Title sequence designs for films has evolved immensely over the years. Title sequences can range from bland black backgrounds with superimposed text over it to simply identify the film (which was the sole purpose in the first place) or they could be wildly creative and fun. The truth of the matter is that a title sequence also speaks volumes about the movie itself before it begins.
Ever since the beginning of cinematography, practical title cards were used to tailor silent films for the sole purpose of identifying the production parties involved in creating the motion picture as well as to signal when the film began and finished. When the invention of motion picture sound arrived, it did very little to alter this early trend except by adding a musical prelude of sorts to accompany the title sequence itself.
It wasn’t until the late 1950s in which the title sequence became an artistic showcase of creative design and illustration in addition to identifying the film. The best examples, and perhaps the biggest inspirations, of this craft are the title sequences of Saul Bass and Maurice Binder. Hollywood has since moved on with bigger and better ways to do title sequences; Kyle Cooper’s memorable title sequence for David Fincher’s 1995 film “Seven” is a much appreciated one and a very influential example at best.
Title sequences can make or break movies, they are the first impressions of their own shows, not just a bland identification report. So if we are spoon-fed a boring black background with superimposed text over it for a romantic comedy, then I guess we can expect a less-than-stellar romantic comedy. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, this method can work if it adds something unique to it like the title sequence for “The Breakfast Club” which had the great soundtrack along with the glass shattering.
Bland backgrounds with superimposed text aren’t the only indicators of a bad film though. In most recent cases, there’s “Terminator: Salvation” which tried its best to mimic the title sequence of the first film but failed miserably. What went wrong? The biggest factor was the soundtrack – Highly disappointing; they tried to update the ‘Terminator’ theme which they shouldn’t have and it ended up sounding like the opening of a Tom Clancy video game. And guess what? The movie pretty much played out like a video game of sorts.
On a more positive note, the title sequences for “The Dark Knight” and “2012” are superbly done. Both of these films contain suspense, great build-up, and outstanding visuals and sound that compliment each of these individual films. One director who never fails to deliver a great title sequence (or a great film for that matter) is mastermind James Cameron with his signature title sequences being “The Terminator” and “Aliens”.
Sequels are a major category that is affected negatively. A sequel’s title sequence should somehow be in sync with its past counterparts. Three good examples of this are: “Live Free or Die Hard” – What is this, a continuation of the ‘Die Hard’ franchise or a tech savvy spy thriller? Great job, Len Wiseman, you messed up on your first impression; “Alien Resurrection” – This could have been a perfect opportunity to mimic the title sequence of the second film but no they wanted to keep it simple with some gory images and cheesy music; Aside from the horrid “Terminator: Salvation”, there’s also “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” – Watch the title sequences of all three movies in order and you will notice that a trend has been broken and you are now about to watch a totally different film and that is very alarming in this case, the first two films presented their titles in such an epic spectacle but the third film puts zero effort into this and simply displays the title, how exciting.
Being an avid moviegoer, I often see more and more poorly done title sequences nowadays. It’s disgusting and it shows laziness. So the next time you go to the movies, be in the theater or on television, study its title sequence and you will have an idea of what the rest of the film will be like.