Is Narration in a Film Ever Good, or Just a Guaranteed Annoyance?
by Alex Billington
October 2, 2007
Just the other day I was watching a video titled Spider-Man 3 - How It Should Have Ended courtesy of Cinematical. It's an animated video that pokes fun at the film showing how certain scenes and the ending should've played out. The very first scene it makes fun of is at the beginning of the movie, where in this video a kid tells Peter Parker not to narrate because it's unnecessary. That little bit got me thinking: is narration in a film ever good? Or is it just a guaranteed annoyance that everyone will complain about? Are there any examples of narration in a film that was actually well done?
What really got me moving on this whole idea was a couple of reviews I read recently of The Assassination of Jesse James, where the authors all complained that the narration was just as bad as the film. Personally I didn't have anything against it, as I loved the movie anyway, but I started to really wonder. It's as if almost every review I read is at some point complaining about narration if the movie has it. The belief in Hollywood is that narration is one of the signs of a bad script, as they had to resort to plainly saying what's going on rather than showing it.
Some other movies that come to mind recently with narration (not necessarily good or bad) are Into the Wild, 300, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Little Children, Flags of Our Fathers, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There's probably a lot I missed, but one of the drawbacks of narration is it just slips your mind when you try to think of movies that include it.
So with that, I am posing the question as to if there any movies out there that have effectively included well-done narration? Some suggestions so far might be Fight Club, Goodfellas, or The Royal Tenenbaums. There are obviously examples of narration done well out there, mostly likely from films adapted from books, but what makes it so bad otherwise? Has anyone else seen The Assassination of Jesse James yet and can comment on if they thought the narration in that was good or bad?
Personally, I'm just not sure whether some narration in recent films has been good or bad. Part of the problem is that narration seems to be such a disconnected element of the film, that I hardly remember which movies did have narration or not. Even then, remembering whether they were good or bad is nearly impossible. I can say for certain that I didn't mind the narration in The Assassination of Jesse James and thought that it helped add to the story just a bit even though it was long anyway.
Are you annoyed by narration? Are there any films you can think of with narration that was actually good?