In this essay I will answer the question above. I will comment on different variables such as camera angles, sound effects, the set, themes, dialogue and also symbolism. Throughout the assignment I shall comment and discuss the differences and the similarities between both of the movies, compare the opening sequences of the two films using the variables that I have mentioned and also I will conclude with which movie I believed had the most effective opening. To make a good movie a lot of things need to be contributed towards it.
This includes comedy, action, a gripping storyline, a good use of the stated variables and also it needs to be easy to follow because if it is not, it can be hard to follow. An example of a film which has been superbly done is ‘War of the Worlds’ directed by Steven Spielberg. The story is about a man that is separated from his wife and children. One weekend they come to stay with the father and the unthinkable happens – aliens attack Earth. Throughout the story it follows the characters, showing raw emotion, action, and suspense which truly interact with the viewer.
Spielberg’s range of camera angles, special effects and the set the movie is placed in helps give a bigger impact. Comedy in a movie often enhances the ‘good feeling’ about watching it and usually every movie needs this essential feel good factor. A movie also needs to include a good opening. A good opening needs to have some form of suspense to bring you into the storyline. This grips the viewer and makes them want to carry on watching. Also, a long opening can often be boring, and so it needs to be kept short. Music in the background can enhance the impact – an example of this is ‘Star Wars’.
The theme tune is quite eerie and thrilling; this also relates with the movie as it is also mysterious and intriguing. At the introduction of a film I believe that a good range of camera angles should be a must. It sets the scene and can be used to heighten tension (this is used in Gladiator, panning the battle field and showing the vast numbers of soldiers on both sides, creating a very cold, bloody atmosphere). I will proceed to tell you about the story of both films: ‘Gladiator’ was produced in 2000 and was directed by Ridley Scott. The story is about a Roman General by the name of ‘Maximus’.
Maximus is adored by the people and especially the ageing Emperor, ‘Marcus Aurelius’. Before the death of the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius claims Maximus to be the new heir over his son – Commodus, which then leaves Maximus and his family condemned to death. Unable to save his family, he is put into the ‘Gladiator games’ – hence the title ‘Gladiator’. Maximus now only wants to look into the eyes of the man that will feel his revenge. During the opening sequence of ‘Gladiator’, you see the middle part of Maximus’ body as he is walking through a cornfield.
He stretches out his arm, and runs his fingers through the corn and you hear the distant shouts from children. As his hand runs through the corn, you notice a wedding ring – this indicates that he is a married man. Soon after, the pace of action quickens and you see Maximus talking to herds of people. He was a leader and everyone obeyed him. Horses and men come, wearing armour and holding weapons – that’s when I first realised battle was about to break out. There is not much dialogue in the first ten minutes of the film, but whilst Maximus is talking to the herds of men, you hear the following phrases:- “Will they fight sir? , “Unleash hell” and “strength and honour”. ‘Strength and honour’ shows us that they were prepared for battle and wouldn’t give up.
Whilst Maximus is speaking to the Romans, a panning shot shows many men with horses, and then as Maximus gives orders, a close-up shot shows the strength and determination in his face. Soon after, mid-shots show a group of men riding on horses – ready to fight. I think that the camera work in this film was excellent and the close-ups, mid-shots and panning shots show determination of the battle about to begin. In this scene they use dark, dull colours; blue, black and grey.
These colours represent the atmosphere of that time, and give a great effect. After the speech of Maximus, the pace of action turns very quickly into the battle – men being stabbed, screams as flame throwers, arrows, axes, swords and cannons penetrate through their bodies. Men dying everywhere and the panning shot that shows this is brilliant. In this camera angle you see how many people were injured and dying – if not already dead. Long shots show the dead on the ground – blood and bodies everywhere. You see the fright in the horses’ movements and screams for help.
Not only were there horses in the film, but at one particular moment, a dog runs in from nowhere and sinks his teeth into the leg of a man who is fighting against Maximus and his people. During the opening credits of the film, the music is very nostalgic and slow, and then it fades as Maximus walks through the corn and gives his speech. As soon as battle breaks loose, the tempo quickens and creates a lot of suspense in the beginning. At the end of the battle, everything turns into slow motion and brilliant mid-shot shows a few men fighting and then you hear a panting noise – the breathing of a man who is in pain and suffering.
Shortly after, a close-up shows the face of an old man who was indeed the Emperor – Marcus Aurelius. My first impression of this particular point in the film shows that it was a memory. A memory of Maximus in his home land – a farm – with a cornfield. You immediately notice the cornfield because of its rich golden, yellow colour. This is very distinctive. At the opening credits, there are rich colours – red and black with a white mist swirling through. Whilst the battle occurs, the scene is set with dark and dull colours – black, grey and blue.
These colours represent hatred and war, match the setting and neatly set the opening. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was directed by Steven Spielberg in 1998. The film is about three brothers who were killed during World War Two, fighting against the Nazi empire on June 6th 1944. The mother of those sons is due for a death letter from the army later that day, but shortly before, the army discover that there were actually four brothers. They then set out on a mission to find the other brother by the name of ‘Private James Ryan’ and send him home, but they are unsure whether he is dead, or alive behind enemy lines.
At the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, you see the American flag. The colour is faded and this proves that it is old and had been kept in that place since the war started. Personally, I believe that this shows American patriotism. A few moments after, an old man is seen walking down the street with his family not far behind. This man quickens his walking pace and shortly after, he enters a cemetery. You are then able to see all the grave stones in the distance (panning shot). The angle shown shows you all the people who died to save their country.
This moment made a big impact on me and suggested to me, American patriotism. It was amazing to see how many lives were lost during the war. After this panning shot, the man walks up to one particular grave stone and falls to the ground in tears. His family rush up behind him and offer their support. There isn’t any dialogue at the very opening – only military style music. You hear this as soon as you see the flag and the music was funeral and military like and I sensed achievement and pride, then it fades.
You can only hear the man’s footsteps as he is walking to the cemetery, but at the specific moment when he breaks down into tears at the grave stone, you hear a woman saying “Dad? ” Just before the war scene starts, a close up shot zooms into the old man’s eyes as he breaks down in tears at the gravestone. You can clearly see tears coming from his eyes and the dark, dull colour at this point in the movie show sadness, but also, which I believe, hatred. This moment shows sadness in the mans eyes of the loved ones lost at war.
The pace of action quickens, and then you hear the crashing of waves hitting boats. Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks is shown – nervous and petrified. The camera shows his hand trembling to reach his water bottle which was a brilliant way to show emotion. There isn’t any music at this point in the movie, but you do hear a soldier being sick. You hear an officer bellowing out orders and then you see a mid-shot of the landing craft creeping up the shore. Everything is silent until you hear the sound of bullets soaring through the air, and then penetrating through several bodies.
This gives a brilliant effect and really attracts the audience. Grenades, flame throwers, machine guns and rifles are heard and you then see close-up shots of soldiers flying off the boats with injuries – many of them dead before hitting the water. Other soldiers dived off into the water, trying to escape, but they had trouble trying to remove their uniforms. Their uniforms and bags must have been very heavy and some drowned in the process of trying to remove their gear. Some soldiers were shot in the water and all you can hear is the sound of men gasping for air under water.
Suddenly, the water that was a blue colour, turned into a dark, rich red – an indication of how much blood was lost from many injured and dead soldiers. This rich colour gives an excellent effect and draws people into the pain and loss of those dead or dying. These techniques of using dark; rich colour effected me by creating loss and sadness. The director really understood how to draw attention to the film. After seeing mid-shots of soldiers, lying all over Omaha Beach in Normandy, North of France, you then see close-ups of wounded men with body parts strewn all over the beach.
Suddenly, you have a very big close-up of Captain Miller’s face and everything changes into slow motion. The camera then moves round to focus on people at war, as if the audience is watching it from Captain Miller’s eyes. All music is droned out at this point, but you can hear the hard breathing and panting of Captain Miller. Personally, from the ten minutes I saw of ‘Saving Private Ryan’, I think that the veteran at the cemetery, looking upon the dozens of grave stones, was simply remembering the war as it was then.
I haven’t watched all of the film, so I can’t be sure whether I am correct or not, but from the opening part that I have seen, that is the impression that it gave me. The opening of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was set in Normandy, in the northern part of France. They used Omaha Beach to show people where it was that many died for the love of their country. The similarities between Russell Crowe who played the Gladiator and Tom Hanks who played Captain Miller, is that they both played leadership roles.
Both of these characters made sure that they were obeyed by others and both did good jobs as being leaders. The differences between the two characters and the films are that ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was based on true events that actually occurred during World War Two. The Gladiator wasn’t based upon real events and was fictional. Maximus, a Roman General, was a warrior, a leader of men and a brilliant tactician. He is different, compared to Captain Miller, because Tom Hanks plays a leader of a platoon, and officer and a very wise man who fought in war – Maximus, a General, fought in battles.
In conclusion, I can see that Steven Spielberg is the most successful Director because he engaged me into the film by using true facts and plenty of action. For me, he created suspense and sadness for the characters and their country. When I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’, it really showed me what life must have been like during WW2 and how many lives were lost trying to save their country. Personally I believe ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is the better film for it’s opening, it was down to Earth and compelling and I thoroughly enjoyed it.