In honour of Andrew Kauzâ€™s new community recap blog, After the Credits, ACBP brings to you the very best of after credit scenes or, as they are otherwise known, Stingers.
Itâ€™s become a common theme whereby many modern video games contain hidden referential surprises, or “Easter eggs”. They can take multitudes of form, may feature characters, scenarios or events from previous games or other brands within the same studio umbrella, or be totally unrelated to the topic at hand. Many take their cue from cinema.
A recent example can be found in New Vegas. Early in the game you come across a refrigerator strewn amongst the post-apocalyptic debris. Inside you discover the skeletal remnants of a man bearing a distinctive fedora, a whip and a revolver. Even as someone who wished the last, unmentionable Indiana Jones film had died a similar death, I appreciated the reference.
Film (more and more often the cultural and artistic springboard to video games) of cours
In honour of Andrew Kauz’s new community recap blog, After the Credits, ACBP brings to you the very best of after credit scenes or, as they are otherwise known, Stingers.
It’s become a common theme whereby many modern video games contain hidden referential surprises, or "Easter eggs". They can take multitudes of form, may feature characters, scenarios or events from previous games or other brands within the same studio umbrella, or be totally unrelated to the topic at hand. Many take their cue from cinema.
A recent example can be found in Fallout: New Vegas. Early in the game you come across a refrigerator strewn amongst the post-apocalyptic debris. Inside you discover the skeletal remnants of a man bearing a distinctive fedora, a whip and a revolver. Even as someone who wished the last, unmentionable Indiana Jones film had died a similar death, I appreciated the reference.
Film (more and more often the cultural and artistic springboard to video games) of course also contain similar such prizes. “Stingers” are one of the more increasingly common examples of this.
Appearing after the credits, they aren’t used so much as the film’s coda, but more often to set up a possible sequel (or in Marvel’s case to promote a different franchise) or to provide one last laugh or reward for a staunch audience.
Movie legend Roger Ebert describes them as “Monk’s Rewards”, aptly highlighting the monklike devotion required from an audience in order to sit through the credits to see the final scene. Regardless of their intention or use, their history can be dated back to the late 60’s Bond films. A card amongst the credits would read “James Bond will return in…” as a means of advertising future missions.
Since then they have evolved to become complex, whimsical and powerful storytelling tools which are used more and more frequently by modern filmmakers.
What follows are my five favourite stingers of recent(ish) memory.
Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)
It is difficult to make a good scary movie. As many examples prove it is easy to build tension, create a new and exotic monster or killer, even easy to baffle audiences with its motivations, origins and powers. But it is a vastly different story when it comes to satisfying a viewer when it comes to answering those questions – the how’s and the why’s.
Take the Last Exorcism (2010). Piggybacking off the amateur hand-held-style success of Paranormal Activity (2009), it weaves an interesting narrative about a seemingly possessed girl. However as we build to the conclusion, every question, every “what the hell” moment is put into clear context. The monster is given a human face, so to speak. Similar to the translations of horror fiction to movie-screen, the creature can never attain, even by using CGI, latex or Oscar-worthy acting, the same level of intense, fear-inducing power as our own imagination. Paranormal Activity did this right. We never saw what was terrorizing the protagonists. It is only hinted at, only assumed. Our depraved minds fill in the blanks.
Conversely without any explanation whatsoever, we are left numb and blank. The recent sci-fi throwaway Skyline falls prey to this lack of disclosure. Like I said, it is a very fine line to succeed in this form of storytelling.
Cloverfield, however, stands as an example of the perfect balance between total ignorance and full intimate knowledge. We see the alien destroying New York in vague and frenetic flashes. We get a sense of it. But it is never explained, in fact we don’t even know if it is an alien, at least not until the first “stinger”.
Many people don’t notice that in the last shot, the last scene at the fairground filmed prior to the attack, there is a wide shot of the beach, with the ocean behind it. In the top right hand side of the screen you very briefly see what could only be an asteroid or other minor extra-terrestrial fragment impact on the water. Then it is gone. It explains so much so simply, showing not telling. Perfect.
So it’s technically not a stinger; but it comes after the main film and perfectly bookends the narrative. The second, true stinger comes after the credits, and albeit disappointing in scale and presentation (it’s probably the cheapest stinger since Bond), does what stingers do best: sets up a sequel. Take a look/listen.
Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy
It was a huge risk for Disney to try and adapt one of their popular theme-park rides into a film. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl began its life in the 1990s, and even after successful director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer signed onto the project it was still nearly shut down by the then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. His issue was the immense budget (reportedly $140 million).
Considering Disney was sustaining itself on diminished theme-park attendances and sporadic mega-hits from Pixar (such as Monsters Inc.), one can appreciate Eisner’s concern; There hadn’t been a modern telling of the pirate genre since 1995’s Cutthroat Island which had destroyed not only the genre, but the Carolco film company too, after bringing in only $10 million dollars of a $100 million budget.
Even Verbinski had to fight tooth and nail for Depp to play hilarious pirate Jack Sparrow, a role now so fundamentally popularized by the actor.
While people with an eye for quality suspected it might be a sleeper hit, no one involved anticipated just how successful it might be, or the need for two follow-up movies.
Hence why the first stinger follows the typical “horror” trope.
These “Final-stab” stingers are perhaps the most common of the after credit scenes in supernatural or horror movies. Its use in the Curse of the Black Pearl doesn’t help us segue neatly into the next film, but instead concludes the movie. It literally is a nice Easter Egg for astute viewers.
The sequel (filmed in conjunction with the third film), Dead Man’s Chest, employs a more comedic stinger. Again this is a common usage of the tool. It doesn’t build towards the next film nor does it even really conclude the main story of the second movie. It is simply a funny aside.
But the third and final film in the trilogy (so far anyway), At Worlds End, features one of the most effective stingers in recent memory. Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner character has become the new captain of the Flying Dutchman. Effectively the Grim Reaper of the sea, he can only set foot on dry land once every ten years. He is granted only one night alone with his new bride, Keira Knightely, before setting sail for eternity.
It’s certainly what Marty McFly would call, “heavy”. Ten years apart is a long time despite their protestations of love and fidelity. Yet after the credits roll the final scene, “Ten Years Later” shows the Dutchman erupting from the sea as the sun sets, Knightely and their new son stood waiting to greet him.
Pretty melodramatic I guess, but effectively shot and scored. This sort of stuff is what cinema was made for and fantastically concludes that story.
Iron Man (2008, Jon Favreau)
Marvel Entertainment has done something no one else can make a claim to. Somehow, someway they have convinced multiple, rival studios to transform their comic-book franchises into successful blockbuster movies and then have them advertise each other in the credits. Genius.
It began with Paramount getting into bed with Universal, when Robert Downey Jr., in his Tony Stark guise, featured in the stinger for the Incredible Hulk (2008, Louis Leterrier). The appearance, despite being understated, stoked the fanboy-fires of the future Avengers movie. Couple this with 20th Century Fox producing the X-Men trilogy, as well as Captain America (referenced in Iron Man 2!), and we effectively have Marvel whoring itself to whoever pays the most. It’s like Coca Cola putting Metallica in a commercial and having them drink Pepsi.
While Iron Man 2 (2010, Jon Favreau) had an extended stinger heralding the coming of Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh), Marvels next mega franchise, it was in the original Iron Man however that best utilized the after-credit scene.
Certainly not the first in modern Marvel Entertainment’s venture into stingers (that mighty honour goes to Daredevil in 2003), it resonates the most and features the most suprising of cameos. Despite being preceded by Downey’s appearance in the Incredible Hulk a mere month before, Samuel L. Jackson’s shock unveiling as Nick Fury (agent of SHIELD) and his utterance “I’m here to talk about the Avenger Initiative” set the forums alight.
So the Marvel machine moves onwards. Its use of slight references to other franchises both current and in the pipeline, along with creative employment of stingers and other promo tricks is thickening the Marvel universe canon, and stoking the fires of fans everywhere. However this time you don’t have to be a comic book nerd to appreciate it.
Crank (2006, Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)
Let’s get something straight. Jason Statham doesn’t make very good films very often. But when he does, they tend to be dynamite. Crank, from handling the box, might look like “Generic Action-Fest no. 6”. But actually watch it and you’ll discover an action classic.
Directed by two experienced camera operators, Neveldine/Taylor effectively distil the violent chaos of first and third-person action games into a high-octane film. As equally ludicrous as most video games, Crank represents, I think, a more nuanced and faithful homage to gaming content; Statham’s Chev Chelios is the typical action hero, the typical action avatar.
Self-deprecating and totally none-serious, the film nods its’ head to VG culture on numerous occasions. Chelios’ cover is that of a video games artist. The camera zips from perspective to perspective, one moment mirroring Gears of War, the next Punch Out.
And if you’re still left shaking your head to all these sly nods, there’s no denying the stinger.
Looking like a classic retro game (clearly based on Double Dragon) from the SNES era, there is no denying Crank’s intent any longer.
Masters of the Universe (1987, Gary Goddard)
Come on, it’s obvious to anyone around the darker side of their twenties that this is the most memorable stinger ever. It’s probably the first one you ever saw, if, like me, you were so He-Man crazed to sit through the credits.
Well the music was pretty badass (by Bill Conti of Rocky fame) considering the content of the film. Very rousing. My Dad (the one time he took me to the cinema) still mentions the sound to this day.
Seriously though, stingers weren’t hugely popular or widespread at this point in the 1980’s. They were still being used to push future Bonds, the Muppets were breaking fourth walls, and certain passengers aboard a taxi in Airplane! were going insane. It was still a very niche and very rare thing to find unlike today (see Iron Man above).
Most certainly continued a joke or were comical in theme. Masters of the Universe was different. It was a bit scary. In fact what I think I liked the most about it was the fact Skeletor (the indomitable Frank Langella) was seen without his cowl. Considering he was just a yellow cackling skull in the cartoon, Langella really added a level of sincere evil to the character. The makeup was pretty effective. You really did wonder what the hell was under that hood, and when Dolph knocks him off that platform the only thing you’re looking at is Skeletor’s white dome as tumbles to his (apparent) doom.
The stinger was just the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately the lazy philistines over at YouTube haven’t uploaded this monumental clip (I may probably be the only person to have ever seen it, actually). So listen to the badass soundtrack instead.
Two good stinger-related resources:
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