You know what I’mma talk about today? I’mma talk about something near and dear and close to me. I’m gonna talk about the credits to motion pictures. Why? Cos this past weekend, I attended one film (twice) where everyone sat through to the very last frame of the credits. And this wasn’t what everyone does all the time–the norm is that you leave the moment “a film by Zack Snyder” hits the screen. Why are credits necessary, when it’s just an extended sequence of film or aesthetics followed by a total dull scrawl of white names on a black backdrop (sometimes different colours, sometimes not even center aligned!). What is the part of credits that is absolutely necessary to a film? And this weekend, when everyone watched Thor, everyone who had bought a ticket sat and stared at the names as they scrolled past–and the question I have to ask is why?
Well, their answer is likely very uncomplicated. The new Marvel Avengers continuity movies are all interconnected, and these connections are demonstrated almost exclusively through post-credits scenes featuring cameo appearances from other characters in the universe. And all of this started back in 2008 with a small conversation between Tony Stark and Nick Fury of SHIELD. Lots of movies feature scenes after their credits, but this movie was the first to include a top billable star only where the majority of the audience would never see him. It made sitting and watching the credits part of a ritual of moviegoing for audiences across North America. I will admit that until the release of Iron Man, I had never sat through the credits for a movie, unless they were the opening sequence. And I will admit that even for the release of Iron Man, I didn’t sit through the credits. I got up and went home cos my mom was itching to leave. I was a bad cinephile; I was young and naive. And after Iron Man, I didn’t just vow to sit through the credits of any Avengers Continuity movie ever again. I vowed to sit through all the credits.
Few people know exactly what this implies, but the two people who’d have the best idea are the two who have had my most disparate experiences with credits and moviegoing: Ailish and Mel. Let’s start with Ailish. Ailish is the person I first saw Avatar with, and she’ll tell you that–as I was with Thor–I was smitten from the moment the lights went down. There are only certain movies that make me feel that way, and Avatar was one of them. It was an absolutely magical experience from the first frame to the moment I got a nosebleed around 40 minutes in. Now, Avatar is not like Primer. You get a nosebleed forty minutes into Primer, you’re more than halfway through the movie, just tough it out, there’s like, 37 minutes left. No, Avatar is a hundred and sixty three minutes long. And Ailish will tell you, I sat there with my thumb covering my nostril for the next two hours because I didn’t want to miss a frame of this movie.
She offered to get me tissues, I declined. She offered a lot of things, until after about five minutes, I told her to just sit and watch the movie–cos that’s what I was most certainly going to do, blood or no blood. And the part that probably surprised her the most was when the lights came up, and people started to leave, and I sat still with my thumb to my nostril, reading the credits. I assume you’ve seen Avatar, and I don’t assume you share my opinion of its quality, however. We both know one thing for sure. Avatar was the first movie we’d ever seen in a theater with more than a dozen special effects companies listed in the credits–paragraph style. James Cameron had so many names on his staff that he had to put the credits for Avatar in paragraph form just to make them only one and a half times the length of the average credits run. And I sat there for the entire thing, because I loved that movie.
Mel’s experience is different. Recently she, her friend Nadine, and I saw Hanna together. Take a moment to read my review if you want to know exactly what I thought throughout that art student travesty. And throughout that movie, I was itching to leave, go to the front desk, and demand I get my money back. “But,” they’d tell me, “you got in for free!” “I know,” I’d say, “I still want you to pay me for having seen any amount of that excruciating mess.” I absolutely loathed every frame of that film, and it only got worse as it went on. Which is why when Hanna shoots Cate Blanchett in the hip with an arrow and says “I just missed your heart” at the end of the movie, I was already out of my seat and on my way to the door. I am not ashamed to admit that. Not at all.
See, for me, missing the credits indeed feels like walking out of a movie before its ended, now. And I feel like I walked out on Hanna. Because for a good movie, credits are like that quiet moment after you finish a book or finish listening to a classic album where you look out the nearest window and think about what you just read/listened to. You meditate on the characters, you let the story have a second chance to surprise you as you slowly emerge from another world. That’s what happened for me when I watched the credits for Avatar, and maybe if those people who got depressed after seeing it had sat through the credits, they’d feel a bit better too. But I didn’t want to reflect on Hanna, and I never want to again.
Am I glad that the new Marvel continuity is introducing a generation of cinephiles to the wonders of a list of names after your movie is over? Yes. But do I think it’ll affect anyone outside the people who would’ve already watched the credits for something else? Mm. Take a moment and think that over, would you?