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Somewhat similar to Fake-Out Opening
but distinct, this is when the story starts with what appears to be a probably over-the-top Action Prologue
, but after it's been going on for a while, maybe Played for Laughs
, it's cut short. It's then revealed
that this sequence was All Just a Dream
, a daydream
, a Show Within a Show
, a simulated test
, or similar. Whatever the case, the beginning is revealed not to have been real, and the actual story now begins on a more restrained note. May be used among other things for when the main character is a loser who only dreams of becoming the kind of Bad Ass
they're acting like in the imaginary prologue.
Usually a film trope, though there's no logical reason why it can't be used in other media. In video games, it often serves as A Taste of Power
. After some exposure, you can usually spot the humorous ones — unless the hero is played by Leslie Nielsen, in which case the movie may just be silly enough that it's all really happening.
When used capriciously, this trope can leave the viewer feeling cheated, but it can also be very relevant for the plot, or just cool
Compare Action Prologue
, Fake-Out Opening
, Danger Room Cold Open
and Unwinnable Training Simulation
(which may be this as well).
open/close all folders
- In Digimon Xros Wars the first scene shows Taiki and along with his soon to be teammates with an army of shadowed digimons facing against the Bagura army, and when Shoutmon X4 dukes it out with Greymon...Taiki wakes up.
- The first episode of The Tower of Druaga is a RPG Episode Cliché Storm that is in fact a dream the main character has after getting knocked out.
- Sullivan's Travels starts with an exciting action sequence involving two men fighting on top of a train. One man falls off the train to his death. The End pops up. It turns out that the movie is actually about a Hollywood movie director, and the train sequence is the end to his latest film.
- X-Men III — The Last Stand. After two false starts (one a flash back and another to do with a future X-man named Archangel) we finally see the team assembled. The sentinel's head came of of the smoke but it was merely a danger room simulation.
- Po's kung fu dream in Kung Fu Panda.
- Johnny English: The title character is right at the bottom of the secret agent ladder, but dreams of being a veritable James Bond.
- Frank Drebin's anxious dream at the beginning of Naked Gun 33 1/3, where all sorts of bizarre catastrophes are about to happen and he can't stop them.
- The beginning of the third Austin Powers film, which is actually a movie being made about Austin Powers in the movie.
- In the Toy Story sequels:
- Two sets in Tropic Thunder: The opening of the movie is some Fake Trailers for films starring the lead characters (if you watch it on DVD you might skip these, figuring they're just more ads before the start of the film); then we get to the big Vietnam fight scene, which we eventually discover is just a movie they're shooting.
- Sort of half used in Bolt, which starts out looking like a typical girl-meets-dog story that suddenly turns into a Michael Bay-esque action film about an Animal Superhero. It all turns out to be a Show Within a Show, which Bolt believes is real. His gradual realization that everything he knows is wrong, and his need to understand what reality actually is, drive the film's plot.
- The Inspector Gadget movie starts with the hero (a loser security guard) heroically saving the day, then waking up from his dreams.
- Le Magnifique begins with the most ludicrous Shark Pool ever. Then it's revealed to be a Spy Fiction novel being written.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opens with the simulated Kobayashi Maru test, which is relevant to the Enterprise's current mission as a training vessel, and the importance of facing a No-Win Scenario becomes a major plot point later in the story.
- The Forbidden Kingdom starts with a scene of the Monkey King fighting a bunch of mooks, which looks something like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas! meets Wire Fu", so it's easy to guess it's fake. It's actually a dream of the protagonist, but ironically it appears to be of events that have actually happened — though the whole similar "fights mooks" flashback later serves no purpose in the backstory being told other than a backdrop for saying the Monkey King was not defeated by mooks (duh). Thankfully the other fights in the movie look a lot better.
- The Mortal Kombat movie. It's not the opening scene of the film, but when Johnny Cage's is introduced, he's seen entering a warehouse, is approached by several sinister looking men, and they engage in a fight. He downs all of them and while fighting the last one, punches him several times. After being hit, the other man reacts as though nothing has happened. An irritated Cage looks at him and says "This is where you fall down." The man then falls back very unconvincingly. Cage turns around and yells "Where do you get these guys?" It's then revealed that he's on a movie set, and the fight was a scene being filmed.
- Both F/X films open with a shooting of a film. First opens with a gangster-revenge flick and the second one with a transexual alien on a rampage.
- Frankenstein 1970 opens with a monster chasing a girl. It also turns out to be a shooting of a film.
- Serenity opens with a triple fake, of which one is a Fake Action Prologue: The narrated history lesson turns into a lesson being viewed by young River turns into a hallucination by the grown River, who is rescued by Simon, and this then turns into a holographic security recording, being watched by the Operative.
- Averted in Galaxy Quest, which begins with what is revealed to be an episode of the Show Within a Show being exhibited to fans at a convention. This sets up a major theme of the film, which is how blurry the line between fiction and reality can become for truly obsessed fans (especially the Thermians, whose belief in the canceled TV show is so strong that they make it real by building the ship and abducting the actors to serve as the crew).
- The director's first vision for Way Of The Gun was for the first sequence to be filmed like an action-packed, cliche-filled trailer for a movie starring the two main characters and detailing their backstories, then move on to the actual film's more realistic setting.
- JCVD starts by the shooting of an action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
- From Russia with Love begins with James Bond dueling with Red Grant in a hedge maze, only to be killed by Grant. It turns out that it's actually a test for Grant to determine his efficiency; the "Bond" killed is actually another man in disguise working for Grant's new employers.
- The video game likewise has the hedgemaze duel as the second level, with players controlling the fake James Bond for the first half of the mission.
- Cat-A-Lyst by Alan Dean Foster opens with two soldiers on a battlefield in the American Civil War. It turns out to be a scene from a movie, starring the main character.
- Go, Mutants! opens with a monster movie spoof written in script format.
- The first Heralds of Valdemar begins with main character Talia having a daydream about being a Herald and fighting with Herald-Mage Vanyel to save the kingdom.
- The Warrior Cats novel Dark River begins with what appears to be the main characters fighting off an invasion by the fierce rival Clan ShadowClan, only for it to be revealed that it was only a game they were playing, and that there's no real invasion.
- There is a comedy book (probably The Feather Merchants) by Max Shulman that begins with the line, "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into my groin and I was off on the greatest adventure of my life!" He immediately changes gears and says you need to know more about me first, and starts a relatively tame, although funny, retelling of his hero's story. It isn't until a good 2/3 of the way into the novel that he throws off the idea he had for the best exciting sentence to start a novel and guess what it was? No other mention of this is made anywhere else.
- Invoked Trope in B.A.D. Boyes and the Gangsters by Jim Eldridge, which opens with Brian saying that he wanted to start with an exciting sentence, possibly involving his mother being attacked by aliens, but since that didn't happens and he'd have gone on to talk about cake icing, the reader would probably be disappointed.
Live Action TV
- The season 3 premiere of Leverage starts with an over-the-top jailbreak, which turns out to actually be Sophie's plan for an over-the-top jailbreak. They don't use it.
- Spoofed by MST3K in their "Previously, on the Satellite of Love..." skit.
- In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, a woman is left alone in the woods looking for her sister when she hears a noise and screams. It is then revealed that she is an actor on the set of a horror movie.
- Perfect Dark Zero's first mission is a training simulation.
- The Hobbit for GameCube starts out with Bilbo dreaming about the Battle of the Five Armies, which has yet to occur. During this dream you are invincible, and the controls are explained. Bilbo wakes up upon being surrounded by orcs in a moment of Cutscene Incompetence and the storyline proceeds for real.
- Eternal Darkness starts with a nightmare the main protagonist has.
- SaGa 3 opens with the party fighting some big monsters before revealing that it was just a simulation where you can grind experience right from the beginning of the game.
- Dragon Age II starts off with a playable action sequence of Hawke and one of his/her siblings (A warrior or a rogue will have Bethany, and a mage will have Carver) fighting off two groups of darkspawn plus an ogre, but this particular scene reveals itself to be made up by Varric, who narrates the story of Hawke for Cassandra. During this playable sequence, the player character's health meter constantly regenerates, they're wearing the Armor of the Champion (which you don't get until the final act) and their abilities' cooldown times are very short.
- The few dialogue options are also suitably nonchalant. What, an army of darkspawn? Psh, bring an Archdemon if you want to impress me.
- Chrono Cross begins with the "dream" variant though it's really a vision of the future.
- Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core starts off with a bang, but once Sephiroth shows up to challenge Zack, the simulation is forcibly shut down.
- Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness starts with an arena match between two high level, powerful Pokémon that is revealed to be a simulation.
- Space Quest V starts with Captain Roger Wilco commanding an intense battle on the bridge of his ship...until his viewscreen is suddenly filled with an actual captain who tells Cadet Wilco to get out of the training simulator.
- Hyperdimension Neptunia V starts off with Purple Heart against Green Heart, White Heart, and Black Heart all ganging up on her, just like how the first game started. Only this time, the girls are actually playing a video game.
- The Venture Bros. has one in the episode The Trial of the Monarch. Hank and Dean are dressed as Indiana Jones and Thomas Magnum, exploring an ancient ruin. They then transform into "Mecha Shiva" to fight the Monarch, but it all turns out to be a story they are making up while on the witness stand.