Saturday, January 30, 2010

Narration, narration, narration...

I love Terminator 2. It's seriously one of my favorite movies. Oh I whine and gripe about it all the time; from the acting to the time travel, I've probably complained about it at least once to my family members, who usually just nod their heads sympathetically and wonder why on earth I had to be related to them. But I do genuinely like the movie.

One of the things I like the most about it is how it does something correctly that so many movies do wrong: opening and closing narration. The movie opens with Sarah Connor narrating the history of things that have been and those that have yet to come. It ends with her acknowledging that she no longer knows what's going to happen in the future anymore. The two narrations play off each other and relate to one another and the theme of the movie, effectively bookending the film. It's quite lovely. And there's even a moment or two of narration within the body of the movie itself!

There are far too many movies out there that have opening narration, but then seem to forget it in the end. Granted, a lot of times, the narration is just to get the viewer up to speed on whatever happened in the past so they can enjoy the movie without having to see all the history leading up to the events of the movie (for example: The Dark Crystal). After the movie, the viewers are usually left to draw their own conclusions about what comes after, or it's being shown on screen and how lame is it to have something narrated to you as you are watching it happen? Pretty lame and usually completely unnecessary. I mean, in the beginning, you haven't seen any of these people or places or events before, so an introduction can be nice. By the end, however, you've been following these events for two hours and you are fairly familar with what is going down. A narrative can feel redundant unless done correctly.

But a movie done with narration in the beginning and none in the end feels so lopsided to me. I just watched Pitch Black recently (and actually enjoyed it more after the second or third watching than I did the first) and there is this great noir-type narration in the beginning by Riddick that isn't followed through anywhere else in the film. It's great narration, but the more I look at it, the less it fits with the portrayal of the character anywhere else in the film. He's an enigma in the film, both the villain and something of a hero, and you never really know what he is thinking. It's part of what makes him so badass. The narration gets you inside his head. It's badass as well, but a different tone of badass. The more I watch it, the less it seems to gel with the rest of the movie. And, to make matters worse, it is never reprised anywhere.

Yeah, it bothers me. If you have narration at the beginning of your film (this is more of a film trope in my experience), then at least try to reprise it or follow it up somehow in the end of the film. It just makes the whole experience that much more balanced. And if you can't do that, can you try doing it without narration at all? And if you can't do that, at least get someone like David Odgen Stiers to do your narration (like in Beauty and the Beast).

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