book review

Spectacular Narratives, Hollywood In The Age of the Blockbuster

Geoff King (2000)

Spectacular Narratives defends the contemporary blockbuster against those critics that claim that these flicks are void of any real story and by extension of any real significance. Geoff King argues against this that although these films may be lacking in a strong and intricate causals structure, they are underpinned by a structural opposition not unlike Greimas' semiotic squares. More in particular the Frontier Myth forms the basic structure on which all these films are based. The Frontier Myth pits the individual hero against the forces of a technocratic / bureaucratic / hedonistic society. He (for heroes in these films are mostly male) has the ability to control technology rather than be controlled by it, and he uses this ability to traverse the Frontier (whether that is the American Dessert or space, or more fantastical representations of the uncultivated lands). The Frontier purges the hero from any bad influences of modern society, and the hero restores the family unit. In many ways the game Half-Life is structured along the same lines. Put in this light most modern science fiction are surprisingly technophobic and conservative. What is more, Hollywood itself depends largely on what the Frontier Myth seems to condemn: advanced technology and large anonymous organisations.