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Title: Spectacular rhythms : cultural conflict in the contemporary superhero film
Author: Turner, Caleb
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 170X
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis proposes a new analytical perspective to the interplay between the entertaining escapism afforded by spectacular action sequences and the expression of cultural themes in the 2000s-present contemporary superhero film cycle. In the introduction I give a review of the spectacle and narrative debate to explain how current studies on popular action film have tended to primarily focus on the way spectacular displays support narrative progression by driving forward the film plot’s narrative chain of cause-and-effect over time. However, the review then explains that whenever the cultural themes invested in these action film narratives are concerned, there is often an assumption that thematic values only surface intermittently as symbolic motifs at certain moments, and so do not really benefit from this kind of storytelling momentum to the same extent. The introduction then sets up my claim that spectacle not only aids the progression of plot by energising narrative causality and temporal progression, but spectacle also contributes other rhythmically kinetic arcs of narration able to developmentally evolve thematic tales of cultural conflict, which I term as narrativised spectacle. I explain my method as one combining a genre theory framework to uncover the cultural contradictions invested in action narratives alongside a neoformalist analysis of the rhythmic components of physical motion, editing, framing, composition and digital visual effects that express these thematic tensions. Examples are then given to show why contemporary superhero films depend on such kinetic kinds of spectacular rhythm, and provide a key case study to work with. Each chapter finds evidence for my claim by analysing how different kinds of kinetic arc are generated by the audio-visual rhythms of spectacle: able to introduce, challenge, destabilise, conflate, reinstate and eventually reconcile a series of conflicting cultural themes akin to an evolving tale. In the first chapter I explore the physical and spatial spectacle of action sequences. In the second chapter I look at the melodramatic theatrics of performance techniques. In the third chapter I critically interrogate the violent action of the superhero film alongside the themes of masculinity invoked therein. In the final chapter I deal with superheroines. Although these heroines employ these same thematic rhythms as male superheroes, the kinetic arcs are noticeably far more interrupted, due to being burdened with themes of androcentrism. The conclusion then summarises exactly what narrativised spectacle contributes to existing debates on spectacle and narrative, and why it is particularly useful for studying the contemporary superhero-action film.
Supervisor: Wood, Aylish Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PB2994 Film Studies ; PN1993 Motion Pictures