Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Zombieland (2009) Opening Scene Analysis
The opening begins with a 'fade from black' transition to a canted angle which leads into a long shot of a man characterized as a zombie running towards the camera, proceeding to launch himself onto the man holding the camera and begins to eat him. Over the top of this filming, is a voice over narrative which personally confers with the audience and welcomes them to the 'united states of Zombieland'. This narrative interacts with the audience to invite them to continue to watch the film and also sets up the context of the film; America no longer exists without people now it is plagued with zombies. Straight away, in this shot, the feel of the film to continue is introduced and the genre is clear; what at first could appear as a horror is actually a comedy (emphasized by the zombie burping comically). This may surprise the audience which is effective as it withholds their attention as the opening leads to the next cut due to the feel of the film being less than standard. The opening, as well as being a long shot, is also a hand held shot. We get a point of view perspective through the characters eyes as they are filming what they are seeing. This is effective as it increases the feel of fear as the zombie makes attack. With the hand held shot, we also get a wider perspective of the surroundings of destruction; the destroyed NYPD car reflects the strength of the zombies against an armed force and also contributes to the contextual idea of the end of a safe human race which is now taken over by zombies. As well as the narrative being placed over the footage, there is also music used to create an atmosphere and add more depth and drama to the opening to reel in the attention of the viewer. The music is significant because it is the American anthem in guitar; suggesting America has become an edgier place now it is ridden with plagues of Zombies.
The next cut is an establishing shot which zooms out from the previous cut to view Earth from space. It is covered in cracks and fire; implying the devastation that has caused wrath upon the world from the break out of Zombies. The voice over from the previous cut continues into this clip creating a sound bridge. The narrator adds a comedic touch (describing things as being a 'total shitstorm') which, although the sound is non-diagetic, begins to introduce the main character to the audience and create a likeability about them. The camera then zooms back down onto Earth to continue into the next cut; the narrator begins to guide the audience through his rules of survival. This particular cut ends when the next clip begins with a stereotypical obese man running through a sports stadium (ironically) by a zombie. The establishing shot of the world would have been created using CGI; making the best of a Hollywood budget by using high quality new media technology.
The following cut begins on a long shot; showing the obese man and zombie in the surroundings of the sports stadium. This shows the interaction between the two characters with the zombie chasing the man in hope of eating him. Over the top of the footage is text which would have been placed over during the editing process. The text says 'Rule # 1: Cardio' which relates to the introduction of the main characters rules. The text is in white and green which matches the colour of the sports stadium field; this reflects that colour design has been considered. Slow motion is used as the characters are running creating a comical touch with the medium close up onto the 'fatty' as he screams. The slow motion ends as the zombie attacks the man onto the floor and begins to eat him which emphasises the pace of the zombies and the fast pace of the film. The voice over continues and again interacts with the audience as he commentates on the zombie attack with the words 'poor fat bastard'. This would evoke laughter from the audience which again increases the likeability of the character talking off-screen.
The next cut is of two cars colliding in an urban landscape with ambient sound of voices and traffic to establish the scene and environment. The scene is chaotic as cars are driven manically and zombies appear from everywhere. The camera follows one zombie dressed in uniform which is almost ironic increasing the comedic feel of this opening scene; the zombie attempts attack on an armed woman who consequently shoots him down, however, he manages to attack her after she does not follow the rule of 'double tap'. This rule, like the previous, is also shown in text over the video footage. The text is in the colours white and yellow this time; again reflecting the detail of this opening scene as colour design has been considered, matching the white and yellow to the amber traffic light and white lines on the roads. The text follows behind the zombie and when he is shot, blood splatters onto the letters (this reflects that the Hollywood budget has been invested into CGI use to add more interest). A lot of various shot types are used in this particular cut using short takes to add a quicker pace and more interest for the viewer (if there was not a lot of shot types used the perspective would stay the same and this would lose interest from the viewers). The lighting in this scene is fairly low key but uses natural light and the weather is dreary, making use of pathetic fallacy to emphasizes the apocalyptic situation to hand. The sound bridge also continues through this scene and adds comedic value through the narrator commenting on the ladies fate as 'becoming a human happy meal'.
The following clip is of an average guy 'taking a dumper' in an unclean and grim bathroom (the uncleanliness and grim feel to the bathroom is heightened through the obvious use of set design but also though low key lighting). The camera shows the character as it moves over the top of the cubicle and settles into a high angled shot creating an invasive feel and adds to the tension of what the audience knows is to come; another zombie attack. The camera then moves into a medium close up as the man notices the zombie crawling under the cubicle and then cuts to show the zombie, then finally cutting back to create a reaction shot of the man realizing his fate as the zombie attacks. As the camera moves out of the cubicle, the text of the third rule is then shown; 'Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms'. As done before, the colour design has been considered in the text as the red text blends with the blood and the larger, bolder text is the same colour as the bathroom interior. This creates a professional look as the text references the particular clip so it doesn't look haphazard and random. The narrative voice over still continues as a sound bridge into this scene so the audience starts to become attached to the main character which again ensures that the viewers attention is kept so intrigue to continue watching is ensured.
The fifth scene is of a stereotypical American mum making an hasty escape from zombie children ironically dressed up as princesses. However, in her emotional state and panic she forgets to fasten her seat belt resulting in her flying out the windscreen and making a collision with the road. The scene begins with the shot taken in the car which is a close up firstly on the woman's shaky hands struggling to start the car up with the keys and then a medium close up which shows her screaming reaction. The The shot type then changes to a long shot which shows the suburban house with a bouncy castle outside and the children crowding around the car. The clip then cuts back into the car and once again shows the woman hastily closing the window as zombies try to pursue her by smacking bloody hands on the glass. The woman then manages to drive off, and the camera shows the boot of the car which zombie girls hang from, desperate to reach the meat, and ironically has a sign on reading 'My kid is an honor student'. This adds to the comedy of the opening and again reestablishes the comedy genre of the movie. When the car crashes and the woman fly's out, slow motion has been used through editing to emphasize the reaction of the woman. As she slides across the wood with a trail of blood behind, the shot is high angled. This is when the text reading 'Rule #4: Seatbelts' appears, once again matching the surrounding colour scheme. Again, as in the other scene, the comedic sound bridge narrative continues, building the audiences relationship with the main character.
Between the previous cut and the following cut, an obvious 'fade to black' transition is used, creating a divide between the introduction scenes and the opening credits. All of the 15 clips during the opening credits make use of slow motion and each cut super imposes upon one another making a smooth linking transition between each. The opening credits are exciting because the people interact with the credits eg. the first clip shows a man falling and his hand hits a letter causing it to move. This makes it feel as if the credits are part of the actual scenes, adding a realism feel. Irony is continued through these clips as in one a man claims that 'the end is near' whilst being pursued by a crowd of zombies; again reestablishing the comedy genre to be expected of the film. The slow motion editing also emphasizes the scenarios of each clips and the reactions which again, increases the comedy. The credits font is bold and in red suggesting relation to the colour of blood and fitting to the theme. There is a sound track over the top of this which is heavy metal music relating to the 'hardcore' gore and edginess of the film; adding a different feel to the standard zombie or comedy film. Because there are a lot of clips shown in this opening credits sequence it is montage editing; the process of compiling short shots into a sequence to condense space, time and information. The composition of each of the clips are quite dramatic with lots of special effects such as fire, gore and more. It is obvious there has been a lot of money invested into the making of the film as they could afford to a make a really dramatic and exciting opening sequence.
Overall, I think this has to be one of my all time favourite film openings as even though the short duration of it is 4:31 minutes, so much goes on such as introducing the survival rules, having the opening credits, setting up the genre and context and more. Also, a lot of clever editing techniques and shot types have been used to add interest to the film and a lot of exciting set design and composition is involved as well. I will be referring this when developing ideas for my film opening.
Posted by ameliaguchi at 10:14