Sunday, March 4, 2012

Credit Where Credit is Due

Pop quiz: what do the following movies have in common? The Dark Knight. The Mummy Returns. Inception. Hostel. How To Train Your Dragon. Avatar.

Give up? The answer is, every single one of these films lacks both opening credits and an opening title.

I have to admit, I'm a bit confused as to why this is becoming such a popular trend in filmmaking these days. Opening credits are the lifeblood of movies. If done well, a good opening sequence can get an audience extremely pumped for the movie to follow. Want a perfect example? Look no further than 007 himself.

Quality of content notwithstanding, the James Bond flicks have one great thing going for them: they know how to open a movie with just the right sort of bang. They start us off in the heat of an action sequence somewhere, with James Bond engaged in a death-defying mission that we (as of yet) know very little about. Something extraordinary happens. Bond escapes by the skin of his neck. Maybe an explosion or two occurs. James Bond basically looks at the camera and says something along the lines of, "This is all child's play compared to what's coming next, folks!" Then...BANG. Credits. And while we sit through some horrible Sheena Easton song and watch naked animated women dance around the names of the executive producers, we're squirming with anticipation to see what's going to happen to our hedonistic British hero.

That little bit of excitement preceding the opening titles is called a teaser. Teasers can be very, very good things. They excite & stimulate an audience. They turn the upcoming 90 minutes into not just a movie, but an event. I, for one, think teasers are the cat's meow. If given millions of dollars & a camera and left to my own devices, I would never make a movie that didn't have a teaser. Of course, I'm the farthest thing from a competent director, so my movie might end up being a horrible mess that is nothing but teasers, which would strain the physical limits to such an extent that the whole thing would achieve some kind of unpleasant singularity.

Now, leaving out the title...well, that's just plain rude! It's common manners. You introduce yourself to new people, that's how interaction works.

"Hello, movie, my name is Elizabeth."

"Hello, Elizabeth. My name is Gladiator and I'll be your movie this evening. Can I start you off with a teaser?"

There. Simple. Done. Sounds much nicer than:

"Hello, movie, my name is Elizabeth."

"Hello, Elizabeth. My name is go fuck yourself."

"But Question Mark", you might exclaim, "you're overlooking an obvious answer to your problems! Credits and titles are being omitted because they want to cut down the run time of movies for today's attention-impaired, Ritalin-popping audiences!" Fair enough, I would reply, except let me direct your attention back to the list of six movies that kicked off this article. Half of them are movies directed by Chris Nolan or James Cameron: two men who definitely have NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER with a film being a bit on the long side.

All I hope for is that opening credits don't disappear off the face of the earth, the way good scores and colour have. Imagine a world without the Star Wars crawl. Imagine a world without Danny Elfman's Batman theme. Imagine Austin Powers without all of the nude dancing. That's not the kind of world I want to live in.