The Worst Titles of the Year 2020

Oscar season lay upon us, and you know that means. Why, none other than the annual With Eyes East feature recounting the worst titles of the year! Movies, TV shows, possibly video games. No further introduction required. Ready? Too bad.

Honorable Mention: Hunters

Much like the show itself, the title is a bit confused. It’s a pulpy Nazi-hunting prestige drama (whoa, be careful with that), and the original title was The Hunt. Simple, too, but far more evocative. It’s a thing — it’s what’s being done. Changing it to Hunters to avoid confusion with the improbably controversial The Hunt movie is a more significant revision than it seems. I guess these dudes are the “hunters.” Seems insufficient given that one of them is a nun?

#10) Chick Fight

Couldn’t call it Girl Fight, I guess. Is this even a real movie?

#9) Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

You know what would’ve been a better title? Birds of Prey.

#8) You Should Have Left

This is a horror movie, and because of that, when I look at it I just think it’s an irritable sequel to Get Out. We can round out the trilogy with What the Fuck Are You Still Doing Here?

#7) Underwater

These kinds of movies have had pretty good or at least creative titles, like Leviathan, Deepstar Six, The Abyss. You might be able to argue for the simplistic Underwater, but then you remember the trailer where the guy screams “It’s dragging me underwater!” and they smash to title.

#6) Borat Subsequent Moviefilm / The Craft: Legacy

We’ve given up on numbers, as a society. I understand there’s something cheap about the number 2 after a title, but in my advanced age I’ve found it satisfying. Where’s Borat 2 or The Craft 2? I wouldn’t be so upset were it not for Top Gun: Maverick and — barf — Space Jam: The New Legacy. I feel like we’ve lived with these movies for so long, even theoretically, Top Gun 2, Space Jam 2, that when they come out with some bland subtitle, it’s like what happened?

And “Legacy” is simply overused and it’s never succeeded. Tron: Legacy, 24: Legacy, The Bourne Legacy.

#5) Zack Snyder’s Justice League

The problem here isn’t the same as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, which sounds like a drama about a codependent relationship, but the pathetic suggestion that yes, we submitted to the rabid fan demand of releasing (creating) Justice League: The Snyder Cut — but — BUT! — we’re not gonna call it that.

#4) Demon’s Souls Remake

This reissue takes it over Final Fantasy VII Remake and whatever Resident Evil remake came out last year, because of the additional awkwardness of “Demon’s Souls.” What?? That’d be like if you called it Lord’s Rings. But why are we adding metatextual elements to titles now? Yes, it’s more clear if we label remakes as remakes, because that’s what we’ll call it anyway, but I thought there was an implicit rule about this. And so, the ranking of Demon’s Souls Remake here might be the lingering frustration at El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. I thought “A Star Wars Story” was bad enough, but regardless, nesting a title within a subtitle is just wrong. It’s perverse. All the words in the title should be of consistent texture — “Demon’s Souls” is one thing, “Remake” is another.

(Edit: Okay, apparently this game is just called Demon’s Souls. Whatever!)

#3) The Burnt Orange Heresy

Do I even need to explain this one? What the fuck is that? Get the fuck out of here.

#2) Them: Covenant

Yes, this could be a contentious one, because mostly the show is called Them, which is a fine title for an anthology about racism and othering. The individual season is called “Covenant,” and only sometimes do we combine the two, like with American Horror Story: Apocalypse or American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Them? I doubt it. But I worked on the closed captions for this one, and all internal documents referred to it as “Them: Covenant,” and I couldn’t get that out of my head. Them: Covenant. Them: Covenant. It’s just awful.

There are titles where the colon does a lot of work. Halo: Reach is a good example, because not only are those just two words, they’re also two proper nouns from the fictional universe stuck together. That’d be like if the story of America was Mayflower: California. The colon exists so you don’t have to make a sentence, but it’s impossible for me not to make a sentence. Anticipating this inevitability on my part, at least pick two words that sort of flow together. Nobody has ever said “them covenant,” but the result sounds so specific it drives me crazy.

#1) Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula

2020’s grand-prize winner is none other than Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. Just rolls off the tongue! In this case, we’re not only putting the title in the title, but we’re giving it a job. How the fuck does the movie Train to Busan present anything? Of course, this sequel to a popular movie was always gonna be trouble for the overseas marketing department, because, hey, it doesn’t feature a train! Can’t call it Train to Busan 2! Damn these titles being too plot-specific. In America, we just call everything something vague or use adjectives so you don’t have this problem. And the original title Peninsula sounds too foreign. Not that it’s a foreign word, but it would never be used as a title like this.

So you have a movie called Peninsula being distributed in a country where you can’t call a movie Peninsula. You can’t call it the more marketable Train to Busan 2, either. The solution is messy, but probably clever. I just hate everything about it.

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