Are the first thirty minutes of any movie really that essential?
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Santiago, Chile, my granddad would take me to the rotary cinemas downtown. At these cinemas, a given film was played in an endless loop. One bought a ticket and walked in at any point in the film and watched it until the end, and then, if one wanted to, could stay to watch the film start from the beginning again.
I watched Rocky I, II, III & IV like this in rotary cinemas with my granddad.
Later in life, as a pre-tween, I remember finding myself with a few hours to kill, in downtown Santiago, and I decided to drop into one of these cinemas which, by then, I had not visited in a while. I still recall the film - it was 'Strange Days' with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Lewis. I sat halfway into the movie and the conflict and the chase, and had a great time assuming by the interaction between the characters what the relationship between them was.
Then I watched the beginning and had one of those 'Oh! So THAT'S why such and such was doing this or that!' moment. It was awesome, and in a way, it was like watching a prequel (which are so popular these days).
This 'Oh!' moment was fully blown-up when I went to an art house cinema to watch Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a masterpiece which influenced me radically and spurred the style of writing I pursue today. No, the art house was not a rotary cinema, but if you have watched Pulp Fiction, you too had that 'Oh! So THAT'S why he did it!' moment.
That being said, I think that - unfortunately - most movies are very predictable. In fact, I become the most bored during the fight/chase scenes, because I can tell beforehand what will happen, namely that the hero will not get hurt and that the bad guy will be demised (But that is the topic for another blog, one which I will name, 'Cut to the chase? Why not cut OUT the chase?")
If a movie is likely to be predictable, watching it from halfway through adds some excitement to it. Now I'm busy trying to figure out who is who DURING the fight/chase, adding another dimension of interest. And, if the denouement turns out to be interesting, hey, I'll watch it from the beginning next chance I get.
The most hilarious example of this is when, while now living in Los Angeles, I took a friend to see Aliens Vs. Predator - lame, I know. I told my friend we could do without the first thirty minutes of the film, given that all that happened during that time was the introduction of your run-of-the-mill characters, each of which will get slaughtered, one at a time.
We went instead to a Starbucks across the street for some Frapuccinos ( Fraps + Air Conditioned cinemas being the perfect antidote for the swelter of an L.A. summer ). When we returned, we walked into the cinema just in time to see the eggs hatch, the face-huggers pounce and the massacre begin. And guess what, the plot was so lame there really WAS no need to get to know any of the characters beforehand. Bang!
So ARE the first thirty minutes of a given film that important? I don't know. Maybe for films which are excellent; hallmarks or classics or revolutionaries. But then again, iconic films of this calibre, I will probably watch more than once - from the very beginning, to the very end. As for the rest, well...