Have Your Say: Keep Or Change The Original Film Title?

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Have Your Say: Keep Or Change The Original Film Title?
A reoccurring issue that's been bought up from you guys in our comments section is whenever there is a change or slight alteration to the original film title for its international release. Most recently, Sony Classics revealed that a secondary title Redemption will be added to Gareth Evans' Indonesian actioner The Raid when it hits US theaters around March.  This raises the question on whether or not its necessary. 

Before I get into the reasons for a title change, lets first ask what is the purpose of a film title.  The purpose of a film title is to communicate the "what" and "who" in a few words.  I believe an effective title should hold relevance to the theme, presenting a basic gist on what is instored.  From a publicity/marketing standpoint, it may sound catchy and seem memorable to attract as much attention as possible, much like brand names.

So back to the main question: Why change it?  When a foreign title is changed, its usually through design to appear English-friendly and accessible for the uninitiated.  For example, some foreign titles such as Sha Po Lang, Ong Bak and Taegukgi are English romanization of a language inherited of its respected country which requires some cultural understanding to truly grasp the significant meaning behind the words. To avoid confusion, the title may be changed completely or a secondary title/additional words is apply as in the case of Kill Zone, Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior and Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.

Some title changes is unavoidably necessary because when translated literally, the words may not flow in its English form or that there is no appropriate English equivalent to the exact words from its original language.  But even when cultural or language barrier is not a factor, the international distributor still reserve the right to deem the original title either suitable or changed it outright.  We seen this before, the latest off the top of my head is MS One: Maximum Security being changed to Lockout.

In the case of The Raid, its a no brainier why its called the way it is as it involves a Swat team raiding a criminal-infested building to take down a drug lord.  No surprise there, right? On why Redemption is attached, its been said to mark the first part of planned film trilogy, a tactic commonly used in major film franchise.  My beef I have particularly with this approach is I suspect it was thoughtlessly slapped on only for flashy pizzazz sake, yet there is no applicable connection with this word to the story, resulting in a misrepresentation of the film.  I would prefer to keep the title as it was originally intended.  The Raid may not be a unique title but its simple and straightforward.

Now I turn the floor over to you. What do you think? I would like to hear your position about whether to keep or change the original film title.  Is there any bad examples? Or good if any at all? Have your say on the subject in our comments section below.

EDIT: the director Gareth Evans has responded to the title change, explaining it's a copyright issue. Read the director's full explanation here.
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JustinFebruary 25, 2012 10:48 AM

Firstly, I find the addition of the title REDEMPTION unnecessary. No one will the world will go "Oh man, a movie about REDEMPTION! I'm in!" that would have otherwise skipped an action film called THE RAID. Secondly, the logic behind it being to start a planned trilogy is confusing, because if I see a film with a subtitle like that I assume it's the second film, or the third, or the fourth...and so on. First films rarely have subtitles, and if they do, I'd usually assume that it's a sequel until I do more research into it.

Electro666February 25, 2012 10:55 AM

Meh, Hollywood has been doing that for years with foreign movies, it's a way for them to appropriates these movies for themselves.. So no surprise here.. Change of title, change of music score, probably some re-editing.. I am still going to wait for the original to come out "Unamericanized" on DVD/Blu Ray...

kungfueurotrashFebruary 25, 2012 11:05 AM

Keep the original title for God sakes!!!!! Very unnecessary, it was fine just the way it is, SHIT!!!!

Al YoungFebruary 25, 2012 11:20 AM

Director Gareth Evans chimes in on the altering of the title:

So a few days ago, [the trailer] went up...And then a few minutes later, I get about one or two hundred emails and tweets asking me with horror about the title change on The Raid. So now seems a good a time as any to address the situation and give a little more info on why we changed it.

Truthfully, none of us, the guys at SPC included, wanted to change the title from the original. But once we knew we were going to expand the film into a sequel - possibly a trilogy it opened our eyes up to maybe the need for an all encompassing title that could work for all three films.

At first it was just something we toyed around with as an idea to start using with part 2, but then it became an essential thing to do from the get go. The reason why: we found out "The Raid" itself was not available for us to use as a title in the US.

We couldn't get clearance on it and believe me we all tried but with that task becoming impossible and a release date looming - we chose to go with our idea to add a word that reflected one of the elements from the first film. Redemption was the one that fit, and it beat losing The Raid completely after all the work we'd done to establish awareness of the film.

As a film fan that only very recently found myself as part of the industry I do understand the backlash but as someone closely involved in the decision making progress alongside SPC, it was disheartening to see them being bashed for it.

So that's why I chose to give a little more insight into it.

This wasn't an "evil studio" thing, the decision had nothing at all to do with the proposed remake. This was a situation we were all forced into. You guys may not love the new addition to the title, and I'm not about to go and say Redemption is perfect, cos it's not - we all much prefer the simplicity of The Raid.

But the film, it is still the same film we screened at festivals and all I hope is that you all read whatever part of that 5 second titlecard you want to when it pops up on screen, forget the rest and enjoy seeing my good friends beat the shit out of each other for 100mins.

Al YoungFebruary 25, 2012 11:35 AM

I wonder what Sony is going to call the sequel to The Raid: Redemption. Is it The Raid: Berandal?

andrewzFebruary 25, 2012 1:18 PM

If nobody is being redeemed, then change it.

gurotakuFebruary 25, 2012 1:25 PM

REDEMPTION is on the same level of awfulness as RISING and REVELATIONS. It seems like every second film coming out has one of those 3 secondary titles attached. If a secondary title is really necessary for whatever reasons (like the one outlined by Evans above) then for pity's sake be a tiny bit creative!

BenoitFebruary 25, 2012 3:18 PM

I believe the title is absolutely useless and is unfortunately just an other business decision from are good friends in the American film industry to squeeze as much money as possible out of it. The same reason I believe why they had Mike Shinoda work on the sound track....and the same reason why the American version of the trailer seem to feature very little martial art compare to all the other trailers, focusing on explosions and guns, ect....they want to get as many people to see the movie as possible....wich is a great thing...but slightly insulting

BenoitFebruary 25, 2012 3:40 PM

Ultimately my point is that people are not stupid and to keep the original title from the country it was made in just seems like the respectable thing to do...

zetobeltFebruary 25, 2012 5:35 PM

Keep the original.

Ard VijnFebruary 25, 2012 6:51 PM

If you have to add a word because you're not allowed for legal reasons to use just "The Raid", why not use The Raid - Jakarta?

xinoFebruary 25, 2012 7:00 PM

it's just a name, no big deal.
It's what's in the movie that count not the name. Why should people give a damn about Ong Bak 2: The Beginning title, when the movie itself was sick?

I mean why stress over the name? you wouldn't be eating the name for breakfast. Yes Al Young is right, things like these are done for the mass audience, much like how Akira movie or adaptation are always basterized because it is for the masses and for everyone non-fan to digest easily.

Anyway onto the topic. Yes change the name simply because the recent trailer that was released said "From the Makers who brought you Kung Fu Hustle and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". That was an insult because those were Chinese makers and not Indonesian makers. Sony Classic or who ever distributing this needs to fix this sh* now.
It should haven been -From the Director Who Brought you "Merantau Warrior"-.

Anyway to end it off, I'm not bothered about the name, it can stay simply put that all these sick martial arts movies all have their names altered for Region purposes and masses targets. Merantau outside Indo is called Merantau Warrior, so why complain about The Raid- Redemption? no big deal man.

xinoFebruary 25, 2012 7:11 PM

also to people saying the movie better have something to do with Redemption. No it doesn't, names of movies doesn't mean anything and better yet the name doesn't have to relate to what was going on in the movie.
It's not as if majority of all James Bond movie subtitle names have something to do with the movies themselves.

GarthFebruary 25, 2012 8:11 PM

I'm assuming the TIFF print was complete though, right? Either way, can't wait to see it again.

Electro666February 25, 2012 9:44 PM

Thank you Todd for the clarification!

Tom StoneFebruary 26, 2012 2:00 AM

This deserves its own post

thewizardkingFebruary 26, 2012 2:19 AM

I don't care about title changes. If the original title is a lot better or they change it to something stupid, then I'll be a bit upset, but if a simple title-change will allow more people to see a good movie (in its original form), then I'm all in favor of it.

That said, I'd be much less likely to see a movie with the subtitle "Redemption." It's just makes it sound terribly unoriginal.

mbeachtantrumFebruary 26, 2012 8:36 AM

A note: studios "own" hundreds of titles for projects that may never see production. So long as they remain in "active" development, they remain effectively inviolate, much like a copyright or trademark (in fact, many times, they actually are registered as such). Although the director's explanation is valid, it is also true that Warner Bros. has "owned" the title THE RAID for years (a Silver project, I believe). All this doesn't mean that a release could not be made with that title. Like DRIVE -- which has a long sting of mostly DTV projects with the same name -- THE RAID is a generic enough title that Sony Classics certainly could have released the movie as-is and won any legal arguments made by WB. The fact is, though, that when releasing a foreign pick-up on a limited marketing budget and with limited mass appeal (I said "mass" appeal, flamers -- I've seen and love THE RAID), no studio is going to roll the dice on stepping on toes and ringing up legal costs (or even internal man-hour costs dealing with verbal back-and-forth) when an alternative solution can be reached with the artist's consensus.

kunderempFebruary 26, 2012 9:41 AM

Todd, can you tell us how many seconds of the movie being cut by Indonesian Censorship Board (LSF)? I have seen the full version in INAFFF and would love to take my friends to see it in cinemas.

Todd BrownFebruary 26, 2012 12:50 PM

The problem is with Fox, not with WB. It goes back to a 1954 war movie and the copyright is plenty clear on it. Sony tried to get clearance to use it, Fox said no.

Todd BrownFebruary 26, 2012 12:58 PM

Because the second one will also be (at least mostly) in Jakarta. It's going to be an 'R' thing running through all three titles, or at least that's the plan right now ...

DickFebruary 26, 2012 1:31 PM

"Redemption" is one of those silly R words people seem to think they can just slap onto the end of any title. Rebirth, Revelations, Reloaded, Renegade, Returns, Reckoning, Repetition, Regurgitation, Rewhogivesashitanymore

DickFebruary 26, 2012 1:33 PM

Calm down

MarsHottentotFebruary 26, 2012 2:05 PM

If redemption plays no part in the plot of the film, it's not only unnecessary - it's stupid.

mbeachtantrumFebruary 26, 2012 6:02 PM

Thanks for the correction! Forgot (read: didn't know) about the Fox Civil War movie. That said, I'm not sure I understand why if it's agreeed that title politics were a primary reason for the title shift with THE RAID that it wasn't a part of Al's post.

ShanFebruary 26, 2012 10:51 PM

A question, I always thought you weren't allowed to copyright titles? Is that a mistake or is it more than just the title that is the copyright issue?

Todd BrownFebruary 27, 2012 2:29 PM

I'm not up on this part of copyright law so, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there was a change made at some point so it's much harder (if not impossible) to do so now but some older titles are still held. All I know for sure is that we were told pretty bluntly that we couldn't use it in the US.

zomboyFebruary 29, 2012 11:19 AM

Leave the original title and then tack something on after it for the sequels. Such as 'The Raid'....'The Raid: Redemption'....'The Raid: The Smell of Fear'....'The Raid: Salvation'....etc.

cipher.secMarch 3, 2012 4:25 AM

I screened this at TIFF and honestly, after you watch it the last thing you're going to be thinking about is the title...

WisnuMarch 19, 2012 4:48 PM

I wonder, If "The Raid" (or "The Raid : Redemption" in USA) become the first sequel, and there will be 2 more sequel.. then what is the title of "The Raid" US version remake then?

and why is in US somewhat more (legally) difficult about this branding thing? can you just mention that its the original brand worldwide, and you just take it as it is?