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War Was Beginning

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"In A.D. 2101
War Was Beginning."

In any film beginning in wartime In Medias Res, it is almost taken for granted that a narration intoning opening text will describe the start of the war and provide a little history lesson... even if it's a fictional war.

Opting for an Action Prologue with narration on top, over stock footage of combat or Stuff Blowing Up may produce Narm: People don't generally like to mix their opening crawl with their Opening Action Sequence.

However, one may immediately cut to combat scenes In Medias Res as soon as the narration ends; indeed, it's almost expected, to the point where you can throw people off (but not really) with quiet scenes set in a better time/place, if you're seeking a slow build:

This opening narration requirement can be removed if, as often the case, the writer decides on one of the alternatives, such as:

  1. Show how the future protagonists react to the start of the war, in a "where were you when"... way.
    This is a useful way to introduce the future protagonists to the audience one after the other — a Debut Queue.
  2. Depict the events leading up to the start of the war, even if it happened years before the main story.
    This will be done in an Opening Action Sequence involving Stuff Blowing Up, possibly Earth.
  3. If it's a war everyone's heard of, the audience viewpoint character is simply informed that a war is on, averting this trope. Not as common as the others, due to Small Reference Pools: World War II movies filmed during the war rarely opened with a War Was Beginning recap.
  4. Use a newspaper headline. While it obviates the characters from invoking As You Know when it's a war "everyone's heard of",note  the headlines themselves are usually anachronistic from an in-universe perspective. e.g. "World War II Begins," or worse, "World War One Begins," as if people back then knew it would be the first of two.note 

Not to be confused with During the War.

See also Opening Scroll.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass establishes the general rise to power of the Britannian Empire (more specifically their invasion of Japan) in the first episode.
  • Howl's Moving Castle may be an example. There is no narration explicitly telling us that war is coming, but soon after the opening of the film we see a big parade of troops, tanks, and flying machines moving through the city to cheering crowds, and we overhear conversations on the street about rising tensions with a neighbouring kingdom over a missing prince.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam opens with a brief description of the Colonized Solar System setting before explaining the One Year War as the series' prologue.
    Narrator: (View of arcadian space colony interior.) A new home for mankind, where people are born and raised... and die. (Massive explosion.)
  • The Toonami promotion for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing also invokes this.
    In the distant future, mankind has reached the stars, but the galaxy is troubled. The Earth Sphere Alliance rules the outlying colonies with an iron fist. Those who oppose them.....die.
  • The very first thing Neon Genesis Evangelion shows us (after the great intro) is: "In the year 2015 AD". Cue peaceful landscapes full of military hardware. Cue giant monster...

    Comic Books 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Issue seven of the second volume starts with Starhawk narrating about the original Guardians fighting the Badoon invasion of Earth, giving a summary of their powers. And then they suddenly start dying one by one, because time is falling apart at the seams, explaining why Starhawk has been travelling back to the 21st century.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live Action TV 
  • Falling Skies just pulled off this trope with a little kid in the role of narrator, recounting what he knows of the alien invasion to date while his crayon drawings are displayed.
  • The first Horatio Hornblower TV film took place at the Royal Navy anchorage in Spithead, with the midshipmen discussing the ongoing revolution in France. In particular, the fact that King Louis XVI had just been captured.
    What do you think they'll do with him? You can't kill a king!
  • At the beginning of House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) recalls the Great Council to choose an heir to King Jaehaerys I Targaryen that sowed the seeds of the Succession Crisis and Civil War known as the Dance of the Dragons, foreshadowing it with these words:
    "Jaehaerys called the Great Council to prevent a war being fought over his succession, for he knew the cold truth: the only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself."
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel makes a summary of the War of Wrath against Morgoth that took place in the First Age of Middle-earth.
  • Parodied in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Ypres 1914" sketch. This was used as a Cold Open in several Monty Python sketches.
    In 1914, the balance of power lay in ruins. Europe was plunged into bloody conflict. Nation fought nation. But no nation fought nation morely than the English hip hip hooray! Nice, nice yah boo. Phillips is a German and he have my pen...
  • The Outer Limits (1995): "Starcrossed" begins with the following narration from Michael Ryan: "In the year 2050, Earth was invaded by a humanoid race called the Hing. For six years, a hard and reigning war was fought. At its conclusion, we were forced to agree that the Hing retain the control they had already won. It wasn't an easy truce, especially in a city called Archangel."
  • Star Trek: Voyager began with an Opening Scroll briefly detailing the Maquis guerrilla war against the Federation and Cardassians, then cut to Chakotay's ship, involved in a running lightfight with a Cardassian destroyer. The whole sequence looks like a Shout-Out to A New Hope, except Chakotay's ship escapes. Then it gets hurled to the other side of the galaxy, where the war becomes completely irrelevant except as backstory.

  • One of the more famous examples is the prologue to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:
    Two households, both alike in dignity,
    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
    From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
    Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean...

    Video Games 
  • Asura's Wrath does this for it's opening level.. It is awesome.
    "The foul, impure beasts that roam the land ~ the Gohma.
    In order to save civilization from their neverending threat, the demigods who governed the world created an ultimate weapon that would wipe the Gohma of the face of the planet once and for all.
    Their legions were led by eight elite demigods ~ the Eight Guardian Generals. One of them, General Asura, was in the thick of battle."
  • Also, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. "Vast armies have arrived. Now, three Houses fight for control of Dune. (sic) Only one House will prevail. Your battle for Dune begins... now-ow-ow-ow-ow..."
  • Every game in the Escape Velocity series starts by explaining the current war. The original and Override had opening scrolls (detailing the Alien War and the start of the Rebellion in the first case, and the United Earth/Voinian War in the second). EV Nova changed it to four splashscreens.
  • Most of the Fallout games start with Ron Perlman narrating about the war. Even though the war is technically over, its lasting impact colors the setting throughout.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones starts with this, then segues into The Empire sacking the protagonists' castle.
  • Mass Effect 3 opens with a text crawl that recaps the events of the first two games and Arrival:
    In 2157, humanity discovered that it was not alone in the universe.
    Thirty years later, they found a peaceful place among dozens of galactic species.
    But this idyllic future is overshadowed by a dark past: Reapers, a sentient race of machines responsible for cleansing the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years, are about to return.
    The leaders of the galaxy are paralyzed by indecision, unable to accept the legend of the Reapers as fact.
    But one soldier has seen the legend come to life.
    And now the fate of the galaxy depends on him / her.
    • ...then enters a fairly quiet scene involving the Player Character on trial for the events of the previous game — which is interrupted by a full-blown Alien Invasion.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
    After the end of World War II,
    the world was split into two — East and West.
    This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.
  • The first part from the real time tactical Myth game series also begins like this: "In a time long past, the armies of the Dark came again into the lands of men."
  • Robo Aleste begins by describing an Alternate History version of the Sengoku Jidai, whose course changed with the introduction of Humongous Mecha and airships.
  • Super Metroid plays out a double-subversion. It claims "The galaxy is at peace" but you are quickly shown the Living Macguffin both sides are going to fight over and the damage from the opening salvos.
  • Valkyria Chronicles III combines this with And Now for Someone Completely Different. The intro movie (which is actually in the style of a war documentary) tells of the story of Gallian War and the decorated hero that saved the nation, before turning away from them and into the unrecorded chronicles of The Nameless.
  • Wing Commander begins with what for the time was a spectacular introduction showing two Kilrathi fighters being pursued by a Confederation ship, with the title card "In the distant future, mankind is locked in a deadly war..."
  • Warhammer: Mark of Chaos begins with the rolling map illuminated by small explosions and fires, with the narrator describing the state of affairs in the Empire defending from the Chaos invasion. In a bit of a twist the main war is already over, and the game is about a local war with a splinter force.
  • X3: Terran Conflict explains the roots of the titular Space Cold War in its opening cinematic. X3: Albion Prelude shows us how that cold war turned into a hot war.
  • Yggdra Union and Yggdra Unison both start with the classic text scroll as Gulcasa's attack on Karona is related to the player.
  • The Trope Namer is a quote from Zero Wing; that is an example as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender's Title Sequence has a Katara voiceover briefly describing the Fire Nation's war and the Avatar's failure to stop it. The first episode goes into greater detail on her people in particular. The first few episodes involve giving Aang a history lesson on the world war he slept through.


Video Example(s):


Code Geass

Seven years ago, the Holy Britannian Empire invaded Japan to secure the nation's stocks of a rare mineral that made a new energy source possible. During the war, Britannia introduced their Humongous Mecha, the Knightmare Frames, into combat that became instrumental in defeating the Japanese. Following its victory, Britannia renamed Japan to Area 11, stripping the nation of its autonomy, its national identity, and even its name.

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