"The offensive is due to begin at 1500 hours, soldiers. It's only 1030 hours now, so clean and load your weapons, draw rations from stores, polish your boots, write your goodbye letters, go visit the toilet and above all, don't forget to talk amongst yourselves about how bad you think this battle may be, whether or not it's the Final Battle and just how stupid you think the generals are who want you to fight against such overwhelming odds."
This trope is all about the pre-battle scene. Almost inevitably, some of the fighters will know each other from their days "on the farm" and they'll discuss "old times". Occasionally the more nervous fighters will talk about their chances of getting through the battle alive, but most of the fighters will studiously avoid that subject, as though simply talking about it will somehow call down the wrath of the gods upon them and cause them to die when they wouldn't have otherwise. Instead, the fighters will discuss "what I'm going to do after the war", as though there was no chance of them dying.
This trope is probably older than you think.
If the battle is obviously a Lost Cause, there may be a lot of grumbling about being ordered to become Cannon Fodder for no good reason, but sometimes the upcoming battle is the only choice and the fighters know it, so even though they're certain that they're going to their deaths, they feel like they may as well go down fighting. If it's a plot point, it will be discussed before the battle.
Compare to Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner which is about a single sentence or statement before commencing a fight. Pre-Battle Banter is about a whole conversation or even several conversations before a battle while the battle may still be some hours off, but with Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner, combat usually immediately follows the one-liner.
This trope does not apply to the official briefing before the battle, or any Mission Briefing, although it may apply to banter exchanged between fighters during the briefing.
This trope also does not apply if the fighters don't know that a battle is imminent, or if the battle has already begun.
Pre-Battle Banter is a specific type of Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene and therefore a subtrope. Both tropes serve to increase tension and anticipation in the audience and both tropes encourage the audience to relate to the people involved in the drama, but this trope is specifically about the pre-battle scene.
Compare with Lock and Load Montage which mainly serves to show how crazy-prepared the protagonists are.
- In Henry V by William Shakespeare, Harry overhears some of his men doing this.
- Shows up in The Iliad several times.
- Both Safehold and Honor Harrington by David Weber couldn't be complete without main (or just POV) characters exchanging some banter before the battle. There's enough of those in the former to support a drinking game.
- In Star Wars - A New Hope, Luke Skywalker tries to persuade Han Solo to help in the upcoming battle and also exchanges words with friends from Tatooine before going into battle.
- Independence Day.
Captain Wilder: You scared, man?
- During the briefing before the first attack on one of the invaders' ships, Marine pilots Wilder and Hiller joke around.
Captain Hiller: No. You?
Captain Wilder: No. (mock fear) Hold me!
Captain Hiller: Hey, pay attention!
Captain Wilder: Let's kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!
- Later on, when they're at the flight line Captain Wilder continues.
Captain Wilder: As the Good Reverend would say: [switches to Southern preacher voice] Why we are on this particular mission, we'll never know. But I do know, here today, that the Black Knights will emerge victorious once again.
- Aliens during the Drop Ship landing sequence.
Hudson: Ready to get it on? You know it! I'm ready, man! Ready to get it on! We're on an express elevator to hell! Going down!
- Hudson starts things off.
Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
- Ripley asks some pointed questions.
Lt. Gorman: Thirty-eight... simulated.
Pvt. Vasquez: How many combat drops?
Lt. Gorman: Uh, two... including this one.
Other Marines: [roll their eyes]
Frost: I got a bad feeling about this drop.
- Frost and Crowe discuss their feelings.
Crowe: You always say "I got a bad feeling about this drop".
Frost: Okay, okay. When we get back without you, I'll call your folks.
- The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. The scenes before the Battle of Helm's Deep, in which the men from about age 14 to 60 are equipped with musty old armour and weapons, provoking comments from the heroes, nervous chattering among the fighters, and a general air of grim anticipation.
Gimli: Most have seen too many winters.
Legolas: Or too few. Look at them. They're frightened. I can see it in their eyes.
- Lampooned in Hot Shots! Part Deux: before they parachute into enemy territory, Rabinowitz tells Topper what he's going to do when the mission is over
- A standout example is found in Saving Private Ryan with the conversations of the soldiers waiting for the German attack on their bridge.
- The conversation between Lafayette and Hamilton just before the eponymous battle in "Yorktown" is remarkably calm, considering the fact that this is Hamilton's first time leading troops.
- "Drink With Me" in Les MisÚrables is the revolutionaries getting one last bittersweet hurrah before they are slaughtered by the French army the next morning. The majority of it is lighthearted banter and reminiscing until Grantaire reminds them that, not only will they likely die, there deaths will be pointless.
- In Mass Effect 3, there's a scene just before the final push where Shepard can share banter with just about anyone who's still alive. Much of it overlaps with It Has Been an Honor.
- The Suikoden games show montages of the various characters in conversation the night before the anticipated big battle.'
- Fire Emblem
- There's quite a few ribbings to be had in the early pre-battle segments of Fire Emblem Awakening, both hero and villain alike. Anything to do with villains Victor and Vincent, for example, has a fair deal of banter before the battle actually commences.