Do Credits Suck Now?
September 5, 2017
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. I don't know about you, but growing up, opening credits were both the worst and the coolest part of the movie.
(The footage of the trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sin City and The Expendables 3 is shown)
NC (vo): You know how before a movie starts, you see trailers for other films, and they're supposed to get you hyped up and excited for what you're about to see in the future?
NC: In some situations, that's what the opening credits were.
(The snippets of various opening credits are shown, including Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Catch Me If You Can)
NC (vo): They were short hype vehicles to get you excited for what you were going to see. Some were short, some were long, but most of the time, they were good indicator of what you were about to experience.
NC: But, recently, opening credits have become kind of a dying art.
NC (vo): Most films nowadays only show the title. Hell, sometimes not even that. Just throwing you into the movie without any excitement or build-up of what you're about to see.
NC: I remember getting the chills watching the opening of Batman...
NC (vo): ...with that awesome Danny Elfman music.
(The opening credits of Batman (1989) are shown, showing the camera moving down the sewers and into above, all to Danny Elfman's iconic theme music)
NC: I still marvel at the artistry and imagination of...
(The opening credits for GoldenEye are shown, before showing the screenshot from the credits to Spy Hard)
NC (vo): ...the James Bond openings. Heck, they would parody them in other movies and shows, they were so well-known.
NC: But in recent years, movies have been doing this less and less, still resulting in strong openings, but... no real introductions.
(The opening title of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is followed)
NC (vo): Which got me asking the unfortunate question: Do opening credits suck now?
NC: Well, first off, it's important to know that films haven't always been this way.
(The credits for the movies of the early 20th century, where the people were simply listed on backgrounds, are shown, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), An American in Paris (1951), and The Wizard of Oz (1939))
NC (vo): In the beginning, credits were given very little attention, only listing the title, the main actors, and a couple of people who made it. At first, they were not a big deal.
NC: But as movies became more and more popular, it made sense to give more and more people credit, which made them a lot longer.
(The "The End" card of The Wizard of Oz is shown)
NC (vo): Remember, in the old days end credits were only saying "The End" on a title card. Most of the important stuff was shown in the opening.
(The pamphlet for the play "Blank" by Bruce Reisman is shown, followed by an "Overture" title card from Ben-Hur (1959) and the still titles for West Side Story (1961))
NC (vo): Similar to a program they'd give you in a play, which is kind of what films were seen as for a while: cinematic plays. So much so that some movies even had overtures before the movies started. What a better time to give them credit than over the music from the awesomeness you're about to see?
NC: So soon, the overture was combined with the opening credits.
(The opening credits of It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and What's Up, Doc? (1972) are shown, showing the credit sheets being turned/pulled away)
NC (vo): Getting you excited not only for the music you're about to hear, but the hard work all these people put in to tell you an epic story. But turning pages literally like a program was starting to become a little dry.
(The creative opening credits for Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979), The Pink Panther (1963), The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Goldfinger (1964) are shown)
NC (vo): So filmmakers started to add a little bit more excitement. Suddenly, there were pictures, animations, hits of what you were about to see. After a while, the opening credits were becoming an art unto themselves.
NC: In fact, there are even people who made a living creating opening titles.
(Saul Bass' famous opening credits for Vertigo (1958), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Spartacus (1960), and Casino (1995) are followed)
NC (vo): Probably the best-known is Saul Bass, the genius behind It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Spartacus, and several Hitchcock and Scorsese films.
NC: Now, don't get me wrong. Some films still had little to no opening credits at the time, or if they did, they didn't always utilize the artistry of them.
NC (vo): Films like Breakfast Club just show their credits against a black backdrop. How's that supposed to get you excited?
(The footage and opening credits for Batman & Robin is shown)
NC (vo): Some films would do half-and-half. As much as I make fun of Batman & Robin, it is still visually interesting. Super ridiculous, to say the least, but still visually interesting. And the opening titles do a good job getting you hyped up. The music, the visuals, the sound effects, it's surprisingly not half bad.
NC: But then, after the title appears, they're...
NC (vo): ...shoehorned into the corner, and all the while, people are saying dialogue related to the story. It's super distracting, but at least we did have a little bit of the cool titles.
NC: So, you see, while not every movie used credits as an artistic hype train, many of them did.
(Footage of The Lion King is shown)
NC (vo): But then things started to change when a little movie called Lion King came out. It had one of the most amazing openings of all time, singing about the circle of life and displaying its title with a thunderous boom. And fitting with the film's theme, the movie also ended with the title and a thunderous boom, cleverly matching the idea of the circle.
NC: Sadly, though, other films said, (points to camera) "Hey! We want to seem that important!"
(Another montage of films is shown, this one showing the titles at the end of the movies in question, including Wrath of the Titans, Batman Begins, Man of Steel, The Mummy Returns, Tarzan, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Hot Fuzz, and Inception)
NC (vo): So, whether it matched the movie style or not, filmmakers started putting the title at the end. Because we're so damn big and epic, we don't have time for opening credits! We just want to throw you in there! Yeah, that's awesome! Because of this, credit intros became less and less, showing only the title in the opening or even saving that for the end, obviously trying to give the audience a point to applaud. Because, think about it: if you applaud it at the end, that must've meant you had a good time, right? Pay us money to come back and see it again.
NC: This led more and more to opening credits becoming extinct.
(The intro for the movie Superman (1978) is shown, with the title in big blue letters and zooming to the camera in moving space. It is followed by opening credits from Spider-Man 2 (2004), showing the previous movie's still shots separated by lines resembling a web)
NC (vo): Seemingly, no more will epic themes play, immediately connected to the film's identity. No more will clever visuals excite you with what you're about to see without giving too much away.
(The intro for The Incredibles is followed: after the title, we go right to the police car chase)
NC (vo): Now, it's just the title, and the film starts, destroying so much of the movie's build-up.
NC: However, there is a different alternative that's been popping up.
NC (vo): Many movies are now doing the big, epic credit sequences at the end of the film. Movies like The Incredibles, 300 and several of the Marvel films put a surprisingly large amount of effort into making the last thing you see energized and impressive.
NC: In some respects, this does kind of make sense.
(The end credits of Star Trek Into Darkness and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor are also shown)
NC (vo): I mean, why split up the credits into two when you can lump them all together? People also don't have to wait for the movie to start, and you don't have to worry about spoilers. You've already seen it, nothing's gonna be given away. It's kind of like the "best-of" reel.
(The end credits for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and Short Circuit (1986) are followed, with the movies' various still shots/clips serving as the background)
NC (vo): Like, remember in the 80s how they would show you stills from the movie you just saw, trying to remind you of the good times you literally just witnessed?
NC: This is kind of the same thing.
(The clips from ending credits to The Incredibles and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor are shown, with the movie's scenes recreated in credits' visual style)
NC (vo): Yeah, I remember Dash running on water, I remember Violet stopping the bullets. That was cool. This was a fun movie. Even bad films like Mummy 3 can almost have you looking back with fondness. Yeah, those Yetis coming down the mountain were badass!
NC: Wait. No, they weren't; that sucked. But you almost got me there, movie. Good for you.
(The Avengers' closing credits are shown, with a small sequence showing Thanos for the first time in the cinematic universe being shown in the middle of them)
NC (vo): On top of that, some films nowadays have extra endings with the credits. In fact, both Marvel and DC usually throw them, too: one at the end, and one halfway through. So people aren't always walking out during the credits; sometimes, they're staying while great artistry is being displayed.
NC: So, maybe this makes a little bit more sense. Why not go out on a high note after your movie is over?
(Another clip from A Series of Unfortunate Events end credits is shown)
NC (vo): Doesn't it add up more to convince them at the end what a good movie this is, as opposed to the opening?
NC: Well... there's pros and cons to this.
(The ending to Romeo and Juliet (1968) is followed, with the end credits rolling while the movie hasn't even ended properly)
NC (vo): The biggest one being people do leave. Franco Zeffirelli found this out in 1968 with Romeo and Juliet. During the end credits, he chose to have the families seemingly reconcile while going into the church. That's a huge plot point!
NC: But not only are people exiting the theater by this point, but the credits...
NC (vo): ...are blocking half their reactions!
(The screenshots from anime movies Only Yesterday and The Secret World of Arrietty are shown)
NC (vo): A lot of animes do this, too. Movies like Only Yesterday and Arrietty still keep the story going even after the end credits are rolling. What an odd choice. People think the film is over, and they're gonna miss what actually happens at the end!
NC: On top of that, having cool stuff during the credits at the beginning of the film just enhances the rewatchability.
(The opening credits of Bedknobs and Broomsticks are shown again, with the drawings reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry and the grand orchestral music by Irwin Kostal playing)
NC (vo): Every time Bedknobs and Broomsticks starts up, I get excited. Yeah, look at all that cool stuff I'm about to see again! Listen to all that amazing music!
Chorus: (singing) Treguna Mekoides...
NC (vo): Witches battling Nazis! Hell, yeah!
NC: Imagine if Superman opened the same way as Man of Steel.
NC (vo): No titles, no credits, just starting. How does that get you hyped up? It's nothing.
NC: The Superman movie, on the other hand... Look at this!
NC (vo): The credits are whizzing by, you're traveling through space! The music is practically singing his name!
(One more credits clip from Superman (1978) is shown, but this time with another iconic superhero theme playing, composed by John Williams)
NC: (pointing at camera) This is the opening Superman deserves!
(The opening credits to Mars Attacks! (1996) are followed, with multiple UFOs flying in space from Mars to Earth)
NC (vo): Good title sequences can even lead to great scenes in bad movies. I, like a lot of people, wasn't a fan of Mars Attacks. But, holy smokes, the introduction's amazing! All the spaceships surrounding the Earth with both the goofiest and most threatening march playing over it.
(The march in question is heard and is again composed by Danny Elfman)
NC (vo): I went out and bought the soundtrack to this movie. Again, the soundtrack to a film I didn't like. I probably wouldn't even notice the music if it wasn't for this introduction.
NC: Lord of War got mixed reviews, but everyone agrees the opening is phenomenal.
NC (vo): Following a bullet from its construction to being shot is profoundly disturbing. A part of the movie some filmmakers are trying to skip can actually be the best part of the movie. And it never would have happened if you just wanted to start the flick with no credits.
NC: Here's the thing. You know how a lot of people say the film isn't as good as the trailer? Well, this is your chance to have your trailer inside the film!
(The clips from opening credits to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Pink Panther (2006) (an unused CGI version), Catch Me If You Can, and GoldenEye are shown next)
NC (vo): They get you pumped up, excited, and give an imaginative take on the movie that often wouldn't be allowed anywhere else in the film. There's no scenes in James Bond that would call for trippy models flying through the air or shooting guns out of their mouths, but imagery like this is now ingrained with Bond's identity, as well as that famously stylized scene of him turning and shooting.
(The clip from the opening credits for a TV animated movie Kim Possible: So the Drama (2005) is followed)
NC (vo): These are so famous they're used to help create other films' identities.
NC: And none of that would have existed if we just said, (waves off) "Eh, can't we just start the movie?".
NC (vo): Opening powerhouses like 2001 [A Space Odyssey], The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Vertigo would lose a huge part of their identity if this mindset kept going.
NC: But the good news is, it's not entirely extinct yet.
(The montage of the opening titles for comic book movies is shown: Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen (2009), and Spider-Man 3)
NC (vo): In fact, comic book movies, the genre you could argue is moving cool title sequences to the end, also still have some memorable ones today. Watchmen is beautifully dark and poetic.
(The opening for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is shown, with baby Groot dancing cheerfully while the big action is happening in the background)
NC (vo): Guardians of the Galaxy is perfectly strange and bizarre.
(The famous opening to Deadpool is followed, showing everything frozen in "bullet time" and, instead of regular names, the captions like "Some Douchebag's Film", "A Hot Chick" and "Produced by Asshats" are shown)
NC (vo): And Deadpool might take the cake for the most hilarious opening title sequence in years, both satirizing and paying homage to its artistic importance.
NC: I guess what I'm trying to say is not every movie has to have amazing opening credits, but we deserve enough variety that many of them can still exist.
(More credits clips are shown)
NC (vo): Granted, there's great ending title sequences, and there's dull opening title sequences. But the idea that opening credits should be got rid of because they take too much time away is missing a huge part of the film's identity. Can you imagine James Bond, Batman or Deadpool without their opening credits? They're an important piece of the impact a movie can have on you, and phasing them out to save time can steal away some really amazing filmmaking.
NC: So the next time you watch an opening credits sequence wondering when the movie's gonna start, consider the possibility that it already has.
NC (vo): Opening titles are amazing if done right, and can continue to be so if we see their importance. We're not at the point yet where opening credits necessarily suck, as there's still a few out there who know how to start a show. But at the same time, we should encourage ourselves to get to that point, either. If leaving a first impression is as important as they say, then this is a concept that should definitely keep going strong.
(The one last clip from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is shown, showing baby Groot kicking Drax in the back for him to get up while the final opening credit "Written and Directed by James Gunn" fades in)
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)