Now that the six films are complete, what opening shot do you enjoy the most from Star Wars, both in terms of the shot itself and how it ties in to the rest of the narrative?
First, to help refresh memories, including my own:
The Phantom Menance: My memory is rusty on this film, but I believe the opening shot is a flyover of the Trade Federation ships orbiting Naboo and then a cut to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
Attack of the Clones: My memory is rusty on this film as well, but I believe the opening shot shows a Naboo ship landing at the capital and blowing up as the crew disembarks. The shot then reveals Amidala as one of the pilots who goes to help her dying decoy.
Return of the Sith: The camera tilts down to reveal a Star Destroyer orbiting Corsucant. As we hear the beat of the drums, the camera then begins tracking two fighters as they overfly the Star Destroyer and dive down. We then see a somewhat chaotic battlescene as Star Destroyers fight Separatist ships. The camera continues to track and rotate around the fighters as they fly toward the Separatist flagship.
A New Hope: The camera tilts down to reveal the upper half of a planet. From this stationary viewpoint, Princess Leia's ship overflys the camera and is seen firing backward. We then see a much larger ship overfly the camera and dominate the upper half of the frame as it pursues the fleeing smaller ship.
Empire Strikes Back: The camera tilts down to reveal a Star Destroyer in space. We see several probes exit the hanger and fly off in separate directions.The camera then tracks one of the probes as it heads towards Hoth. We see the probe enter the atmosphere and impact on the ground; a droid then appears from the smoking crater.
Return of the Jedi: A little fuzzy on this one as well. I think the camera tilts down again to show a Star Destroyer. We then see a shuttle leave the hanger, escorted by two fighters. A reverse shot (I think) then reveals an unfinished Death Star as the shuttle and fighters fly toward the battlestation. A series of shots then show the shuttle landing in the Death Star Hanger.
I pick Return of the Sith
as having my favorite opening shot to a Star Wars film. The scene is very tranquil at first showing Coruscant lit by its sun. As we pan down, we then see the Star Destroyer enter the shot as the soundtrack reveals a slow and subdued beat of the drums. Its not immediately apparant that there is a battle at all; both the soundtrack and the visuals help to reinforce the calmness of the shot. I like how the camera then begins to track the two fighters as they weave through the Venator and eventually overfly it. For me, it conveyed a very nice sense of the size and scope of the ship, and how majestic Star Wars ships really are. I also enjoyed the transition from the drums to the more familliar Star Wars theme in this part of the shot as well.
The fighters then overfly the Venator, and dive down as the tracking camera now reveals a battle. The transition from one of tranquilty to one of chaos is very abrupt and was very unexpected for me. I loved how the battle was not revealed right away. The rest of the shot then tracks the fighters as they weave in between the fighting ships. Its very exciting and it drew me right into the movie.
Aesthetically speaking, I am a very big fan of long tracking shots, especially ones that rotate around the tracked object and reveal differnet glimpses of the surrounding background. I like the change of pacing and mood in the shot, as well as the change in music and overall scene complexity. I think the tranquil opening is a very nice transition from the title crawl to the battle; I would not have enjoyed the scene as much if we saw that a battle was immediately taking place. A very beautfiul and complex mix of camerawork and atmosphere.
Narratively speaking, I like how the shot focuses on both Anakin and Obi-wan through their fighters. Both move as one throughout the opening shot, reinforcing the tie between Master and Apprentice. I like how the transition in the atmosphere of the shot foreshadows the events later seen in the film, although in different ways. For the Republic/Empire, we see a transition from open war to one of peace as the Emperor consolidates and assumes power which is a reversal of the atmosphere change seen in this shot. For Anakin and Obi-Wan, we see a transition from a very close and intimate master/apprentice relationship in which both have mutual respect and concern for each other to something else entirely.
I like this shot very much and I think Lucas and co. did a very good job composing it. So, what is your favorite opening shot, and more importantly, why is it your favorite? Does the opening of the movie help make or break it for you?
Edit: Grammer x2 -> +5 vs Pronouns