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Sometimes you just don't have the time, budget or energy to show the nuclear war that destroyed your main city, or the orc invasion that lead to the heroic elves being enslaved.
Now ordinarily you could turn to Mr. Exposition
, or rely on As You Know
dialogue, but this is the kind of stuff that the audience needs
to know from the very start in order to put things in context. And since the other options aren't practical, you'll have to rely
on the Opening Monologue.
Just show a montage of a few small-scale scenes of whatever dramatic event you're talking about, with the hero (or possibly the film's mentor
) explaining everything before the film proper begins.
Sometimes this can be used in an interesting way, by revealing that the narrator is actually someone the audience does not expect (e.g., The Road Warrior
). The opening monologue may be paired with a closing monologue, or continued through the rest of the film as an Inner Monologue
Compare Opening Scroll
. Not to be confused with Opening Narration
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Anime and Manga
- The hentai OVA Urotsukidouji opens with a narrator summarizing the Legend of the Overfiend, over images of a fiery hell where demons are having sex.
- Gundam Wing begins with a narrator explaining that the year is After Colony 195 and humans now live both on the Earth and in Outer Space. He also summarizes the causes of the ongoing war at the beginning of the series and occasionally provides in-episode explanation of terms the viewer might not be aware of.
- This narrator has a tendency to repeat himself, and may go on for several minutes before allowing the plot to start.
- A few Code Geass intros describe how Britannia took over Japan, among other tidbits.
- For a number of years now, the Pokémon movies have started with an opening monologue explaining what Pokémon are and how they co-exist with humans, along with introducing us to Satoshi/Ash and pals.
- The first few Wandering Son episodes end and begin with monologues.
- Between the manga, the anime, and the anime's various openings, One Piece has used different styles to describe Gold Roger's final words and his execution. The manga starts off with it, where as the first opening in the anime begins with the "Wealth. Fame. Power." speech. It seems the anime has now settled into using a longer opening, and then cutting to a "gritty old film" scene of Gold Roger being executed before the footage burns away.
- "Last Rights" starts with an infodump from the series' First-Person Smartass Captain Kanril Eleya, explaining why surface armies are still relevant in an era of starships that can glass planets (i.e. you need boots on the ground to capture and hold territory if you want it in anything resembling the state it started), which then segues into the actual story.
Films — Animated
- 9: "We had such potential, such promise... but we squandered our gifts, our intelligence. Our blind pursuit of technology only sped us quicker to our doom. Our world is ending. Life must go on."
- The prologue to Disney's Beauty and the Beast establishes the Beast's situation.
- Sky Blue begins with Jay meditating on how the world got so crap.
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opens with a bit of Fauxlosophic Narration that leads into A Minor Kidroduction, and finishes with a straightforward opening monologue that establishes the whole "Flint wants to invent stuff/Swallow Falls is in a depression" plot point.
- Lampshaded/subverted in Hercules when Charlton Heston is interrupted in his opening narration by the Muses:
Narrator: Long ago, in the faraway land of ancient Greece, there was a golden age of powerful gods and extraordinary heroes. And the greatest and strongest of all these heroes was the mighty Hercules. But what is the measure of a true hero? Ah, that is what our story is...
Thalia: Will you listen to him? He's makin' the story sound like some Greek tragedy.
Terpsichore: Lighten up, dude.
Calliope: We'll take it from here, darling.
Narrator: You go, girl.
Films — Live-Action
- Kick-Ass: "I always wondered why nobody did it before me. I mean, all those comic books, movies, TV shows. You think that one eccentric loner would've made himself a costume. I mean, is everyday life really so exciting? Are schools and offices so thrilling that I'm the only one who fantasized about this? Come on, be honest with yourself. At some point in our lives we all want to be a superhero. That's not me by the way. That's some Armenian guy with a history of mental health problems. Who am I? I'm Kick-Ass."
- Creepy Sci-Fi/paranoia movie Dark City had an opening monologue clumsily tacked on at the command of the producers, which is a Spoiler Opening for the film's central mystery. Happily, it's been removed from the recent Director's Cut.
- Underworld begins with Kate Beckinsale's character expositing about the war between the vampires and the werewolves.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas memorably begins: "We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold..."
- In The Road Warrior, the elderly man delivering the opening monologue is revealed to be the mute savage child all grown up.
- Equilibrium starts with a short opening monologue vaguely explaining the events that caused The End of the World as We Know It, and the start of the world "not as we know it", coupled with some historical documentary footage and reused footage from the film itself.
- Serenity starts with an opening monologue in the form of a class history lesson.
- This marvelously catches up to the movie's "here-and-now" events in a nested Russian Doll fashion.
- To elaborate, the actual first scene (the Universal logo) is nested in a class video in River's class, which is all part of a dream sequence when she's actually being broken out of the Academy, but then that's all actually a recording being watched by the Operative.
- "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year ten-thousand, one-ninety-one..." Narration was used to insane levels in the 1980s Dune movie, in order to condense the plot of a six hundred page book down to two hours without confusing anyone. It didn't really help.
- Lady Galadriel's opening monologue from the first The Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, which lays down the creation of the Rings of Power, the One Ring, the war against Sauron, and the fates of the One Ring's previous bearers before Bilbo got hold of it. Plus, we don't actually meet Galadriel until almost the end of the movie. A good portion of this speech was cribbed from a speech by Treebeard in the book, but having a sentient tree-shaped being explain the plot in a very slow voice is possibly not the best way to pull your audience in. This monologue actually went through several narrators, including Frodo (rejected because doing so would reveal he had survived) and Gandalf. Galadriel was eventually selected as the person most suitable to giving out such information.
- James Earl Jones picked up a paycheck to apply his distinctive voice to explaining the setting for the Judge Dredd movie.
- Kevin Costner's version of The Postman began with exposition by a female, who at the end is revealed to be his daughter, giving the story of his life.
- The movie version of
The Golden Compass Northern Lights does this.
- As does the movie of Eragon.
- X-Men: "Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day opens with a monologue delivered by Sarah Connor. The third film, with one by John Connor.
- The Departed: "I don't wanna be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me." Hearing that in Jack Nicholson's gruff yet acidic voice sends chills up one's spine.
- Conan the Barbarian (1982) "Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure..."
- The Agony Booth recaps describe some as "Obnoxious Patronizing / Shouting Narrator".
- There's one in Transformers, where Optimus Prime explains about the Allspark. Somewhat unnecessary, since he explains again to Sam and Sam explains to the government agents and Optimus explains again to the other Autobots.
- Hellboy — "What makes a man a man? Is it his origins, the way things start? Or is it something else, something harder to describe? For me it all began in 1944, classified mission off the coast of Scotland. The Nazis were desperate. Combining science and black magic they intended to upset the balance of the war..."
- The intro to Wing Commander pans over space charts while playing a recording of JFK giving a speech about the Space Race, which segues into other radio broadcasts delivering exposition about the Pilgrams, mankind's invention of Faster-Than-Light Travel, and the disasterous First Contact with the Kilrathi.
- Avatar When I was lying in the V.A. hospital with a big hole blown through the middle of my life, I started having these dreams of flying. I was free. But sooner or later, you always have to wake up..."
- Spider-Man: "Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale, if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied. But let me assure you — this, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl...."
- Time travel hasn't been invented yet, but in thirty years, it will be. It will be instantly outlawed, used only in secret by the largest criminal organizations. It’s nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future. I’m told. Tagging techniques, whatnot. So when these future criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they use specialized assassins in our present, called loopers.
- Pitch Black opens with the crew of the Hunter Gratzner in stasis in deep space. The captured Riddick notes that his brain —or at least the animalistic side— is still awake, and asserts the situation in voiceover, surveying the rest of the crew and his plans for escape.
- Burn Notice, In Plain Sight and Royal Pains all have opening narrations. In fact, including Law & Order: Criminal Intent, though it's not really a USA original show, a lot of USA Network's shows have opening monologues.
- Babylon 5 has a different one every season for the first 3 seasons (and the Pilot Movie). However seasons 4 and 5 started using multiple different characters contributing lines of dialog one at a time to create the effect of an monologue.
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is very fond of this. Every episode, except for the pilot, start with one by Sarah that frames what happens during the episode. Sometimes it's done well, others not so much.
- Doctor Who:
- story "The Deadly Assassin" begins with the Fourth Doctor doing a short monologue.
- The Eighth Doctor does a longer one in the The Movie.
- Rose gets one at the beginning of "Doomsday".
- "The Last Of The Time Lords" opens with a warning to interstellar traffic that the Earth, conquered by the Master and the Toclafane, has been declared a no-go area.
- Heroes, oh so very much. In the first season it was with Mohinder's incredibly bad biology regarding evolution; fortunately they moved to poetry later.
- This was a good move; the use of "The Second Coming" in the first episode of the third season is probably the best part of the season.
- In The Invisible Man, the main character, Darian Fawkes, starts and ends each episode with a famous quote, bringing forward the basic theme of the episode.
- Cade Foster, the main character of First Wave, begins each episode (except for the pilot) with a quatrain from the "hidden chapters" of the prophecies of Nostradamus and spends the episode trying to interpret the archaic wording into the show's reality.
- Power Rangers RPM opens every episode with Dr. K explaining about the Venjix Virus and the domed city or Corinth which leads into the theme song.
- Shameless did this with its title sequence, introducing the characters.
- In the Supernatural episode Swan Song, there is an opening monologue given by Chuck.
Chuck: On April 21, 1967, the 100 millionth GM vehicle rolled off the line at the plant in Janesville — a blue two-door caprice. There was a big ceremony, speeches. The lieutenant governor even showed up. Three days later, another car rolled off that same line. No one gave two craps about her. But they should have, because this 1967 Chevrolet Impala would turn out to be the most important car — no, the most important object — in pretty much the whole universe. She was first owned by Sal Moriarty, an alcoholic with two ex-wives and three blocked arteries. On weekends, he'd drive around giving bibles to the poor "gettin' folks right for judgment day". That's what he said. Sam and Dean don't know any of this, but if they did, I bet they'd smile. After Sal died, she ended up at Rainbow Motors, a used-car lot in Lawrence, where a young marine bought her on impulse. That is, after a little advice from a friend. I guess that's where this story begins. And here's where it ends.
- Panel Games often start with some sort of opening monologue, usually the host running off a few gags to warm the crowd up.
- Its Garry Shandlings Show usually started with an opening monologue by Garry.
- Dragnet: "This is the city. Los Angeles, California. My name's Friday. I carry a badge."
- Veronica Mars opens up with "I'm never getting married. You want an absolute? There it is." as a voiceover. The narrator (Veronica) then moves on to explain numerous things about the story and setting, essentially telling you what has already happened while showing what's about to happen at the same time. The narration generally shifts to snarky commentary later on when the viewers don't require as much explanation.
- Mulder and Scully often had a voice-over narrative for The X-Files intros. Likelihood increased dramatically for season finales, season premieres, 2-part episodes, and mythology episodes in general.
- Happy Days has one in the "Love, American Style" pilot, provided by Richie Cunningham himself:
"It's pretty hard to be sixteen and growing up. Maybe it was easier when my parents were young, but... now it's the 1950s and the world's really getting complicated. Now don't get me wrong, I—I have a great family. My father's in the hardware business, my mom does volunteer work for the Red Cross, my brother goes to college... and my sister wants to go to an orthodontist. My sister does, however, go to piano lessons and... I always get stuck walking her home. But today I don't mind, because... today's a big day. We're gonna be the first family on the block to get a television set. Heh, my sister has to tell everybody, but... I only told my best friend Potsie."
- When A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was in touring before the Broadway opening, the audience was not sure how to take it. So a monologue and opening number was added to tell the audience that this was a comedy and not to be taken seriously. The monologue was:
Playgoers, I bid you welcome. The theater is a temple, and we are here tonight to worship the gods of comedy and tragedy. Tonight, I am pleased to announce, a comedy. We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you.
- The opening number is: A Comedy Tonight - recommended listening.
- The Fallout games always begin with Ron Perlman's voice saying, "War... War never changes..." followed by some exposition about the nuclear war that leveled America (along with most of the rest of the planet).
- The first Devil May Cry opens with a monologue explaining Mundus's imprisonment: "Two millenia ago..."
- The third game, meanwhile, begins with a monologue from Lady, first explaining the legend of Sparda, then about how she never believed it until she met his two sons. The brothers fought, "but in the end... only one was left standing". This monologue is spoken over a battle between Dante and Vergil.
- Several Zelda games, including The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
- MechWarrior 3 opened with a short explanation so that people would know just enough to get the opening cinematic. Meanwhile, the cinematic that shows how your task force ended up in its exact situation explained a lot more of the plot than would be necessary for someone about to drop into a war zone and who would theoretically know at least basic history.
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: "Some people think time is like a river, that flows swift and true in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you... they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm. You may wonder who I am, and why I say this. Sit down, and I will tell you a tale like none you have ever heard."
- "I am Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?" The monologue delivered near the beginning of BioShock by said Magnificent Bastard is one of the most eloquent and well done speeches in any game.
- Half-Life 2 gives us the well spoken and Well-Intentioned Extremist Doctor Breen who, over the course of the game can be heard giving various speeches addressed to the Combine, citizens, and even the One Free Man himself, all in a lulling and intelligent manner.
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia begins with an explanation about the eponymous order and its duty to combat Dracula.
- Dragon Age: Origins: "The Chantry teaches us that it is the hubris of men that first brought the Darkspawn into our world..."
- Ben's classic monologue in Full Throttle.
- The narrator's monologue in the third installment of Star Control.
- Eat Your Kimchi: All of the videos start with Simon and/or Martina introducing the subject.