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It is well known that the second act of any story is one of the most important parts and one of the hardest to get down right. So to keep everyone enthralled during this period you come up with The Centerpiece Spectacular.

The Centerpiece Spectacular is a point in a story that is certainly not the climax, but it is situated during the middle of the story or sometimes even the beginning to really get their attention. You can usually identify it as being the sequence everyone is talking about, and that is usually because this sequence is the work's Crowning Moment of Awesome.

Now, there can often be a downside to this. It isn't a bad thing to make the centerpiece the high point of the story, but if the climax doesn't even come close to approaching it then it can end up being a let down. And if the running time of the story has too great a distance between the centerpiece and the climax, you can run into Ending Fatigue.

The placing of The Centerpiece Spectacular can vary wildly, though it is never the climax. If this sequence happens towards the beginning of the story, it can overlap with an Establishing Character Moment. In early Act 2 it is intended to get the plot flowing fast. In late Act 2 it is a set-up for the climax.


Examples of The Centerpiece Spectacular include:


Animation

Film

  • Saving Private Ryan has the opening amphibious landing battle. A solid half-hour of relentless combat and no other combat sequence in the film, up to and including the climactic fight, can match it for intensity.
  • All of the Indiana Jones movies follow this closely:
  • The Dark Knight has the police escort being attacked by the Joker and Batman rushing into the fight. In fact the sequence was so good many people expected it to be the climax.
  • Iron Man has the hero going to the middle east and destroying the Stark weaponry that was being used there. The Unflinching Walk after destroying the tank cements it, and the chase sequence with the American jets brings it home.
  • The Incredible Hulk has the fight at the college grounds.
  • The pod race in The Phantom Menace served this purpose.
  • The first Transformers movie had the arrival of the Autobots.
    • Revenge of the Fallen has the forest battle with Optimus versus Megatron, Starscream and Grindor.
  • The original Planet of the Apes had the Reveal of the apes. They felt they had to do it again (and top themselves) for Beneath the Planet of the Apes so they wrote the part with the reveal of the mutated humans.
  • The Chase Fight on the freeway in The Matrix Reloaded.
  • Zero hour hits in 2012, and we follow John Cusack and family drive and fly out of Los Angeles as the ground crumbles and opens up, buildings collapse and debris — cars, trains, freeways, people — fly all about them.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring had the fight against the goblins and the cave troll (especially the cave troll) in the ruins of Balin's Tomb.
    • The Return of the King had the Battle of Pelennor Fields, which comes about three-quarters of the way through the film and is easily the biggest and longest fight of the whole trilogy.
  • Captain America the First Avenger has Captain America's first mission — his attack on the HYDRA base, rescuing Bucky and the Howling Commandos and meeting the Red Skull for the first time.

Theatre

  • The Slave Cage sequence in KA is an excellent example of a centerpiece spectacular that sets up the climax as the slaves revolt against their captors.
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