Iron Man 3’s Variation on Opening Title Sequences

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.

Hanna (Focus Features, 2011)

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.

Insidious (2011, FilmDistrict)

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.

Hugo (2011, Paramount)

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.

Review- Hanna

Saoirse Ronan in Hanna (Focus Features)

It’s really easy to love a film like Hanna. It takes a tale wherein the plot upon final examination is not all that complicated but it is rendered perhaps in the most interesting fashion that can be thought of. While it may not be the most original tale ever told it still bubbles over with freshness and enthusiasm for its subject matter that makes things seem quite new indeed even though they may not be.

It’s a film that also sneakily incorporates foreign languages and many locales within the narrative but due to this being an action film those averse to reading subtitles may be quickly won over and not cringe during these sparsely scattered scenes. The locales also vary but a journey geographically can be a great way to mirror a character’s journey to understanding about themselves and that’s what’s at the crux of the matter here: understanding. Whether it be for the audience or the protagonist we both start with the basics that we need to be allowed to function and move on from there picking up pieces along the way.

New information always clarifies and adds meaning to the tale as well as raising the stakes such that it’s all very expertly done. Yet we as the audience also are taken on a wonderful journey as we not only seek to find Hanna’s place in this international intrigue but also the motives of one Marissa who is seeking to hunt her down.

The film often balances wonderful action sequences and taut dramatic scenes that have an air of mystery about them as well. It paints it characters interestingly but not blatantly. Marissa being an example, her duplicity is underscored by her ever modulating accent. Yet Isaacs is another illustration. In very short order we see him as flamboyant club owner, then informant and then assassin. This kind of building of character alongside the building of the plot is great and rare to find. Add to that a final destination that Hanna must reach and you have yourself a surefire recipe for a great flick.

Hanna features a much-hyped, and discussed score by The Chemical Brothers. Now ultimately I must say I was won over by this score for two reasons: first, director Joe Wright spotted the film beautifully in terms of where he wanted score and where he didn’t. The opening of the film was quite quiet and there was a wonderful intimacy to it all. Then I did like the music itself is very good, worlds better than was Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross just got an Oscar for, it really puts the pedal to the metal when it has to and gives an offbeat vibe to this film. It does, however, for one section get too intrusive. Now in my A.I. paper I discussed intrusiveness of score. All are to some extent but there is a line I feel it crossed in her escape where it combined with the lighting and editing just made it too much of a music video feel.

Keeping these nitpicks in perspective, however, I’d always rather see a films whose negative qualities come from it trying to hard rather than it not trying hard enough. And that’s what this film did on two occasions. The second such was a scene where Hanna has just arrived at a room in Morocco and having been sheltered she is overwhelmed by the modern conveniences and their noise and fury and the sequences is overwrought and over-edited. It makes its point but perhaps too emphatically.

Ultimately, it must be said that this movie may be standing tall by the end of the year and these little nitpicks may knock it down a peg or two but it is still a great work. The acting in this film is tremendous and not simply for the fact that nearly everyone had dialogue in a language that is not their own. Many if not all the characters had moments that are memorable. Not failing to mention, of course, a screenplay which gives all these characters chances to have their moments but still telling a good and tight story.

There are rarely action films that both get your adrenaline pumping but also allow and, in fact, require your brain to remain functioning and not take that time off and this is one of those films. It’s as smart and well-told as it is exciting.