X2 Title Talk

Bryan Singer Talks about the different titles the mutant sequel has gone throu
It was inevitable that the creators of the original X-Men would abbreviate the title of its sequel to simply X2. For summer blockbusters, shorthand titles are akin to cinematic vanity plates, a quick way to express that this is one X-tra special vehicle.

X2 is not alone in relying on a poster-perfect logo in this highly competitive season to help sell itself. There is Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (July 2), or T3, as well as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (July 11), or LXG.

"On the Internet, no one talks in full movie titles anymore," says Robert Bucksbaum of box office trackers Reel Source. "It's the cool way of communicating these days. And anything cool translates into box office dollars."

While in production, comic-book thriller X2 carried the working title of X-Men 2. Weeks before its opening, the new name was unveiled, X2: X-Men United.

Bryan Singer, who directed the original X-Men and the sequel, is pleased. "This way, it can stand alone as its own movie. People know they don't have to see the first to appreciate it." The subtitle, which isn't used on screen, is just added insurance for any moviegoers who aren't hip to text-message speak: "We didn't want those who didn't get the title to think it was The X-Files or XXX."

When nicknames catch on, as they did for Men in Black (MIB), Independence Day (ID4) and Mission: Impossible II (M:I2), it reinforces the gotta-go factor. When they don't, such as D2 (the second Mighty Ducks) or DR2 (Dr. Dolittle 2), the practice seems a bit silly and presumptuous.

"You'd never expect The Hours to be turned into TH," says Kevin Hagopian, a film theory specialist at Penn State's University Park campus. "It works better for event films than character-driven films."

Just as with car models (Infiniti Q45) or cable channels (ESPN2), movie franchises benefit from such branding. "In most cases, the film is only one part of the economic picture," Hagopian says. "There are games, toys and videos that can be linked to a readily expressible brand."

The first major feature to employ such customizing was 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day.T2 has become such a cultural staple that now, 12 years later, its sequel can get away with only a T3 emblem on its teaser posters. Says Mario Kassar, a producer on both T2 and T3, "We started something. Now you need a calculating machine when you go to a summer release. My company is called C-2 Pictures. Even President Bush is a 2."

Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, won't discuss marketing strategies. But it apparently is trying to launch a franchise with LXG, based on a graphic novel about Victorian-era sci-fi and fantasy characters and starring Sean Connery.

"They're saying, 'Let us brand it before someone else does,' " says Den Shewman of MovieCityGeek .com. "Few know about it outside of comic circles, and when fans determine abbreviated names, they aren't always kind."

Some films inherit their nicknames from their literary sources. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is recognized as LOTR. When it reached theaters in 1939, Gone With the Wind already bore the easy-to-recall GWTW.

Steven Spielberg created his own spin with such titular shortcuts with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982 and A.I. Artificial Intelligence in 2001. One suspects it was mainly done to convey sci-fi savvy, although the abbreviations have proved handy through the years.

But trendy titling also can date a picture. Says Hagopian, "In the late '60s and early '70s, there were a whole series of nonsense titles that linked two names." However, what worked for 1967's Bonnie and Clyde did nothing for Little Fauss and Big Halsy. "You look at that and say, 'It's so 1968.' "
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