When film began any things that were deemed worth crediting came at the front, or at latest on a title card. The end of the film was reserved for a card saying “The End” and re-affirming who owned the film. As the film industry became more formal and unionized more crediting became necessary, thus the creation of closing credits at some point in time and the changes to the opening credits. Since both those as well as studio logo and/or fanfare count toward running time there have been tweaks to the the way title sequences are handled to economize in that regard. Here are a few instances and trends I’ve noticed lately.
Probably one of the best tone-setting openings of the year was that to Iron Man 3. I say this in part because it is slightly out of the ordinary:
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) starts recounting the story. He will ultimately tell how his blowing off Alrdich Killian (Guy Pearce), and his one night stand with May Hansen (Rebecca Hall), came back to haunt him. However, like a few film’s storyteller’s he has a false start. So he starts over. After that false start is when the Marvel logo comes up and Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” starts playing. It’s an inspired musical choice. I never liked that song, but few things say 1999 like it, so it works very well. Following that, the prologue on the eve of Y2K in Bern, Switzerland plays out.
I’m not sure when the plan for the opening title sequence (OTS) came to fruition for this film, but this is part of the reason why screenwriters are instructed never to indicate where the opening credits go. Firstly, because it’s not the screenwriter’s job, but also because even if you did decide in preproduction where it belonged, and what it should entail, it could close you off from a better idea should one present itself.
Perhaps the most inventive thing about the open of the film is that it creates a payoff in the now-obligatory Marvel stinger that most people now know to wait for. This opening also stood out to me though because in 2011 a trend in OTSs developed of quickly flashing the title after an introduction. The title was usually very large, but that was all and the story proceeded unabated from there. Insidious is an example, as is Hanna. Hugo notably brings its music to a climactic crescendo as if a short film had come to a close, but instead the title of the film merely pops up and on we go to the rest of the film.
Whether a protracted OTS at the start, a truncated one after a prologue, or no OTS is requisite depends on the film and it is interesting to follow the tendencies as it is a part of setting the tone of the story and changes in approaches don’t seem to come along very often.