‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and the Age of Sequel Subtitles

By  · Published on November 8th, 2014


It’s here. It’s real. It’s no longer the subject of constant fan theorizing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It’s… a little unsatisfying, don’t you think? Maybe not- maybe you’re cheering over J. J. Abrams’ perfect choice of title (and if that’s the case, then lucky you). And maybe the hype surrounding Episode VII was so high that we’d find fault with anything that wasn’t Star Wars: Awww Shit Yeah it’s Luke vs. the Mecha-Wookies.

The Force Awakens isn’t the worst title in history (something that will forever be contested- I’ll always hold a spot in my heart for the buffoonishly unscary It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive), but it seems safe to say that the hype surrounding The Force Awakens is more my god, Episode VII has a subtitle and less my god, the Force is awake.

We didn’t even know it was napping.

There’s another layer to The Force Awakens, though- and whether you’re pro-title or anti-title, it’s hard to deny- it’s an uncanny ringer for all the other sequel subtitles coming out of Hollywood in the last year or two. Specifically, the subtitle world’s most recent trend- Movie: New Era of Something Cool. Seen below are the biggest culprits.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

300: Rise of an Empire

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Honorable mentions to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (not technically a subtitle) and X-Men: Apocalypse, (which, according to its composer/editor John Ottman, was originally titled X-Men: Age of Apocalypse before the higher-ups realized every other upcoming film has that same title). And yes, there’s some kind of technicality in faulting Age of Ultron and Days of Future Past for names they took from older comic books (at least “Days of Future Past” is a certifiable classic; “Age of Ultron” not so much). But if X-Men: Apocalypse could say “wait, no” and turn on a heel, so could any of the films listed above.

Inserting “blank of blank” after your movie title is an instant dash of cool; the implication is that not only are we getting Ultron or the Justice League or an empire of glistening shirtless Greeks, but we’re getting them forever. The object of that particular preposition (in this case, “of”) is so powerful it will write a new and very lengthy chapter in the future’s history books. The Age of That Particular Sequel. In theory? Awesome. In practice, after five or six films have already done the same? Pass.

The Force Awakens evokes a similar feeling, that something all-powerful and awe-inspiring (the Force) trudges forward, unable to be stopped. And the Force is everything in Star Wars. It’s “what gives a Jedi his power.” It”surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” (because few are better equipped to describe the Force than Obi-Wan). The dark side is the dark side… of the Force; without it, we’d have no Jedi and no Sith. No Force and there’s no spiritual path for Luke to follow. No Force and there’s no Prophecy that names Anakin the Chosen One; as much as some would prefer the prequels were wiped from society’s collective memory, the Force is integral throughout all.

To make things clear, let’s break down the connection between The Force Awakens and Age of All Current Movie Sequels.

1. If the Force has to Awaken, then it was asleep at some point.

2. If the Force was asleep, we’ve got a significant period of non-Force.

3. Which would then be followed by a period of Force prominence. An Age of the Force, if you will.

It might not be written in exact Age of Blank terms, but the feeling The Force Awakens brings to mind is a dead ringer for Age of Ultron or Age of Extinction.

Yet slapping a colon and a Blank of Blank is something inherent to Star Wars. Even if it doesn’t always imply that something large and foreboding is on its way. Out of seven Episodes, three employ the “of”- Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. So should Episode VII have thrown caution to the wind, ignored franchise younglings like The Avengers or Batman v Superman and done what comes naturally- the Star Wars Blank of the Blank standby? Or would that have been too unadventurous?

It’s a tricky topic, made trickier by the existence of the Expanded Universe (now christened Star Wars: Legends), an endless resource of Star Wars titles that have already been taken and are officially off limits. In referencing the Force, Episode VII had to throw out the following Legends titles:

“The Rising Force,” “The Unifying Force,” “Rebel Force,” “Patterns of Force,” The Force Unleashed, “Dark Force Rising,” “Champions of the Force,” “Heirs of the Force,”Legacy of the Force,” “Children of the Force,” Apprentice of the Force, “Force Heretic,” “Force War,” “Force Storm.”

Some of which would never have been considered for a second (not only is “Patterns of Force” a snooze, it’s also a Star Trek episode that aired forty years prior to the EU novel of the same name. Shameful). And then there’s the Blank of the Blank titles of the EU- a sea of titles so vast that naming them all would require at least six or seven fist-sized paragraphs (you don’t want to read all that, and I don’t want to type it- let’s just call it a draw).

So yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes perilously close to the sequel cliche currently lodged in 2014’s airway, refusing to go down (Age of Extinction, Rise of the Empire, Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are all this year’s fare). But the process of naming a Star Wars sequel is stupidly difficult. If we can admit that The Force Awakens is a little “meh,” we can also get past that “meh” feeling and admit that most movies are more than just a title. And unless Disney and Lucasfilm was willing to accept Awww Shit Yeah it’s Luke vs. the Mecha-Wookies, the title was never going to make or break this one.

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