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Fake Action Prologue

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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 a Dream Intro, 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 badass 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.

If it's the 'show within a show' variant, it may end with a Proscenium Reveal, pulling back to show the cameras or stage.

When used capriciously, this trope can leave the viewer feeling cheated, but it can also be very relevant for the plot, or just cool or funny.

Compare Action Prologue, Fake-Out Opening, Danger Room Cold Open and Unwinnable Training Simulation (which may be this as well).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Digimon Fusion 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.
  • Magical Girl Ore begins with a Dream Sequence where Saki's idol persona becomes a magical girl and saves her adoring crush. Then the exact same thing happens in real life, though not in the way she expected. Or wanted, for that matter.
  • One-Punch Man starts with Saitama facing off against an army of subterranean monsters who've come to conquer the surface world. It was All Just a Dream, however, and while they do show up in the episode, they surrender immediately on seeing Saitama's prowess.
  • The Sanrio Boys anime starts of with princely politics and swordfighting that is really just a part of the (somewhat melodramatic) school play, all of which occurs much later.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • The first issue of detective series Dakota North starts with her associate Mad Dog shouting a warning to Dakota, while shooting at a half-seen silhouette. The next page reveals he's training in her basement and has just failed a Shooting Gallery test by opening fire on a "bag lady" civilian target.
  • A Mickey Mouse comic that has Mickey as a professional detective solving a mystery in the superhero comics industry starts with two pages of a reptilian Super Hero fighting a Mad Scientist and his Mecha-Mooks. Since it was already said the story is about superhero comics, you can probably guess what that really is.
  • The murder mystery comic Models, Inc. (Marvel Comics) starts its first issue with the models confronted by a wolf in the woods, which is then revealed as a perfectly safe photoshoot. The same approach is used to open subsequent issues, with the cast seemingly finding a body or locked up in jail. The last issue begins with them seemingly trapped in a burning building - which is a Bait-and-Switch of sorts, as this time it is real.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Issue 32 appears to open with Uvo bombing the Empire State building and leaving it a pile of burning rubble. The next page reveals that this was a slightly sized down model on the planet Uranus and that the bombing is just a test for the intended attack on Earth.

    Films — Animation 
  • Beavis and Butt-Head Do America starts with a scene of the two as giants rampaging through a city.
  • 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.
  • Kung Fu Panda'': The hand-drawn opening sequence and its Buffy Speak meets Totally Radical narrative voice over are revealed to be part of a dream Po is having: the rest of the film is 3D animation and more conventionally written.
  • Toy Story:
  • Zootopia opens with a tense scene out in the wilderness where an innocent rabbit is about to be eaten by a jaguar... only to reveal that we are watching a pageant, where grade-school students are acting out what it was like before animals evolved.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ant-Man and the Wasp, we first see Scott in the midst of an elaborate heist, which is quickly revealed to be a game he planned for his daughter. Being under house arrest gives him lots of free time for this kind of thing.
  • The beginning of Austin Powers in Goldmember, which is actually a movie being made about Austin Powers in the movie.
  • Flight of the Navigator opens with a lingering shot of a shiny Flying Saucer hovering in midair... and then a dog leaps up and catches it. It was a frisbee.
  • 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.
  • Frankenstein 1970 opens with a monster chasing a girl. It also turns out to be a shooting of a film.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Heart of Dragon opens with a bunch of terrorists (led by Jackie Chan, no less!) battling a platoon of SWAT personnel in a dense forest, with the entire SWAT team getting killed (one even suffers a Neck Snap from Jackie) and the personnel leader facing Jackie in a Mexican Standoff. Then, Jackie hands over his gun... the next scene reveals it to be a training exercise with Jackie's team tasked with training some junior operatives. In fact the fake prologue which is filled with shootouts is a Bait-and-Switch for the entire film in general, since the rest of the movie is a narmy melodrama about Chan's character raising his mentally-ill brother with few action scenes countable on one hand.
  • Inspector Gadget (1999) starts with the hero (a loser security guard) heroically saving the day, then waking up from his dreams.
  • James Bond:
    • 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.
    • The "unofficial" James Bond film Never Say Never Again opens with Bond infiltrating a tropical compound to rescue a hostage (a beautiful woman tied to a bed, naturally). After taking out the guards, he starts untying the hostage, not noticing as she discreetly pulls out a knife. He looks away for a second, she stabs him in the chest... and he fails the training exercise (the knife was fake).
  • JCVD starts by the shooting of an action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • Johnny English: The title character is right at the bottom of the secret agent ladder, but dreams of being a veritable James Bond.
  • Killer Party opens with a creepy funeral where one of the mourners is dragged into the coffin and subjected to Murder by Cremation. This is then revealed to be a movie that two teenagers are watching at the Drive-In Theater. And then this turns out to be the intro to a music video one of the main characters is watching.
  • Lone Hero opens with a Showdown at High Noon between a town marshal and a trio of Outlaws, which turns out to be part of a Wild West show at the local tourist trap.
  • Le Magnifique begins with the most ludicrous Shark Pool ever. Then it's revealed to be a Spy Fiction novel being written.
  • Major Grom: Plague Doctor has the Cowboy Cop hero introduced in an Action Prologue, but one that ends with him being killed and given a funeral. Grom then wakes up in his coffin and realises this won't do, so we cut back to earlier in the action with Grom trying to think up a plan that won't get him killed, which takes a couple of goes before he gets it right. This happens several times during the movie.
  • Frank Drebin's anxious dream at the beginning of Naked Gun 33⅓, where all sorts of bizarre catastrophes are about to happen and he can't stop them.
  • The opening Hostage Situation in Johannesburg from Operation Delta Force turns out to be a drill, with the "terrorists" being marines. The Delta protagonist who's The Heart gets "killed" in said scene though, which serves as Foreshadowing when he gets killed for real late into the picture.
  • 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.
  • Stage Fright (2014) opens with a man in evening dress being stabbed by a figure black robes and a White Mask of Doom. This turns out to a staging of the musical The Haunting of the Opera.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sunset opens with a robbery and a runaway stagecoach. It turns out to be a movie that Tom Mix is shooting.
  • 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.
  • Ultraman Gaia: The Battle In Hyperspace had one of these where Gamu, the Henshin Hero host of Ultraman Gaia, prepares to battle the alien Satan-Bizorm who transforms himself kaiju-sized. As Gamu turns into Ultraman Gaia, it's revealed to be a Show Within a Show seen on a television screen.
  • The director's first vision for The 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.
  • X-Men: 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.

  • 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 happen and he'd have gone on to talk about cake icing, the reader would probably be disappointed.
  • The first chapter of The City and the Stars starts with the protagonist and his friends fleeing some monsters in underground tunnels. It turns out to be a full VR Co-Op Multiplayer session.

    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 Mystery Science Theater 3000 in their "Previously, on the Satellite of Love..." skit.
  • Supernatural:
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: "Obscene" begins with a police dog being brought to follow a scent in a crime scene. It ignores it, prompting the "victim" and a film crew to say that the dog has ruined the take. However, the dog goes straight to a trailer car, where the actual victim of the episode is.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Way of the Warrior" starts with half the main cast and several RedShirts hunting a changeling infiltrator—who turns out to be Odo acting as the infiltrator for a drill.
  • Every episode of F/X: The Series starts with a scene that turns out to be part of a film the crew is shooting. Most, though not all,note  are action scenes of some sort.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "The Instincts" opens with the team tensely searching a house, which turns out to be less action-packed when all they find is a body. Then Reid wakes up on the jet, and the episode proper begins.
  • One episode of The Pretender opens with Jared getting in a spectacular one-car crash, which then goes up in flames and he stumbles out completely on fire. Then two guys with fire extinguishers step in from off-screen and it is revealed his job of the week is as a stunt driver/stuntman, and he was wearing a fire-retardant suit.
    • Another episode opens with Jared delivering a lecture as a criminology professor, only to be seemingly gunned down by a couple of guys in nice suits. He then gets up, unharmed, and has his students tell him what details of the "crime" they'd observed.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy Legend III 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.
      • It's a small detail but the breasts of the female characters are bigger in that scene than the rest of the game, showing he's exaggerating everything.
  • 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.
  • Boutalles starts with a party of four going off to confront Great Evil Sorcerer for a comedic Hopeless Boss Fight. This turns out to be main character Blanc trying to promote her new tabletop game idea to a reluctant Plumm, who insisted on having his character artificially boosted so that he could jump straight to the Final Boss encounter.
  • Octopath Traveler II: Temenos's story starts with the epic, playable battle of Aelfric the Flamebringer against the wicked god Vide... Until Aelfric forgets his lines and the scene cuts to Temenos acting the scene in a Kamishibai in front of a bunch of kids.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Justice League Unlimited episode "Fearful Symmetry" starts with Supergirl chasing down a man while fighting presumably private military. Seems simple enough, but then when she finally catches the guy, she seems rather aggressively smug about it before burning the guy to death with her heat vision. As soon as it happens, we cut to Supergirl waking up and she wonders how she could have done that if she doesn't remember doing it. It turns out she was having dreams about her secret clone's memories.
  • Legion Of Superheroes second season opens with an intense battle in which Brainiac 5 makes a near Heroic Sacrifice to protect Superman. The two share a very intimate moment before the scene is revealed to be a simulation created by Brainiac 5, who has missed Superman greatly.


Video Example(s):


Beavis & Butt-Head Do America

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America starts with a scene of the two as giants rampaging through a city.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FakeActionPrologue

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