The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The new 'Mission: Impossible' sequel: Could Paramount have picked a worse title?

October 28, 2010 | 12:04 pm

Tom_cruise Not that "Mission: Impossible 4" actually needs any more publicity, but Paramount threw together a news conference in Dubai with Tom Cruise and filmmaker Brad Bird to announce that the film has a new title, or more accurately, one of the worst-ever titles for a major movie sequel: "Mission: Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol." Yikes! I'm assuming the title has something to do with a key character or plot point in the film, but still -- with all the marketing brainpower behind that series, is that the best idea anyone could come up with?

Of course, when it comes to really awful sequel titles, "Ghost Protocol" has a lot of competition. For my money, when it came to bad titles, nothing compared to the 2008 installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, which was called "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Although many would argue that the last "X Files" movie moniker was pretty atrocious: "The X-Files: I Want to Believe." (If anyone can think of a real doozy that I've forgotten, please share.)

There are some real stinkers still on the way, notably "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which makes the movie sound like some tacky ghost anthology show from the SyFy Network. In theory, a title is supposed to help define the image of a movie or somehow pique your interest in seeing it. But I can't see either of those things happening when I hear the title for the new Narnia sequel: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." I mean, why not just call it "Narnia 3" and be done with it?

Sometimes less is more. As far as I'm concerned, all you have to say is "Spider-Man 4" and I've got the point already. But in Hollywood, no one would ever dare leave well enough alone. I suspect the studios are already so embarrassed by the cobwebby and predictable stories they've cobbled together for these remakes and sequels that they feel obligated to put a little quasi-creativity into the movies' titles. But call it "Ghost Protocol" or "Midnight Rider," "M:I 4" is still giving us the same old, same old. As Barack Obama so memorably put it during the 2008 campaign, describing a political opponent who was promoting old ideas in a new fashion: "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

Photo: Tom Cruise at a news conference in Dubai for his new film, "Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol."

Credit: AFP/Getty Images