recent Center adaptation, I thought it starred Will Ferrell and not The Rock so I didn't pick up on any obvious continuation elements.

As for the broader issue of Hollywood creating its own sequels, I don't see it as inherently good or bad, but rather simply a use of the medium. I think films are much more amenable to sequels than are novels. I loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for instance, but I have little interest in reading a follow-up. I will, however, gorge on the old Universal Monsters pictures each October because I delight in watching Karloff (and later, Lugosi) traipse around scaring the hell out of villagers.

I don't recall anyone really complaining much about the Planet of the Apes franchise spinning out of Pierre Boulle's lone novel, either, for that matter. (Though you could also make the argument that the world would have been better off if Hollywood had been content with just the one adaptation of Peter Benchley's Jaws and not bothered with three sequels to that.)

Vancetastic said...

Chris - Nice!

Travis - You're thinking of Land of the Lost. Ferrell starred in that. But yeah, they might as well be the same thing.

Good point about the distinction between novels and movies. Technically there's nothing really sacrilegious about it, but it still struck me as strange.