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Old 06-10-2019, 12:34 PM
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Movies that would be better without voice-over narration (and those better with)


the thread about Blast of Silence -- a low-budget noir film noted for its use of narration -- crystallized this idea I had about a thread on narration.

Generally, I'm against narration in films. I've tried to minimize the use of it in radio plays and the like, because it seems to me that, in most cases, you ought to be able to tell the story in dialogue and action. If you have to resort to voice-over narration, it's evidence that you failed in that. (Although, I will admit, there are cases where the narration is needed, and, done properly, is an excellent addition or counterpoint to the action. See Blast of Silence, and the below.)



Better without the narration:

Bladerunner -- probably the poster child for this. I know there are people who actually like it, but they're apparently in the minority. Harrison Ford's (arguably very deliberately) monotonic narration doesn't really add anything to the story that you don't see. I, like many, prefer the narration-less "Director's Cut".

2010: The Year we Make Contact. Kubrick's 2001 had no narration, Hyams' 2010 did. That's not the only difference between the films, but it's the one that hits you in the face right away. If it was removed, 2010 would have some of the sense of mystery and seriousness that the original had.

Metamorphosis/Winds of Change -- a Fantasia-like blend of rock music and animation telling the Greek myths. It really didn't need Peter Ustinov's voice-over; it was originally intended to be without narration, and shoulda stayed that way.




Cases where narration helped:

A Clockwork Orange -- After the narration-less 2001, Kubrick followed up with this one narrated in the futuristic lingo by Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a definitely untrustworthy narrator.

Barry Lyndon -- Kubrick's next film, based on William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, featured voice over by Michael Hordern, with dry wit that really made it work better.




Any other thoughts?
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:36 PM
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Dark City. The opening narration is superfluous and gives away far too much, assuming the audience is too stupid to catch on to the situation. Most people recommend is that you mute the sound so you don't have to hear it. Nowadays, the director's cut is recommended so you don't have to hear it.
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 06-10-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:42 PM
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A Christmas Story wouldn't be half as funny without the Jean Shepherd voice-overs.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:46 PM
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Without- Casino, waaay too much Joe Pesci narration, made worse by the really annoying voice his character had.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:48 PM
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The director's cut of Blade Runner is a far superior Work of Art. But I am not certain that I would have understood what was going on, if I had not first seen the narrated version.

Lord of the Rings needed the narrated introduction. I kind of like Bakshi's prologue better than Jackson's.

The narration in Raising Arizona made the film funnier.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
....


Better without the narration:

Bladerunner -- probably the poster child for this. I know there are people who actually like it, but they're apparently in the minority. Harrison Ford's (arguably very deliberately) monotonic narration doesn't really add anything to the story that you don't see. I, like many, prefer the narration-less "Director's Cut"....

....

....
I disagree strongly. First, you can't have too much Harrison Ford. But everyone I know that prefers the Directors cut had seen the narrated version first. So, yeah, upon seeing the film for the 2nd or 5th time, the narration does get in the way a bit of enjoying the setting, cinematography, etc.

But we were watching the The Final Cut (2007) version (which I hate. since the idea that Deckard is a replicant- which ruins the whole theme of PKD, that replicants are more human than humans - is stupid as all fuck) and two younger people were there, and they were confused and kept asking questions about what was going on.

So, yes, if you are re-watching Bladerunner for the nth time, I can see why the narration might get in your way. But for a first timer, it's pretty damn critical.

I dunno about narration, but Inception & Mulholland drive could use something, and narration could be that something.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by burpo the wonder mutt View Post
A Christmas Story wouldn't be half as funny without the Jean Shepherd voice-overs.
Very true.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
I disagree strongly. First, you can't have too much Harrison Ford. But everyone I know that prefers the Directors cut had seen the narrated version first. So, yeah, upon seeing the film for the 2nd or 5th time, the narration does get in the way a bit of enjoying the setting, cinematography, etc.

But we were watching the The Final Cut (2007) version (which I hate. since the idea that Deckard is a replicant- which ruins the whole theme of PKD, that replicants are more human than humans - is stupid as all fuck) and two younger people were there, and they were confused and kept asking questions about what was going on.

So, yes, if you are re-watching Bladerunner for the nth time, I can see why the narration might get in your way. But for a first timer, it's pretty damn critical.

I dunno about narration, but Inception & Mulholland drive could use something, and narration could be that something.
I strongly disagee with your disagreement -- I hated the narration the moment I heard it, and the story would have been perfectly intelligible without it.

In fact. I'll go further -- the opening "crawl", explaining about replicants, is completely unnecessary as well, since it's covered in the dialogue.

What would have helped was the introduction of some crucial background info that's not in the crawl, the narration, or the dialogue -- such as the fact that most animals have been killed off. That would have made the Voigt-Kampf questions make some sense, and explained why Deckard asked if the owl was real, and why the snake had serial numbers on its scales.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
I strongly disagee with your disagreement -- I hated the narration the moment I heard it, and the story would have been perfectly intelligible without it.

In fact. I'll go further -- the opening "crawl", explaining about replicants, is completely unnecessary as well, since it's covered in the dialogue.

What would have helped was the introduction of some crucial background info that's not in the crawl, the narration, or the dialogue -- such as the fact that most animals have been killed off. That would have made the Voigt-Kampf questions make some sense, and explained why Deckard asked if the owl was real, and why the snake had serial numbers on its scales.
I agree on your point about the animals. But we have to agree to disagree about the narration.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:46 PM
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It's a TV show rather than a movie, but the voice-over narration was an important part of Arrested Development.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:52 PM
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Better with: The Shawshank Redemption.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:56 PM
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Better with: Goodfellas
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:00 PM
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The OdeSSa File with Jon Voight* is a tricky case. I would have preferred to have had no narration at all, but parts of the novel were so condensed, some background had to be provided just so the audience could follow what was going on. Mercifully, they kept it brief and it was pretty well done.

*The actor, not the dentist.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbh View Post
The director's cut of Blade Runner is a far superior Work of Art. But I am not certain that I would have understood what was going on, if I had not first seen the narrated version.
Agree. And the great thing about "Deckard" as a narrator is that the more Harrison Ford hated/was bored doing it, the more it gave you an insight into Deckard's emotional detachment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dung Beetle View Post
Better with: The Shawshank Redemption.
A guy I know had a retirement video done by his wife, it was shown at a meeting I was at. She got Morgan Freeman to narrate it!

It turned a white bread childhood into something significant. So, he could do a voiceover for Highlander][: Electric Boogaloo, and I'd prefer it.
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