Saturday, March 31, 2012

A disproportionate amount of wrath

"Wrath" is not a word that comes up all that much in everyday conversation.

In movie titles? That's a different story.

The word "wrath" has a long history of appearing in movie titles, the most recent of which is Wrath of the Titans, which hits theaters today. At least, it appears in titles a lot more than its synonyms listed on, some of which, granted, are too ungainly for the multiplex:

acrimony, asperity, boiling point, conniption, dander, displeasure, exasperation, flare-up, fury, hate, hatefulness, huff, indignation, ire, irritation, mad, madness, offense, passion, rage, resentment, rise, stew, storm, temper, vengeance.

This may not be the greatest list of synonyms -- in fact, "mad" is not even the same part of speech -- but it does help us identify a couple of the things that are so great about the word "wrath":

1) It's only a single syllable;
2) It's really fun to say.

Just say it out loud: "Wrath. Wrath." It's kind of cathartic just to say it, isn't it?

Filmmakers implicitly think so. Here's a list of other titles with the word "wrath" in them, by approximate order of my familiarity/affection for them:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, Nicholas Meyer)
Certainly my first introduction to the word "wrath," and boy did Ricardo Montalban sure personify it well. In fact, I remember when I first saw the title, I didn't know if "wrath" was a made-up word, just like "Khan." (A made-up word, a name, same difference.)

Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog)
If you lead a band of conquistadors through Peru in search of El Dorado, without an ounce of deference toward nature, your army or the locals, it will make God very, very angry at you. And you will be left dying on a raft overrun by monkeys.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford)
Adapted from a John Steinbeck novel, so we can't really credit the word to studio execs. Probably the most famous instance of the word "wrath" to those people who don't describe themselves as Trekkies.

Day of Wrath (1943, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Don't know anything about this film, but I expect to soon, as my Getting Acquainted series will focus on Dreyer in April. A movie about witchcraft in 17th century Denmark. Sounds interesting.

Day of Wrath (2005, Adrian Rudomin)
Does not appear to be a remake of Dreyer's movie, though it's almost the same time period, taking place in the 16th century rather than the 17th. Set in Spain instead of Denmark. Stars Christopher Lambert. That last is probably all you need to know.

Wrath (1917, Theodore Marsten)
Is Theodore Marsten related to Carl Theodor Dreyer? Wait, that doesn't even make any sense.

The Wrath (2007, Julian Higgins)
It's a horror movie. That's all I can tell from

And here are some others in list form:

The Wrath of the Gods (1914, Reginald Barker)
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2006, Gerry Lively)
Days of Wrath (2008, Celia Fox)
Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie (1989, Osamu Yamazaki)
Evil Bong 3: The Wrath of Bong! (Charles Band, 2011)
Wrath of Jealousy (1936, Alex Bryce and Campbell Gullan)
Apes of Wrath (1959, Friz Freleng)

And it goes on like this.

One thing this tells us is that there have been a lot of movies made, and that there are probably many words that have appeared in a higher number of titles than seems statistically likely.

But perhaps I notice the word "wrath" not so much because it appears more frequently than other colorful synonyms for more common words, but because it is such a good, such a fun word. And probably because I really, really love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Will that bring me out to the theaters this weekend to see Wrath of the Titans? Doubtful. I haven't even seen the original Clash of the Titans remake.

At least this one was shot in 3D. Because 2010's Clash of the Titans remake could have been titled Wrath of the Critics, given how much hatred was directed toward its hasty and ineffecutal 3D conversion.

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