What is the appeal of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster? The sheer scale and impact of big special effects sequences is part of the attraction of films such as Independence Day, Jurassic Park, Titanic or Mission Impossible. But they also offer other appeals, including the dynamics of narrative. Spectacular Narratives is the first serious book-length treatment of the contemporary blockbuster, including the digital-effects-based spectacle, space fictions, the action film, war spectaculars, the recent wave of disaster movies and films evoking new technologies such as virtual reality. Consideration is also given to the impact of profitable spin-offs such as film-related theme park rides and computer games. Geoff King argues against the view that an emphasis on the spectacular has led to an erosion of the importance of narrative in Hollywood. Instead, he suggests, even the most spectacular and effects-led contemporary blockbuster offers a blend of appeals, mixing elements of spectacle and narrative.
Narrative is explored at the levels of both linear story-telling and underlying thematic patterns, a particular emphasis being placed on the persistence of elements of the myth/ideology of the American frontier. Close textual analysis is combined with consideration of the industrial and social contexts of contemporary Hollywood in a readable, original and rewarding book on the cinema that dominates markets across the globe.
Geoff King is Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at Brunel University and is the author of Mapping Reality: An Exploration of Cultural Cartographies and, with Tanya Krzywinksa, Science Fiction Cinema: From Outerspace to Cyberspace.
Introduction - spectacle, narrative and "frontier" mythology; digital dinosaurs - from T-Rex to Titanic; the final frontier -space fictions; maximum impact - action films; seriously spectacular - "authenticity" and "art" in the war epic; apocalypse, maybe - pre-millennial disaster movies; conclusion -into the spectacle?.