Spectacular Narratives: Hollywood in the Age of the by Geoff King

By Geoff King

What makes trendy Hollywood motion pictures such a success? Is it the sheer scale of lighting tricks that offers movies like "Jurassic Park" or "The Matrix" their mass viewers attraction? Geoff King seems on the underexplored dynamic dating among narrative and spectacle in modern Hollywood cinema. He makes use of the parable of the yank frontier opposed to a number of Hollywood filmsand drawes examples from the digital-effects-based and virtual-reality spectacles, area fictions, motion movies, struggle epics and catastrophe movies that now dominate cinema.

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What all of this is supposed to offer is an illusion, of course, at both levels, in and outside the space of the narrative. As an experience analogous to that for which the frontier is made to stand, the experience of spectacular cinema may seem pitifully attenuated, and the comparison somewhat stretched. But it is questionable whether this promise of immediacy, intensity and presence is much more artificial and second-hand than any other mobilization of the myth, in contemporary Hollywood or elsewhere.

As does Jo, whose leadership role in the tornado-chasing team is often supplanted by Harding’s return and whose more obsessive attitude toward the tornado seems to associate her with its irrationality. The most insistent visual signals of the contrasting approaches of the Harding and Miller teams in Twister are the convoys of vehicles in which they chase across the countryside. The villains occupy an almost obligatory fleet of anonymous and sinister black vans, signifying the evil forces of centralized regimentation.

Continuity is more the outcome of active commercial and ideological projections and interventions with their own specific histories than a reduction to any timeless realm of universal myth. Frontier mythology tends to be politically reactionary in form, often blatantly elitist, racist, sexist or homophobic. In theory, the frontier, as a place ‘outside’ or on the edge, opens up the possibility of a subversive blurring of boundaries. More often, in Hollywood, it provides the opportunity for a re-establishment of dominant structures; an appeal, to be expected in much of popular culture, to that which is already comforting and familiar.

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