Yesterday, we discussed Matt Reeves’ imagination — and potential foreshadowing — with the working title of his much-anticipated The Batman. And while “Vengeance” may not precisely what you might think with his noir detective film, it does provide substantial room to get more hyped for this movie than ever.
Working Titles are some of the most mysterious aspects of feature films, not because the names shed some light on some leaked footage but rather because of the potential for what that name does say about the current project it is cloaking.
For those cinephiles not in the know, the “working title” is strategic wordsmithing by either getting people off the movie’s scent; thus, thwarting any leaks, or allows the production house to straight up screw with the fans.
And by the looks of this A-List, there is enough in here to stun a Wooly Mammoth back to the Ice Age by how these slates have screwed with our minds for years.
What is it? A cool name for a video game utopia? The city in Los Angeles County cradling the Santa Anita horse track? Nah.
If you recall how JW2 ended with a few velociraptor on a midnight stroll, Arcadia could be slightly telling: “any real or imaginary place offering peace and simplicity.” Could be a quiet neighborhood with families, landscaping, and paper routes.
14. “Rory’s First Kiss”
Who’s he? And why do we care about his first kiss? Sure, dude probably slobbered all over his significant others’ chin because of inexperience, but he tried.
And “Rory”? That is Christopher Nolan’s son. I suppose once dad started in the movie business (let alone, the nerd movie business), Rory probably had a few takers in the “first kiss” department. Get that sugar, stud.
13. “Jar Jar’s Great Adventure”
Yeah, begin your long exhale and sigh now. This wasn’t the most cryptic working title in the world.
Funny story: It wasn’t because George Lucas doesn’t care anymore. The producers of the movie gave the name as a backhanded homage to the hell they caught when Jar Jar Binks became a thing. Yes, George Lucas is a Jedi Troll!
12. “Scary Movie”
Insert your juvenile horror movie joke here. And, you would be on target, but once you discovered who you insulted, you might feel guilty.
So, yeah, Wes Craven did it. The Master of the genre couldn’t dream up anything more cryptic than that for his resurrection of the slasher era. In fact, this was the actual title for a moment. Nice. And it led to the Wayans Brothers’ spoof series…under the same name.
11. “The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”
Sounds like some evening fun of a cult? Just something to blow off steam before their latest coven get-together. Yeah, no.
The disco classic starring John Travolta took the world by storm as 19-year-old Tony Manero. In 1976, an article by Nik Cohn of New York Magazine extolled the greatness of clubbing, wearing zoot suits, and causing polyester some serious stretching.
The working title of the film paid homage to the magazine article that inspired the movie. Classy.
J.J. Abrams has always been known as a mage of the mysterious. What began with the mental screw job in “Lost,” his acclaimed TV series, Abrams never misses an opportunity to jack with the fans.
Does he do the same thing with his working titles? Remember all the mystery with his first person-monster flick Cloverfield?
Surely, it was because that big ugly had such a stunning grin for the cameras.
9. “Incident on 57th Street”
It’s clear J.K. Rowling likes to be known as “The Boss” whenever another Harry Potter movie is being filmed, but this is a little ridiculous.
Harry Mania was sweeping all those narrow, cobblestone streets in London, so when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was being filmed, an homage to Bruce Springsteen appeared on all the clapper boards and slates to throw off the scent from all those Potterheads across the pond.
Springsteen fans may not be Potterheads but they immediately recognize the love. “Incident on 57th Street” is a title of a track on Springsteen’s second album, 1973’s The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.
8. “Blue Harvest”
Nice. Farmer Smurf gets a new moniker for his latest bundle of crops. Maybe that’s a reach but not any longer of one than the movie it represented.
In 1982, this was one of the first movies to use a working title. Rumor is the name was used because convention and visitors bureaus saw The Empire Strikes Back and charged Lucasfilm much more standard rates because, well, they could.
7. “Corporate Headquarters”
Back to J.J. Abrams for a second, he’s not always perfect at what he does. For years, there were whispers of a reboot coming. One that would put the stan community on their keister.
Bad Robot had a movie working under the pseudonym of “Corporate Headquarters” in 2007, but surely it wasn’t him with a lame title like that.
Some big-yapped insider told the Los Angeles Times more than two years before finalized production about the big secret. Apparently, some local university was rewrapped to look like Starfleet Academy, so that’s cool. (Technically, it was Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge.)
A New York reference for a Marvel movie? Must be for Doctor Strange, right? We saw the invasion (a couple of times) in the middle of the posh borough of the City That Never Sleeps. Yeah, go with the Sorcerer Supreme.
Wait, what?! Asgard’s son didn’t even walk out of the Bifrost there, so what up with that?! Marvel Studios found a home shooting the film at Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studio. Ergo, “Manhattan.”
5. “Planet Ice”
It’s a science fiction movie. Maybe Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back is getting an origin movie? Yeah, that must be it. Planet Ice… scary as hell, right? Maybe The Thing will show up and scare up some talent.
Yeah, Jack and Rose and someone’s heart will go on… glub, glub, glub. All that footage of icebergs gave James Cameron the perfect rouse. More than 1,500 people died in the freezing North Atlantic Ocean because of hypothermia. To them, it was the working title, so way to tell the story without leaking it, Mr. Cameron.
More of the cold here. And then, there are the times when the working title is created just to make the fans smile. If you know canon of Marvel Comics, this is a no-brainer, “we’re not worthy” love for Steve Rogers and a name worthy of applause.
(Frostbite. Frozen Soldier. See, the connection and… well, you get it.)
3. “Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Your Reader Will Love But The Executive Will Hate”
Read it all. Imagine that mess on a clapper or a slate?! Seriously? Who the hell is going to read all that?
Blah blah blah “teenage sex comedy” blah blah blah… Take One! Action!
Yeah, that was the beginning of the American Pie franchise. All eight movies in this hormone-imbued collection began with that title. In the words of Finch, “God bless the Internet.”
2. “How the Solar System Was Won”
You gotta love a mash-up these days. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter meets the wild, wild west. What isn’t to love about that? When is this crazy connection movie coming out?
Oh, it already did…in 1968!
This has nothing on a man with no name and some spaghetti western, right? Kubrick historically partnered with Arthur C. Clarke. They could not agree on a real name, but the homage to B-movies set in the Old West was a high-five moment.
Other names they considered for the movie were: Journey Beyond the Stars, Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, and Planetfall. The movie was 11 months in production when they finally agreed on 2001. Partnership, ain’t it great.
1. “Group Hug”
Well, for a working title like this, you need a group and they probably have to like each other. Countless groups in movies. A few less if you consider the famous ones.
After three complete phases and more than 10 years later, this is still the acclaimed money shot — the first time we got them all in one screen. Well, except for the hug, though that may have been really cute.
That Kevin Feige guy. Valentine’s Day and family reunions must be lovely at his place.