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Starting with the Ending (1 Viewer)

Do you like when they start a movie with scenes from the ending?


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SamT

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It has been years that I wanted to talk about this. Some movies show scenes from the ending right at the beginning of the movie. This has spread like a virus and many movies do it now and I can't emphasis enough how much I dislike it.

At one time some clever people came up with this idea and used it. Yes it is interesting in some cases but not to this point that everyone uses it and thinks it's clever. No, it's a spoiler and in some cases it is so outrageous that it ruins the ending and hurts the movie.

Right now I don't remember specific examples but when I come across new movies I will post them here.
 

Josh Steinberg

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This is a storytelling technique that predates the movies - it’s called “in medias res” (Latin for “in the middle of things”).

It’s understandably not everyone’s cup of tea but is a storytelling technique as old as storytelling itself.
 

Joe Wong

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I voted "No" because typically I don't like stories that go back in time or show something that has to catch up to the present. It reduces the "suspense" because you know the ending or what's to come. The Star Wars prequel trilogy (which, on its own, to me, was fine, not as good as the OT but not end-of-the-world-bad) is one example. We know the fates of the main players because it has to lead to Episode 4, and that saps the excitement.

For certain film/stories, such a technique can work. Memento (2000) is one example.

EDIT: I think Mission: Impossible 3 (2006) is one of the best in that series, but annoyingly, it opens with a scene from the climactic sequence!
 
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Colin Jacobson

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Depends on the movie, really.

Some do this just because the opening act lacks action so they wanna make sure viewers don't get bored.

"Uncharted" does this. It doesn't open with the ending, but the first scene takes place much later in the movie and then the story plays catch-up from there.

In that case, I didn't think it served a purpose beyond "gee, there's no real action in the movie for a while - we'd better throw the audience a bone!"

But sometimes, the "tease" can be effective.
 

bujaki

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Sunset Boulevard, anyone?
Frankly, I don't care how the author uses the method to tell the story, as long as the story is told well.
@Josh Steinberg , your definition of "in media res" is accurate, but it does not mean starting at the end, as in Sunset Boulevard. It would require starting somewhere in the "middle of the story," go into an elaborate flashback, and then proceed to the end.
 

John Dirk

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Like all powerful tools, this is a masterful technique in the right hands and a downright turn off when not. I believe Quentin Tarantino to be the best modern implementor but I'm open to discussion. :cool:
 

JohnRice

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It's far too simplistic to just say this is a good or bad thing. With a skilled writer, it's good. With a lazy one, it's bad. The greatest writer in the English language, if not any language, William Shakespeare, did it in what's probably the greatest story of all time, Romeo and Juliet. It's certainly the most adapted, imitated, and just plain ripped off story of all time. It not only starts after everything has already happened, but basically summarizes the story at the beginning. So, either opinion can be "proven" by an endless string of choices.

The Usual Suspects is a good example of where it's used effectively. There are plenty of other examples.

So, I like it when it's used creatively, which it often is.
 

Reggie W

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I think as with all writing tricks or techniques it depends upon how you use it or want to use it. I like the idea for certain things and it really kind of depends on how it serves the story.

In a TV series for example, I've always liked the idea of using more than one timeline and then having them converge. In a film I think you need to be very definitive on how you would employ this because you are working in a shorter timeframe and need to leave the audience feeling they understand the way time is used in the film.

I think it is common to begin at the end and then go back and tell the tale of how you got there.
 

jayembee

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Interesting. I voted "yes", and so far (with 4 votes) it's 50-50. I voted "yes" because far more often than not, it's a storytelling technique that's used well. It also depends on what you consider the technique involved is telling us. Citizen Kane starts with Kane's death. Technically, you could say that right off the bat, we know he's dead, and the movie then proceeds to tell us the story of Kane prior to his death. Does that count? I'd say "no", because the movie isn't really about how he died.

Titanic also, in a sense, starts with the end. But what Cameron was doing was creating a story about the Titanic that wasn't just about the sinking of the ship, but was saying that decades of myth about the ship, and trying to find where it lay, is as much a part of the story as the sinking itself.

I have to (slightly) disagree with Reggie on one point, though. A TV series can be problematic in this regard. A recent series, the Western 1883 does the in media res thing, with the viewer wondering about the fates of the characters. The problem then becomes wondering when the storyline will catch up to that moment. It could've been a couple of episodes in, it could've been at the season finale. It could be three seasons later. That makes the experience very frustrating.
 

cinemiracle

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ALL ABOUT EVE anyone? I never care if the ending is given at the beginning as it is not rare in cinema. It is the story that counts and how it reaches the climax. I just hate films that are predictable and there have been too many of them in recent years. I remember a film in recent years that told you the ending in the poster so no need to even see the film. Forgot the name but the poster really told you how stupid the person was who designed the poster. It may have been WHAT LIES BENEATH? Not sure but it may have been a similar title that was a question but the offending poster gave you the answer.
 

maxfabien

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Ironically, three nominees for Best Picture of 1950 use this technique, "All About Eve", "Sunset Boulevard". and "Father of the Bride".
 
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ALL ABOUT EVE anyone? I never care if the ending is given at the beginning as it is not rare in cinema. It is the story that counts and how it reaches the climax. I just hate films that are predictable and there have been too many of them in recent years. I remember a film in recent years that told you the ending in the poster so no need to even see the film. Forgot the name but the poster really told you how stupid the person was who designed the poster. It may have been WHAT LIES BENEATH? Not sure but it may have been a similar title that was a question but the offending poster gave you the answer.
Couldn't agree more. What Lies Beneath though is a different situation entirely. And based on the LCD. Robert Zemeckis has said he does give the ending away even in the trailers because marketing has confirmed that the American public want to know what they're getting for their money (and you can look at trailers dating all the way back to the thirties for this). Even knowing the ending, even for a thriller. Which seems moronic, but there it is. There are a lot of people who flip to the end of a book when reading so they won't be anxious about the characters and outcome. But that's a completely different dynamic to what we're talking about here.

As to the original post, I was a bit shocked at how simplistic and forest for the trees it was, especially in a forum like this. And no-one has really got into the reasons it's done. It's all about storytelling, structure, and character. Not just playing with timelines. Not "spoilers" (I hate spoilers, but again that's more about everything and everyone outside the movie itself). The reason it's done is a storytelling challenge, and just another way to skin a cat. Why on earth would Lawrence of Arabia do this?! Considering it's about someone we already know (well, no-one much mentions a classic like that these days when talking story templates for say Avatar but I digress) is dead? And was real? Makes "no sense" right? Or yes Titanic or Eve (how can we get the breadth of her journey otherwise, it just becomes more linear and literal) or whatever.

It's precisely because the challenge is to draw the characters well enough and make them fully formed and sympathetic enough that we care. Despite the titanic (sorry) elephant in the room, fate. That we hope desperately for a different outcome, or understand the nobility if it's one of sacrifice, and so on. It sets a challenge for the story and the acting, direction, everything. It introduces a different type of storytelling dynamic, one of a particular type of tension.

And it's not like it's only popular now either. What about entire genres like Noir? What about that third act outcome when the character doesn't/won't learn - tragedy? Inevitability? Fate! It's hard to achieve a character note of poignance if everything is chance. I'm just sort of flabbergasted. These are basic cinematic/storytelling building blocks.

And yep, the most succinct example is as John said. The very opening. "From forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventured piteous overthrows do with their death bury their parents' strife." Does that mean the whole thing is ruined, that there's no drama and it's a spoiler that ruins the story/movie? Nope. It makes all the events have meaning and stakes. And with a few lines we're already hooked and sympathetic.

Even this "fourth wall" technique which people always complain about as being a fairly modern conceit, is not (I agree Sunset Boulevard is a great one).

Anyway yes, I vote yes. When it's done well it achieves something more poignant than just a linear telling of the same events. And it's not the same thing as intercutting timelines or the Rashomon thing of different versions of the truth either. Anyway, my long-winded 2c.
 

kufufan

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This is a storytelling technique that predates the movies - it’s called “in medias res” (Latin for “in the middle of things”).

It’s understandably not everyone’s cup of tea but is a storytelling technique as old as storytelling itself.
You are certainly right that "in medias res" as a storytelling device goes way back. Homer's Odyssey a case in point. Even the original concept for" Star Wars" was designed with that in mind, as Lucas' plan was for nine films (which eventually happened). Subsequently, "Star Wars"was eventually given its original subtitle "Episode IV: A New Hope", and thus, the" Star Wars" saga does indeed begin "in the midst of things". However, starting out in the middle of the story is not the same as beginning with the end which was the point the original poster was making.
 

Alan_H

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I voted 'No". I'm with the OP - I strongly dislike it.

Are there really good movies that have used this technique? Absolutely.

But, to me, in most cases the movie would have been even better without it.

I'll admit I'm highly sensitive to spoilers, though. I absolutely never watch theatrical trailers of a movie before I've seen it. After watching the movie, I enjoy watching the trailer to see how the movie was marketed and what scenes were chosen to be shown.
 

SamT

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The original question and the poll is not about if it is done well. If something is done well, it's done well and it's artful. There is no discussion.

The question is if it is generalized and is used on a regular basis. I don't know what example to give, like fading to black. Like using a dissolve to show the passage of time. Or hear the voice of a new scene before the new sequence starts. (Do they still do that? I have not paid close attention!).
 

SamT

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The Last Duel (2021) - Ridley Scott

I finally remembered a movie. The beginning is so badly done and it goes for so long that it is one of the major reasons I dislike this movie so much. They show the end duel right at the beginning. That is not a tease. That is the reward we should get at the end of the movie. We should not see even one image in advance, to know what will happen and how their relationship changes.
 

Colin Jacobson

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You are certainly right that "in medias res" as a storytelling device goes way back. Homer's Odyssey a case in point. Even the original concept for" Star Wars" was designed with that in mind, as Lucas' plan was for nine films (which eventually happened). Subsequently, "Star Wars"was eventually given its original subtitle "Episode IV: A New Hope", and thus, the" Star Wars" saga does indeed begin "in the midst of things". However, starting out in the middle of the story is not the same as beginning with the end which was the point the original poster was making.

"Star Wars" was neither "Episode IV" nor "A New Hope" when initially released. Those got added later:

 

Colin Jacobson

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Couldn't agree more. What Lies Beneath though is a different situation entirely. And based on the LCD. Robert Zemeckis has said he does give the ending away even in the trailers because marketing has confirmed that the American public want to know what they're getting for their money (and you can look at trailers dating all the way back to the thirties for this). Even knowing the ending, even for a thriller.

IIRC, Zemeckis wanted his trailers to show pretty much everything except for the ending.

That was the case for "Contact" and I'm still bitter! :D

My then-girlfriend was dying to see it, and we managed to get into an early preview like a month before the final release date.

As I watched, I kept waiting for information I didn't already know from the trailer.

And waiting.

And waiting.

The ads for "Contact" didn't give away the actual conclusion, but they revealed like 85% of the movie's story - maybe more.

And I think "WLB" and "Castaway" were the same.

Annoying!
 

Waldo Lydecker

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I voted “yes” because this contrivance can be quite effective. “All About Eve” not withstanding, Mackiewicz’s “A Letter to Three Wives” is also a good example of the genre. I think that it’s use is especially effective when combined with a “Roshoman Effect”…
 

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