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Title: Hollywood superheroes : the aesthetics of comic book to film adaptation
Author: Taylor, James
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis develops a theoretically-informed approach with which to analyse the aesthetics of the adaptation of superhero comic books into blockbuster films. Pervasive modes of thinking present superhero blockbusters as artistically degraded products that are not worthy of aesthetic analysis. I demonstrate that exploring the ways in which superhero blockbusters adapt comic book style and form reveals aesthetic sophistication and multiplicities of meaning. Engaging with comic book and film history also enables me to identify ways in which superhero blockbusters have contributed to the development of Hollywood’s blockbuster filmmaking paradigm. My approach combines models and concepts from studies of adaptation that employ poststructuralist theory. This theoretical framework explains transformations that content may undergo as it is adapted between the different forms available to comics and film, and enables examination of dialogues occurring in the vast networks of intertexts in which superhero blockbusters are situated. After my review of literature establishes the thesis’ theoretical underpinnings, my chapters undertake close textual analysis of three distinct case studies. The selection of case studies allows me to continue to develop my approach by examining different superhero archetypes, alongside significant contexts, trends and technologies that impact Hollywood blockbusters. Chapter one looks at the first superhero blockbuster, Superman: The Movie (1978). I begin by outlining, and exploring relations between, the range of Superman texts released prior to the film. Doing so reveals the qualities of the intertextual networks that comprise a superhero franchise. I then analyse the strategies that Superman: The Movie deploys to adapt and enter the network of Superman texts, before situating the film in the context of the emerging blockbuster paradigm in 1970s Hollywood. Chapters two and three analyse films produced in the twenty-first century, as superhero blockbusters gained a central position in Hollywood production. Chapter two evaluates the aesthetics of the Spider-Man trilogy (2002, 2004 and 2007) in relation to two contexts that are often considered to have facilitated the superhero blockbuster’s twenty-first century success: the increasing use and sophistication of digital filmmaking technologies in Hollywood, and the contemporary sociopolitical climate. Looking at the representation of bodies and space elucidates the ways in which the films incorporate digital filmmaking technologies into their adaptive practices and offer a sociopolitical commentary. Chapter three examines the strategies that films produced by Marvel Studios, with particular focus on team film The Avengers (2012), deploy to adapt the model of seriality that superhero comic books use to interconnect multiple series in a shared diegesis. The analysis focuses on ways in which The Avengers uses bodies and space to compress the expansive diegetic universe into a single film, and interrogates how these strategies shape the film’s sociopolitical meanings. My case studies demonstrate that the approach developed in this thesis illuminates the complex and equivocal meanings that the adaptive practices of superhero blockbusters generate.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures