- Category: Influences
- Published on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 17:38
- Written by Super User
- Hits: 641
My siblings figured largely into my love of pop-culture, especially movies. Their tastes broke along fairly traditional gender lines — my two older brothers liked action movies, while my sister liked GREASE and XANADU, although my sister certainly wouldn’t say no to a good action movie.
I liked it all, and when it came to certain action movies, my two older brothers took it upon themselves to school me on certain titles. They’d approach me, stroking their chins as if emerging from conclave.
“Bob, we’ve decided it’s time for you to watch ALIENS,” they’d say, the white smoke apparently having formed the image of a xenomorph.
One such movie was John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. I’ve already spoken about Carptenter’s dystopian classic before, but I want to focus on its excellent opening, which features the voice of Jamie Lee Curtis, if I’m not mistaken. Check it out:
Carpenter’s advantage is that his world is so unusual, so delicious, that it earns him a grace period to deliver a huge exposition dump at the beginning. I’ve always chuckled at the audacity of this opening — I mean, how did this happen? Didn’t the citizens of Manhattan object to being forcefully relocated?
But in any event, Carpenter uses this opening not only to set up his central setpiece — the entire island — but he also sets up the world at large (a paranoid police state) and his closing action scene (the race down a mined bridge).
Such openings are possible in a novel, I suppose, but in many cases, the medium’s more leisurely pace allows for a writer to roll out their world-building in smaller increments. And to be fair, the same happens in film. Carpenter takes care of most of his world-building with this opening, but there are still plenty of surprises to be found on Manhattan Island, as this line suggests: “There are no guards inside the prison; only prisoners and the worlds they have made.”
I’ll talk in greater detail about how I went about world-building in future blog entries, but for now, I’ll simply repeat an old maxim: Make your rules. They can be whatever you want. But when you make them, follow them.