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Based on interviews with leading Hollywood filmmakers, actors and production staff it examines the revolution in Hollywood movies brought about by Jaws, Star Wars, Alien and other summer blockbusters and how they became a global phenomenon.
The tone and approach of the book is not one of film criticism as such but rather an analysis of how the blockbuster era came into being, and the processes which drove the producers, directors and film executives concerned from 1975 to 2004. It sets itself firmly on the side of the audience and values entertainment and thrills rather than high culture, and does not shy away from equating creative success with commercial success.
In the book Shone considers that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's reinvention of blockbusters as fast-paced entertainment reinvigorated the American film industry and deserves greater artistic and critical recognition. These two filmmakers are the most prominent of the many interviewed for the book and receive the most coverage. Director James Cameron is also featured extensively but was not directly interviewed.
By the 1990s, however, Shone admits that Hollywood blockbusters were out of control and there was doubt as to whether the major studios were in the film business any more.
The book concludes that blockbusters were rescued as a popular and credible film type by 2004, when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King became the first blockbuster to receive not only massive worldwide box office receipts but a clean sweep at the Oscars.
Principal blockbusters analysed
- Jaws and sequels
- Star Wars and sequels
- Alien and sequels
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones sequels
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- The Terminator and sequels
- Back to the Future and sequels
- Jurassic Park and sequels
- Batman and sequels
- Last Action Hero
- Independence Day
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Principal people interviewed for the book
- Steven Spielberg
- George Lucas
- Robert Zemeckis
- Richard Zanuck
- Alan Ladd, Jr.
- Ridley Scott
- Sigourney Weaver
- Jerry Bruckheimer
- Peter Guber
- Tim Burton
- Roland Emmerich
- Martin Scorsese
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