Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Superman: The Movie Intro & Opening Titles

superman_the_movie

My generous colleague, Ruth of Flixchatter, kicks off her countdown this week for likely the most anticipated film of the year, Man of Steel.

ManofSteelCountdown

She offered moi a chance to contribute to the endeavor since we’re both big fans of the progenitor for the modern comic superhero film, Superman: The Movie. That will land on Thursday.

Today is my appreciation for one of my favorite opening title sequences, and one of best, from this movie.

It’s common for films to offer an introduction, a preamble to the start of their movie credits. Mark of MarkMovies covered the now almost legendary I Don’t Tip scene from Reservoir Dogs that preceded the film’s title sequence, for example. One that made use of the fun 1969 ditty, Little Green Bag.

The unexpected one crafted for this 1978 blockbuster was decidedly quieter and shorter, but no less vital.

A lone horn heralded not only the curtain parting, but John Williams storybook prelude at its start. The sound of an old projector in tandem with the Action Comics opening and a young boy’s narration recalled the newsreels of long ago and the comic book character’s Depression Era heritage.

Really, a wonderful touch as noted by Mark Engblom.

So, too, this small segment was presented in the traditional four-by-three aspect ratio of Silent Film and old television. The latter harked back to the character’s original TV programs. It’s at this point, the sequence pivoted. Transitioning into, frame within frame, the comic book itself.

A venerable Daily Planet Building the centerpiece, and where the sequence really got going.

The view tilted upward to a blackened sky and the full moon, the imagery taking the scene off visually. Vaulting passed our closest celestial body through to the universe. A seamless spot where it shook off the standard ratio shackles into wide-screen splendor. Thus, keying the famed beginning that was the film’s credits.

This noted sequence, designed by R. Greenberg and Associates, done entirely without computer graphics, followed a distinct translucent, symbolic motif.

The swooshing main title images — a clear reference to the main character — cut across the screen, surely augmented by Williams’ heroic score, to lead the way in the segment. Each title thrown toward the audience. Building up, along with the conductor’s theme music, a dramatic momentum in the sequence.

That is, until it reached a part that still resounds in me, even all these years later.

The entry for the film’s still quite impressive icon as it plumed on to the screen: the stylized red-letter S of the superhero’s family crest. Not only visually and musically striking, its appearance reversed the direction the graphics then followed. They’d all race away from viewers at this moment, with some old-fashioned camera-captured effects melded in.

It remains a remarkable superhero introduction on film, then or now.

I recommend reading Benjamin Wright’s wonderful piece on this sequence and how opening titles have evolved since this seminal film, Death of the Title Sequence.

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29 Responses to “Superman: The Movie Intro & Opening Titles”

  1. Fogs' Movie Reviews

    That IS a pretty legendary opening, there’s no doubt about it. Even though visual effects have passed it by, its still classic, clean and atrractive. Plus that theme song is awesome. I wish they would keep it for every Superman movie!

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    • le0pard13

      “…pretty legendary opening”, yes indeed. Fits it to a tee, Fogs. You’ll get no argument from me from your observation, my friend. Many thanks.

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  2. Paula

    It’s been quite a long time since I saw this movie, but I think it is such a good combination of form and function…we get the names in a totally Supes-appropriate way. This may be the granddaddy of them all structure-wise. I’m thinking of ARGO; it had great titles and intro, structured quite similarly to this.

    Also I love how you have those little comments “in the margin.” (I have “aside” as a type of post, but it doesn’t seem any different from a regular post.)

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    • le0pard13

      Oooh, keen observation about ‘Argo’s opening titles. That one was splendidly done. Concise real history with great titles. I agree with you about its heritage, Paula. Great comment. Many thanks.

      p.s., those comments in the margin, referred to as sidenotes by the developer, are purely a function of the Watson theme I converted to this year. It’s a great type/writing feature that helped me select this particular premium theme.

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  3. ruth

    Great post, Michael!! Thrilled that you’re joining the Super-festivities 😀 There are so many iconic things in Donner’s Superman, the performances, the song, right down to this opening sequence which remains awesome to this day. It’s incredible that it was ‘done entirely without computer graphics’ WOW! But yeah, the symbolism and the ‘S’ treatment is striking in its simplicity. I somehow just realized it only says SUPERMAN, not SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. I guess we all know obviously we’re watching a movie, ahah.

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    • le0pard13

      Thanks, Ruth. I’m so happy you invited me to participate in this wonderful countdown.

      “I somehow just realized it only says SUPERMAN, not SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.”

      Well, to be fair at one time (for us oldsters, anyway) Richard Donner’s film did have that title on its posters. In fact, Christopher Reeve did point out those two little words:
      Superman: The Movie
      🙂

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  4. Mark Walker

    Great post Michael, and thanks for the linkage. I’ve been away from blogging for a bit so it’s always nice to return and find that I’m still around – even when I’m not. 😉

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  5. Morgan R. Lewis

    It really is a fantastic opening sequence. Great graphical look, and fantastic music from John Williams — one of his better pieces, I think. It’s no wonder that it was so often imitated afterwards.

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  6. 70srichard

    The opening narration from a comic book and the clicking of the film reel, provide a perfect nostalgic set up for the film. The movie will have humor, but not at the expense of the story or lead character. The 70s vibe from contemporary films falls away as we rise to the sky, and the swooshing titles and credits are sincere and lack irony. This may be a movie to parody but it is not a parody itself. The perfection that is the John Williams theme propels us into this world with hope and anticipation. Let’s hope Man of Steel can do half as well.

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    • le0pard13

      Hear, hear. Did you see the most recent trailer for Man of Steel? Caught it again today right before Fast & Furious 6. They’re building it up pretty good of late. We’ll see 😉

      Thanks, Richard.

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  7. Alan

    I Love Superman. This is the best opening title sequence for me,,i was only 14 when i went to the movies to see this ..The swooshing and bass sound titles they made as they came from behind the screen to rush off into space with John Williams’s Awesome score !..Even today i still get goosebumps just with the opening credits ,,a thumbs up from me (y)

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    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Welcome and thanks for that, Alan. Yeah, this really is something special, especially if like you or me it was seen first-run on the big screen. Still gives me chills, too. 😀

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      • Alan

        Cheers leOpard ,nice to meet u,them credits were ahead of their time,and for me ,there was only 1 man of Steel to wear that cape, Christopher Reeve,dont get me wrong but Superman’s my favorite hero and to this day they’ve never found some 1 similar ,he well suited and played the part excellently

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