Talking Pictures

I want to share with you a cinematic pet peeve, one which disproportionately affects fantasy and science fiction movies, and that is the opening voiceover narration.  

A good example of this is the classic Sean Connery monologue: “From the dawn of time we came, moving silently through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you… until now.” Aside from the fact that it kickstarts an awesome Queen song (also, it showcases that sexy, sexy Scottish brogue), it serves no purpose to The Highlander whatsoever. All of the information contained within is shared with the audience over the course of the film.  

Can you imagine what it would have been like to see The Highlander for the first time, watching wrestling, followed by Christopher Lambert straight-up beheading a dude, getting struck by lightning, and then appearing in sixteenth-century Scotland, sporting a nearly incomprehensible accent? You’d be all like, “What the fart? I’d better stick around for answers!”  

But since you’ve had a ton of spoilers dumped on you right away, you don’t ever get that chance. If the first few minutes of The Highlander were a post on Twitter or 4Chan, it would be berated, openly or passive aggressively, until it was taken down. 

The opening narration assumes that the audience won’t get what’s going on, and doesn’t have the intelligence or patience or trust in the filmmakers to stick around and find out. 

Here’s an example of how the opening narration could go horribly, horribly wrong: Imagine a movie that starts out with the “Warner Brothers presents…” card, followed by a panoramic view of a dark, devastated city. Words in a green font crawl up the screen, and the deep voice of Lawrence Fishburne reads them. “In the future, war raged between man and machine. Machine won. They enslaved mankind, taking from them their homes, their freedom, their bodies, and even their very minds, trapping them in a virtual reality world called ‘The Matrix,’ patrolled by sinister Agents whose sole purpose is to keep mankind from discovering its ultimate fate. But all hope is not lost, for there exists in this world a band of freedom fighters … and they are fighting back.” And cut to Carrie Ann Moss ruthlessly slaughtering four regular Joes just doing their low-paying civil-service job. 

So, Hollywood, if you’re reading this, knock it off. Trust your audience for once. 

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