Friday, October 16, 2009

Four years ago I grabbed Tom Shone's Blockbuster off the free table at the Weekly, always intending to read it but never getting around to it. Packing for Brooklyn, I knew I'd need it--I'm working on a project that I figured it would be useful background for, which it has been. It's also been enjoyable: I began reading Tuesday and am one chapter away from finishing, which is fast for me--I'm a slow reader. Shone can be Brit-crit cutesy at times, and a few passages clunk along; he also commits the no-no-by-me of prefacing most chapters with a juicy quote that is then repeated within the chapter. (Those should always stand alone.) But the bulk of the writing is fine, and he's got a real overview of Hollywood blockbusterization--it's not a blow-by-blow about the making of the movies he details, though there are good tidbits on them, so much as an analysis of what each film contributed to the overall aesthetic of the blockbuster. His discussion of Top Gun gets at "high concept"--"an idea in shoulder pads"--and notes that it arrived as the ancillary market (read: video) for movies outstripped actual theatrical releases. Batman is discussed as a game-changer in that it was pre-sold more thoroughly in terms of merch than anything before it--and that it opened bigger and dropped off faster than any blockbuster before it, shifting the terms of that type of movie to opening weekend alone. Best quote, from producer David Glier: "Alien is to Star Wars what the Rolling Stones were to the Beatles."