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.
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 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!
This one in The Incredibles is actually more of an interrupted over the top shot:
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!
Next up, it’s a shot from Big Ass Spider, which ends with the titular spider landing very quietly.
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!
ILM pal Tom Martinek pointed me to three overlooked sources for Over the Top shots, and while two were worthy of inclusion on this page as precursors to Over the Top shots, Bolt yielded three genuine examples! First, here are the Bolt shots:
The ones that didn’t make it to the edit are still worth looking at as almost Over the Top shots. But they are also from extremely low budget movies and feature gore (you have been warned!). One is from The Evil Dead (of course there is one in there), and features Ash jumping over the camera:
The other is from that classic of eighties exploitation, Street Trash, and features a woman jumping over a severed head, to provide one last opportunity for a look up her skirt. I did say it was an exploitation movie:
I was hoping to find one in the new Smite “To Hell and Back” cinematic, but while there are a bunch of shots that start as Over the Top shots, the all cut before they can…well…get over the top. Watch and imagine my frustration!
Finally, wouldn’t it be great if Over the Top had an Over the Top shot in it?