Space and the Contemporary Hollywood Action Sequence
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This thesis investigates the manner in which the action sequences of contemporary Hollywood cinema reflect and constitute ways of imagining space. The thesis proposes that these sequences are highly spatialised presentations of bodily interaction with the world, and as such manifest cultural anxieties regarding the relationship between the individual and the built environment, and work to assure their viewers of the capacity of the human form to survive the disorienting spaces of contemporary architecture, globalisation and technology. In order to demonstrate this, the aesthetic and formal properties of action sequences are read alongside critical work exploring how space shapes social life, including influential texts by Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, Fredric Jameson and others. These readings reveal that both action sequences and critical spatial theory are similarly attentive to the difficulties, contradictions and possibilities of built space. A range of action sequences from Hollywood films of the last fifteen years, including sequences from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The International, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Jumper, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Sucker Punch, Inception, Swordfish, The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, TRON: Legacy, Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Dredd 3D are analysed for how they depict space and spatial agency. Rather than concentrating upon the narratives of these films, the chapters of the thesis deal in turn with the ways in which action sequences express contemporary developments within the built environment; the consequences of globalisation; the impact of these spatial changes upon mental life; the challenges to bodily engagement raised by digital technology and cyberspace; and the modifications to representing space on film prompted by stereoscopic exhibition. Examinations of these sequences are used to build a model of the action sequence that suggests spatial appropriation and ideas around place-creation are crucial elements of the form.
- Theses