How do you decide on what makes a good film opening good and a great opening great? There is so much criteria to choose from. The best film opening should give us a sample of what's in store, establish the genre of the film, intrigue, surprise and engage us. Why are some more successful than others? It's down to the artistic value, aesthetics and how much we enjoy them. Sometimes the openings aren't even relevant to the story line. The opening sequence can just give us a transaction between the real world and that of the films - a link between that of our cultures and that of the characters.
When one ponders on the vast amount of film openings, instantly several spring to mind. Whether you are after a thriller or a romantic comedy no one can ignore the sheer brilliance of Loncraine's Richard III. Made in 1996 and starring Ian Mc Kellan. This is an adaptation of a Tudor play full of tension turning to amazement all in a few seconds due to amazing use of sound and special effects. If a tank driving through a brick wall to commit an assassination doesn't grab your attention, there must be something wrong with you. However all the opening does is seem to give an insight into a world of an evil, murderous king and thus only manages to barely tell the plot of a great but perhaps not good enough motion picture. For this reason it does not feature in my top 5 films.
Likewise, The Sound of Music does well to engage us instantaneously, showing us the first ever footage of scenery taken from an aerial view to give us a perspective of the world its set in. But once again this film has its downfalls to the majority of a male audience. We want to see blood, gore and death not singing. The second Julie Andrews opens her mouth us men cringe. This film should have held back on the music for just a few more minutes in order to capture a wider range if viewers. Now you may be thinking what film can possibly be in top spot in order to knock out those two classics? Well here is my selection of films which exceed all others in being the ultimate film beginnings:
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Edwina Moore, Zak Orth,
Claire Danes, Brian Dennehy, Jamie Kennedy,
Dash Mihok, Lupita Ochoa
Genre: Drama, Romance
What's the first word that comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare's Romeo and Julliet? If this was a game of family fortunes then I'm sure at number 1 it would have to be the word love. Nevertheless, despite anything that springs into your heads along the lines of 'one for the girls,' this blockbuster appeals to a male demographic as well. This is done brilliantly in the opening few seconds of the title sequence.
It starts with a TV screen shown on a black background. Immediately, your opinion changes, we expect to see the film set in an olden time setting. However, Luhrmann has transformed this classic into the modern world. A news reader then suddenly appears in front of us. She begins to read the prologue as if these events were actually happening in every day life.
Quickly, with lots of light and speed, we are rushed through the streets of Verona. The audience remains on the edges of their seats throughout, adrenaline pumps through their body and we become gripped, focused and enthralled with the world and age this movie is set in. The next major event in the opening that we see is the use of sound and a series of freeze frames to capture are attention. The music played is dramatic and unnerving throughout the introduction of the play. It keeps us focused and intrigued. The freeze frames used do not give us an introduction off the characters and actors name, like we would imagine. Instead, they show us the relationships between the different actors and what part they have in the hierarchy of the two rival families. This helps us follow the plot later on in the flim.
In summary the introduction to Romeo and Juliet is bold and exciting. It does well to give a brief, but not conclusive, insight to the gangs and gun culture of Verona Beach. The films opening also makes us wonder what will happen between the Capulets and the Montagues: these two rival corporate dynasties, with generations of hatred behind them.
Director: Dennis Dugan
Stars: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald,
Carl Weathers, Julie Bowen, Frances Bay
The first thing that stands out to most people when they look at Happy Gilmore has to be the use of casting. When you see the movie is cast with Adam Sandler as the main character Happy Gilmore you know exactly what type of film you are getting into. Adam Sandler is renowned for his roles in many, often juvenile, slapstick comedy films.
Nevertheless, Happy Gilmore has much more to offer, especially when you regard its brilliant opening sequence. First of all presented are some home movie style shots, narrated by Happy himself. These appear to be briefly summarising his life so far. However, if you consider the effort put into editing and filming those extracts from Happy Gilmore's life you realise how advanced the shots are.
Also when we analyse the techniques used in filming it is hard to forget how much complexity goes into the one clip, where the effect of a hockey puck being propelled at hundreds of miles an hour is shown from a first person perspective. The camera would have had to travel through the air at such a speed which makes the work done shooting the opening of Happy Gilmore breathtaking.
Away from the advanced techniques used the question of what makes Happy Gilmore such an effective film opening, still remains. I feel the reason to this has to be with how much pure enjoyment we get from the first few seconds. Instantly, we begin to laugh our selves stupid. If we love the humour used so much right from the start then we are bound to remain watching the film to the end in hope for more. That is the brilliance of Dennis Dugan's Happy Gilmore.
Director: Mark Mylod
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen
The opening sequence is possibly one of the best, with a great parody of a South Central drive-by set to the sound of NWA's 'Straight Outta Compton'. Literally, there is not one person alive who wouldn't be reduced to hysterics. The whole idea of the film and the opening is to make you laugh and the reason Ali G Indahouse is so good is because you do. Not only this, but the opening sequence doesn't even tell the plot. Instead it merely acts as a transition from the world Ali believes he lives in and real life where he is seen as a joke although he can't see that himself making the opening title even more amusing to us.
The title sequence is definitely up there in the best and is number 1 for a comedy film. On the down side, the film has a very narrow demographic and viewers out of this group will feel utter disgust and offence to the number of sexist and homophobic jokes. If you are easily offended stay away but if not and you'd like to see Sacha Baron Cohen mock and parody some people's judgemental views then this is the film for you.
Definitely the opening sequence is something for Mylod to be proud of. The level of humour inflicted on the viewer is unbelievable. A film like this isn't about fancy special effects or intricate plot twists, it's about the characters. What a bunch of deranged, self-obsessed characters they are! Small criticisms about various minor things are more than made up for by the constant stream of jokes which are almost always tear jerkers. Ali is unsurprisingly the focal point of the movie, yet the person who steals the show would have to be Martin Freeman as Ali's best mate, Ricky C. He delivers such a convincing portrayal of a white boy wannabe rapper that you'll soon forget about his past work (such as Tim from the Office). All this great acting is introduced straight from the start and if you continue to watch the film to finish it is maintained and is deservedly worth a mention as the greatest part in making the film a success.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Robert Rodat
Stars: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns,
Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper,
Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Saving Private Ryan begins very emotively with an elderly veteran and his family visiting the World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. The veteran walks to a headstone, falls to his knees before it and loses his composure. His family gathers around him and the scene flashes back to a graphic recreation of the landing of the first wave of soldiers on Omaha Beach during the WWII invasion of Normandy. The film focuses on one Captain John H. Miller, who eventually manages to lead a group of men through the dense German beach defenses to reach the heights overlooking the beach.
The invasion of Normandy when the soldiers first land on the beach and begin to commence in combat is what stands out to me as mind-blowing. Spectacular and stunning special effects are used which amaze the viewer and trap you observing more of the film. Throughout this sequence Spielberg uses a variety of complex effects. The colour is not true colour but instead is sepia which makes the whole scene seem more dark and dingy that it actually is. To us watching we get a better sense of how unpleasant the actual event was through this use of sepia.
The other main features which are used and stand out are suppressed sound and first person camera vision. Halfway through the battle scene the sound is suddenly changed and everything goes quiet and muted. This suppressed sound effect is used in conjunction with first person view at times to simulate what it would be like if you were there and experiencing the event for yourself at that time. The sound being muted actually gives an unusual feeling making you think twice about what war would actually be like.
Saving Private Ryan is an excellent portrayal of what World War II was actually like. Spielberg uses a wide range of technical effects to great use and inturn it pays off making this motion picture a spectacular all time classic. So what can follow in order to top this blockbuster hit?
Director: Boaz Yakin
Stars: Denzel Washington, Will Patton,
Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison
Here it is the best, the greatest, the ultimate film opening the world has ever seen. Yakin's Remember the Titans has preeminent, unsurpassed and finest opening sequence ever. You may wonder why this film is number one. However Remember the Titans is deservedly at the top spot.
The film starts epically with a scene of what appears to be a funeral shown. Rows of American men and woman in black suits and dresses walk in unison and come more into focus as they rise over a hill. Dramatic, patriotic and inspiring music is heard. The audience doesn't quite know what is going on and suddenly a prologue is read. You are told of a time where race relations in America are poor and how for the first time, black and white schools are going to be mixed together. The motion picture title 'Remember the Titans' appears in bold block capitals. We know immediately this film is not going to be joyous and instead expect a story of hatred and anger. Nothing, in spite of this, could prepare us for what is to follow.
Before you have time to comprehend what is happening, the scene is cut to chaos. There's rioting and madness in the city. On either side of a line of police cars one group of black and one group of white adults are shown shouting, swearing and protesting about rights. The police are vigorously trying to control the crowds but it's no use. The viewers are nervous and uneasy. Police burst into a shop, windows are broken and a man produces a gun. We don't really know what is happening and yet we want to keep watching. The action is gripping and enticing.
Finally we are shown a new angle, one of sport, one of American football. Teenagers are enjoying themselves but then another negative bullet is introduced. The football players run to the riot and try to join in with the violence. They are stopped just in the knick of time and then we feel relieved and are still excited. The introduction finally ends when we are told of a new head coach and all of this is due to racism. This introduction is so superior because we enjoy it, not because of humor or violence. It's because the story line is not only interesting but is expressed and introduced in a proficient way and by using strong techniques.
In conclusion many things make a film opening. Many movies have tried but only a few succeed in making it into our memorable motion pictures. These selected and chosen blockbusters will always be remembered by us as great films. However, I think it's their use of techniques to keep us engaged which make us see these films as classics.