“Over the Top” Shots

A few years back, I posted about seeing a visual quote of a Transformers shot in Tangled/Rapunzel and another in Rango. Since then I have found three four five seven many more. Does that mean I get to name it? If so, I’m dubbing it the “over the top” shot.

Here are the original three that got me started:

This is a rare example of a shot from a contemporary film spawning imitation soon after its release. Usually, it takes years before filmmakers get up the courage to use an especially innovative technique (think dolly/zoom and DePalma 360).

The obvious exception would be bullet-time from The Matrix (itself borrowed from Tim MacMillan’s pioneering Time Slice work). The success of The Matrix immediately led to a flood of bullet-time shots. I even worked on a bid for a movie with a whole plot built around the effect. Thankfully, it never got the green light. I think seeing a bullet time shot in Shrek was my signal that that type of shot was officially done.

It’s also exciting to think that I have found “patient zero” for a type of shot during its initial theatrical release and can start collecting examples from the beginning. That is, of course, assuming that the Transformers shot is not itself a quote of another shot.

Well, when I put the word out, super-pal, Khris Brown reminded me that there might be one with a horse in Lawrence of Arabia, and when I checked, it was close, but not quite. However, a quick check showed no shot of horses leaping over the camera…but tickled the Butch Cassidy region of my brain just enough to remember this:

It doesn’t go on the official Over the Top list, but deserves to be on the “contributed to the development” list.

Beca remembered that there was one in Wanted.  Well, if anyone would make effective use of an Over the Top shot (aside from Mr. Bay), it would be Timur Bekmambetov.  And that made me think there might be one in either Night Watch or Day Watch.

Jackpot! Both Wanted and Day Watch have Over the Top shots! But I didn’t find one when I scrubbed through Night Watch. But, the one in Day Watch predates the one in Transformers! It’s not exactly the same kind of single shot, but it sure sets the precedent for fast moving, heavy thing flying over the head of unsuspecting/innocent person whose reaction is captured in slow motion.

I eventually found an even earlier example from Blur Studio‘s first animated short, In the Rough, which was released in 2005.

So, I had originally awarded Over the Top shot “patient zero” status to Day Watch, and credit for polishing and popularizing it to Transformers, but now I consider In the Rough the first occurrence of a true Over the Top shot. 

UPDATE: There is one in Night Watch! When I saw the one in Hellboy, it jogged my memory!

This makes Night Watch the current “patient zero” for over the top shots and makes Timur Bekmambetov the originating director. I still give credit to In the Rough for refining/defining the trope.

Next to be added was an Over the Top from Battleship that was not worth watching that terrible movie to discover.

Before it was released, I was tipped off by friends at Walt Disney Animation that there was going to be an Over the Top shot in Wreck-It Ralph. There is, and it’s a good one!

The two next additions came from unexpected sources: the Transformers-inspired opening credits for the latest season of Hell’s Kitchen and the Jhen Mohran cinematic from Monster Hunter 3!

One more that’s more of an interrupted Over the Top Shot from The Incredibles:

Despicable Me 2 has one that I noticed while almost falling asleep in the the theater:

My friend Alex Espigares alerted me to one in Jurassic Shark!

While Annika and I were watching Mythbusters, they did one, and it even has stoic Jamie watching Buster fly by in slow motion!

Next up, it’s a shot from Big Ass Spider, which ends with said spiderr landing very quietly.

Blur Studios’ “Father to Son” Batman: Arkham Knight announce trailer got lots of well-deserved attention when it was released, and it’s over the top shot is nicely done:

Plus, it’s from the studio that helped give birth to the Over the Top shot in In the Rough!

Bee Movie doesn’t have much to offer an audience, but it does have an over the top shot. Or rather an over the side shot.

R.I.P.D. didn’t do well at the boxoffice, but it has some great visual effects (thank you, R&H) and some really interesting cinematography, including this somewhat disturbing over the top shot.

Two shots from Hellboy which each have elements of a proper over the top shot. That truck punch certainly owes a direct debt to Night Watch.

In the winter of 2014, coworker Matt Cordner sent me a gameplay clip from Call of Duty that had a first-person, in-game Over the Top moment:

Which reminded him of All Quiet on the Western Front, which indeed has some great precursor Over the Top Shots in it:

Matt also reminded me that during World War I, when troops went up and out of their trenches and into No Man’s Land, it was called going “over the top.”

While binging our way through The Legend of Korra over the 2014 Christmas holiday, Beca spotted one while I was out of the room…um…responding to nature’s call. “Go back! There was an Over the Top shot!” And there sure was!

Finally, wouldn’t it be great if Over the Top had an Over the Top shot in it?

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13 Responses to “Over the Top” Shots

  1. megm says:

    It makes me sad that the images/videos are not showing up, all I get is the Stallone poster at the bottom.

    • tadleckman says:

      Wait. What? What browser/OS are you using? You are my target audience! If you say Firefox on Linux, I’ll cry, because that means most effects and animation artists can’t see them either! I may ask you to help me trouble-shoot.

  2. megm says:

    Hmm seems to be working today. yay!

  3. mrfusiontm says:

    What movie is the shot of the red car driving along the side of the building from?
    Must add to Flecks list.

    • tadleckman says:

      Looks like the VideoPress UI is covering up my labels in the upper right corner! If you mouse off the movie it will go away.
      That movie is Day Watch. Highly recommended, as is the series of books which are even better!

  4. The only thing I have to add is that the Transformer might also be the only “rocket jump” recorded on film.

  5. mrfusiontm says:

    Isn’t there one in the original Hell Boy?

  6. tadleckman says:

    Ha! There *are* two! And yes, the truck totally counts. It also reminded me of another one with a flipping ambulance in Day Watch or Night Watch!

  7. Ben says:

    Saw an over the top while at VES award nominations: Dreamwork’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Scene is during Trojan battle scene, when Mr. Peabody slo-mo flips over a Roman soldier.

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