“Deep Rising,” an action flick about a sea monster that terrorizes a cruise ship, opens January 30. This summer “Deep Impact,” about a meteor plummeting toward Earth, rockets into theaters. And if you think these titles sound similar, don’t forget other movies that built their names from the same pool of action buzzwords — “Deep Cover,” “Deep Crimson,” “Double Impact,” “Sudden Impact,” “Sudden Death” and “Deadly Force,” to name just a few. You know from these macho monikers that you’re going to get bullets and blood by the bushel. But beyond that, are such similar-sounding titles confusing audiences by creating a celluloid identity crisis?
Not necessarily. Action words are recycled because they cue viewers that they’re heading into a testosterone fest, “much like the word ‘enchantment’ in a title conjures up an image of Victorian England,” says design and identity consultant Stewart Mosberg. Even if action titles don’t reveal much about the plot, they’re still intended to suggest bloodlust. “‘Deep Impact’? What does that mean?” asks Jae Kim, associate analyst for Paul Kagan Associates, a media research firm. “It’s two words that imply action, but really mean nothing.”
Kim adds that names become moot once a movie has caught on, no matter how similar a competing title might be: “Even if it shares buzzwords with other films, a good movie’s word-of-mouth will travel. Quality has its own name.” In other words, if people hear that Deep is good when it’s Rising, they won’t accidentally wander in to see it Impacted, or vice versa.
Folks who wait a year to rent the hits (and guns shots and car chases) shouldn’t be surprised if the action shelf at the local video store starts to look a little confusing — what with the nearly-identical wham-bam names all laid out at once. “There’s only so much info you can get on a video box,” says Kim.
But those who are bothered by the repetition of certain action words can take solace in the fact that even the most popular phrases eventually fall from favor. Consider today’s fave: deep. “After ‘Deep Throat’ was a big hit in 1972, a rash of triple-X movies came out with the word ‘Deep’ in their titles,” says Mosberg. “Back then, no mainstream film would use that word.” Kind of puts “Deep Rising” in a whole new light, doesn’t it?