Let’s Sleep On It: Name Review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Not so long ago, in this very galaxy, there was some backlash following the announcement of the newest Star Wars movie title, The Force Awakens, set for release in December of 2015 by Walt Disney Studios. Numerous facetious alternatives have been proposed, but is the title truly an insult to the Galaxy, and beyond?
Like any name in a series, we must look first to internal consistency. Compared with, for example, Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and The Phantom Menace, The Force Awakens lacks a certain violence and edge; grittiness and respect for the power of the dark side is what makes the other movies and their titles so powerful. The Force Awakens is unequivocally positive, which is an intriguing gambit for the movie that will set up a whole trilogy. The name certainly implies a beginning, the first part of a longer story, but after the Force Awakens, what then? Does the Force eat breakfast and then have a pleasant day? Where’s the conflict?
It is clear that the positive promise of the subtitle and the invocation of the “Force,” one of the most recognizable concepts from the series, is intended to appeal to new fans (a more traditional Disney, family audience) more than die-hard fans. Maybe the assumption is that the truly die-hard will see it no matter what. And whereas previous titles have tended to say more about what the plot entails, this one seems, at this point, to say very little. (Though of course no one has seen it yet so we can’t make too many assumptions at this point.) The Force Awakens raises the question, did the Force ever disappear? Wasn’t it always more or less in full fo—er, effect, the whole time? Unfortunately, these questions aren’t as exciting as the threat of dark powers; they are most just puzzling logistically.
On the other hand, a name that doesn’t follow the conventions of the previous movies helps the upcoming release avoid, to some extent, seeming like just another Star Wars movie. Bear with me here, die-hard fans—The Force Awakens seems important to the larger story that is Star Wars. In light of the fact that this series has grown larger than any could have expected, a title more descriptive of a plot, like “The Sith Grows Strong” or “Defection of the Jedi” could sound like just another Star Wars movie. And that is exactly what Disney doesn’t want—to be perceived as the studio that keeps producing more for the sake of riding a wave, like The Fast and the Furious or the X-Men movies. The more positive and vague “The Force Awakens” sounds like an essential origin story, an expansive and integral part of the fabric of the Galaxy.
Verdict: though it certainly won’t excite or appease long time Star Wars fans, the Force Awakens is fairly well suited to Disney’s all-ages brand and their aims for the movie. Of course, just as no brand name exists (and succeeds or fails) in a vacuum, the title will only become fully realized once the movie comes out, so in truth we should reserve some judgment for December, 2015. But until then…