Created By: rick777 on December 22, 2010 Last Edited By: rick777 on December 25, 2010
Troped

Dramatic Chase Opening

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Trope
(Picture caption: As easy as 1-2-3!)

Rolling Updates. Needs More Examples.

Frank Pollard wakes up in an alley at night, filled with confusion and fear. He knows nothing but his name, and that he must escape fast, or else he will be killed. Pursued by a mysterious assailant, Frank barely escapes with his life.

It's dark, and possibly rainy. The faint streetlights get reflected on the small puddles on the street. A shadow appears on the brick wall, and a foot disturbs the reflections: Someone's running, possibly wounded but always unarmed, and he's desperate to find somewhere to hide. The same puddle is stepped on by two or more armed agents, or perhaps an unseen terror. A few moments later, the scene comes to a conclusion, and the Opening Credits roll.

The Dramatic Chase Opening is more than just a Chase Scene: It's specifically Played for Drama, and designed to introduce the good guy and/or the bad guy(s). The circumstances strongly favor the pursuers: The pursued person has no vehicle; the illumination is poor; the weather can be foggy, snowy or raining. If the chase is in the streets, it's often played in a ghetto filled with dark alleys (bonus points if the chase continues in the sewers). The person being chased could be a civilian with an average or bad physical condition. Since it's the beginning of the movie/series and Anyone Can Die, a broken heel has a stronger effect on the viewer.

To take the drama Up to Eleven, the victim often looks vulnerable: Scared to death; always underpowered and outnumbered; little or no experience in hand-to-hand combat, or otherwise at great disadvantage (i.e. wounded or with just a few bullets left); and very probably the last survivor of an evil experiment tested on humans, an ethnic cleansing, or the witness to a crime. Frequently it's a child, a Damsel in Distress, or someone carrying a young child. In a school setting, expect the Woobie to be chased by a Gang of Bullies. It could also be a common burglar fleeing justice or something worse.

The Dramatic Chase Opening doesn't necessarily need to the the first scene in a movie or series. It can be delayed a couple of scenes so we get a brief intro on the victim or hero.

Possible scene endings include, but are not limited to:

  • He is shot and killed (common in Crime and Punishment Series)
  • He is shot and survived
  • He found somewhere to hide
  • He gets rescued by a partner
  • He gets rescued by someone else (common in martial arts movies)
  • He gets rescued by something else
  • He gets killed by something else (common in horror movies)
  • He gets captured
  • He falls off a cliff and dies
  • He is thrown off a cliff and dies
  • He falls off a cliff and the bad guys think him dead
  • He finds a vehicle, turning this into a high speed chase.
  • He finds a weapon or mysterious device to survive
  • He is the weapon (see Mugging the Monster)
  • and so on...

Subtrope of Action Prologue and Chase Scene. Can lead into Pursued Protagonist (a Chase Scene where the protagonist gives an item or message to the real Hero), but not always. Can overlap with Broken Heel and Blind Alley.


Examples

Anime and Manga

  • AKIRA has a mutant child running away from the military until he has a high speed collision with Tetsuo.
  • The little ghost girl in Bleach episode 1 is running from a giant Hollow. Just when she trips and falls, Rukia appears and vanquishes the monster.
  • In Blood: The Last Vampire, an old man in a subway is pursued by a mysterious girl holding a Katana, just as the subway lights begin to flicker. He runs wagon after wagon until he's cornered and finally killed. Turns out he was a vampire in disguise and the girl's a vampire hunter.
  • Darker Than Black opens up with a Contractor (a superpowered human) being chased by a bunch of cops. This being the first time the officers had seen a Contractor, they are no match for him.
  • Innocent Venus is such a textbook example that it was used for the trope image. Venus and her older companion are running away from a totalitarian government, first in street alleys, and then in subway tunnels. They're about to get killed until a mysterious hero comes to the rescue. The scene includes puddle splashing, Twisted Ankle, convenient decoy cat, and underground chase.
  • Mnemosyne opens with Rin being chased over the streets, a stairwell, and a rooftop before finally getting killed by Laura. This is used to establish both Rin's Immortality and the gory style of the series.
  • Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin begins with an agent being chased by a monster in the middle of the forest under a full moon. The flying monster is about to catch him when he gets to a teleport gate he just requested via cellphone. The teleporter receives... his right arm.
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index has several examples of this.
    • The first scene of episode 1 shows Touma being chased by a gang of crooks, before he narrates a brief summary of his unfortunate life.
    • In episode 10, we see Misaka well, one of her clones trying to snipe a level 5 criminal. When she fails miserably, she panics and runs away a few blucks, but he's already blocking her exit, and he's got an evil grin on his face.
    • In episode 1 of Season 2, we have a crook running away from Kuroko (an antiskill agent) right before he's captured.

Video Games

  • Delphine Software's Flashback: The Quest for Identity starts with the camera focusing on the feet of the fleeing protagonist and his captors. This is followed by a flying bike chase.
  • Mega Man Zero starts with Ciel and her La Résistance running away from the Neo Arcadian troops to a secret lab which contains the sealed Zero.
  • Ocarina Of Time starts with Link's Prophetic Dream about Zelda fleeing from Ganondorf.
  • Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within starts with the Prince running away from the Dahaka.

Film
  • The opening chase with Trinity and the agents in The Matrix.
  • The movie Never Ending Story has a brief intro before this. Then the chase scene ends up with Bastian seeking refuge in a library and finding the Never Ending Story book.
  • In the 2009 film State of Play, a thief is fleeing through Washington, D.C. and is shot by a man carrying a briefcase. A pizza delivery man who witnesses the incident is also shot by the killer and is left in a coma.

Live-Action TV

  • CSI.
  • Subverted in the 1985 series The Equalizer: The intro is a collection of dramatic chase openings, but they're so many that they get switched before the actual chases begin.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Return of The Archons". It starts with Lieutenant Sulu and another crewman running from some pursuers in a city street. Sulu contacts the Enterprise for an emergency beam-up but the Enterprise crew takes too long and Sulu is affected by one of the aliens' weapons. The other crewman gets away, but is later caught and affected as well.
  • Subverted with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It has been known to open with Buffy running away from vamps, but it's always to get somewhere private so she can stake them without an audience. Subverted in that we already know who's going to get killed.

Literature

Western Animation
  • Disney's The Fox and the Hound opens with a mother fox and her kit being chased by hunters. The mother hides her child (our hero, Tod) and leads the hunters away, eventually being shot dead.
  • Jonny Quest
    • "Dragons of Ashida". Starts with a native running away from the title monsters.
    • "The Fraudulent Volcano". Starts with a man escaping from an underground installation and being pursued by armed guards in hovercraft.

Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • December 22, 2010
    foxley
    Octopussy opens with 009 being pursued by a pair of knife-throwing twins, finally crashing into the British embassay before dying.
  • December 22, 2010
    rick777
    This can overlap with Pursued Protagonist. Should I leave this here? Or is Pursued Protagonist a *particular* case of this trope?

  • December 23, 2010
    ZombieAladdin
    Darker Than Black opens up with a Contractor (a superpowered human) being chased by a bunch of cops. This being the first time the officers had seen a Contractor, they are no match for him.
  • December 23, 2010
    DAN004
    This can lead into Pursued Protagonist, but not always.
  • December 23, 2010
    Arivne
    This appears to be the first paragraph of Pursued Protagonist. All of the examples on that page that don't match the rest of that trope ("handing over something to the real Hero") could be split off into this trope.
  • December 23, 2010
    Bisected8
    CSI New York has a lampshading. A cold opening has Flack chasing a burglar who interrupted his date and fled in a James Bond style car in a borrowed cab. After the credits have rolled he's chewed out by the undersheriff;
    Sinclair: You know, the NYPD has a strict policy against high-speed chases. Or did you forget that?
    Flack: No, sir.
    Sinclair: The next time you want to run up a $60 cab fare, you do that on your own time. You're lucky no one got hurt.
  • December 23, 2010
    DAN004
    Video Games
    • Mega Man Zero starts with Ciel and her La Resistance running away from the Neo Arcadian troops to a secret lab which contains the sealed Zero.
  • December 23, 2010
    rick777
    @Arivne: You're right. Perhaps Pursued Protagonist should have to be renamed to "Pursued Herald".
  • December 24, 2010
    Arivne
    Literature
    Frank Pollard wakes up in an alley at night, filled with confusion and fear. He knows nothing but his name, and that he must escape fast, or else he will be killed. Pursued by a mysterious assailant, Frank barely escapes with his life.

    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series episode "The Return of The Archons". It starts with Lieutenant Sulu and another crewman running from some pursuers in a city street. Sulu contacts the Enterprise for an emergency beam-up but the Enterprise crew takes too long and Sulu is affected by one of the aliens' weapons. The other crewman gets away, but is later caught and affected as well.

    Western Animation

    The Wild Wild West and The Matrix film examples on Pursued Protagonist fit better here.
  • December 24, 2010
    PaleHorse87
    Literature

    Live Action TV
    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer has been known to open with Buffy running away from vamps. Usually done to get to somewhere private so that she can stake them without an audience.
  • December 24, 2010
    Koveras
    Mnemosyne opens with Rin being chased and killed by Laura. This is used to establish both Rin's Immortality and the gory style of the series.
  • December 25, 2010
    troacctid
    I'm not sure I like that image.

    • The Prince Of Egypt opens with a scene of Moses' mother and sister fleeing from Egyptian soldiers.
  • December 25, 2010
    Arivne
    Should this include works that start off with one vehicle being chased by another, or should that be a separate trope?

    Film
  • December 25, 2010
    TonyG
    The Fox And The Hound opens with a mother fox and her kit being chased by hunters. The mother hides her child (our hero, Tod) and leads the hunters away, eventually being shot dead.
  • December 25, 2010
    rick777
    @Arivne: Vehicle chases should go in a separate category, it seems.

    In my humble opinion, Princess Leia's was more like a "boarded by pirates" than a "dramatic chase". But thanks for the suggestion.
  • December 25, 2010
    NateTheGreat
    Ocarina Of Time starts with Link's Prophetic Dream about Zelda fleeing from Ganondorf.
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