Events Calendar
Oct 13
10:00 - 13:00
Blockbuster Battles, Society and Us
short courses

Date: Saturday 13 October 2018

Study morning: 10.00 – 13.00

Course code: 18TON361

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Hollywood blockbusters continue todominate our viewing habits, with Marvel's Avengers:Infinity War (2018) most recently reaching the biggest box office openingweekend of all time twice, hitting a billion dollars in record time, with otherfranchise movies soon to follow. Yet while blockbuster movies many provide athrilling adrenaline-fueled experience, these big screen spectacular battles,mass-destruction of cities and heroic fight scenes also offer something more: aprofound insight into our deepest social, political and even economic hopes andfears. Actor Paul Bettany (who plays the superhero 'Vision') recently suggested that Avengers: Infinity War makes us question 'whether a superpower should be able to unilaterally enter anothercountry', and the implications this has on politics and identity in the current climate of globalisation versus nationalisation. Speaking out on theprogressive portrayals of heroes of colour in Marvel's high-grossing Black Panther (2018), Michelle Obama has referred to the film as 'game-changing', with director Spike Lee now 'look[ing] at the world differently' having 'changed everything, especially for people of colour.'

The first part of the study session will involve discussing your favourite films by bringing your own questions about the cultural significance these blockbusters have within these story-worlds or the film industry as well as socially popular cultural products. During this year alone there is a variety of releases to choose from and talk about, including Pacific Rim: Upraising, Ready Player One, Rampage, Tomb Raider, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, and past and future franchises including Harry Potter, James Bond, Star Trek, Terminator, The Matrix, Avatar, Transformers alongside the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Choose your favourite moments of city-wide destitution seen in superhero films or global disaster movies, and of epic battles in space and fantasy worlds. Together we can ask whether these spectacular visuals do speak to the way Western society is organised, in terms of the political and economic concerns currently dominating our contemporary world: such as diminishing local resources and unregulated global trade, Brexit, Trump-onomics, and the security of a welfare state versus the freedom of low taxes, and more.

The second part of the study session will explore useful clips of how 'spectacle is loaded with cultural ideas', including how the superhero movie is a product (and champion of) ungoverned free-market capitalism, and how the Galactic Empire in Star Wars and the Ork hordes in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises are invested with fears of authoritarian regimes. Together we will explore the specific genre tropes and stylistic devices of Blockbuster films as well as larger industry trends, to better understand the cultural impact and societal importance of high-budget thrilling spectacle!

Suggested reading

Dan Hassler-Forest, Capitalist Superheroes: Caped Crusaders in the Neoliberal Age (Zero Books 2012), 'Introduction' and 'Chapter 2'. 

Intended learning outcomes

  • understand how identities are constructed and contested through engagements with culture.
  • understand how people engage with cultural texts and practices.
  • be aware of the economic forces which frame the media, cultural and creative industries, and the role of such industries in contemporary political and cultural life.
  • understand the role of cultural practices and cultural institutions in society.

About the tutor

Caleb completed his PhD in Film at the University of Kent in 2016, where he also achieved a BA and MA in Film Studies. His research area is the cultural value of spectacle in contemporary Hollywood Blockbusters, specialising in superhero movies. He teaches undergraduate modules at Kent such as the Hollywood Studio System, Storytelling and the Cinema, Introduction to Film Theory, Film Form, Digital Domains, Animated Worlds, Costume and Fashion, as well as Introduction to Television: Texts, Contexts & Culture, and Critical Perspectives of Television Production at the University of Creative Arts


United Kingdom



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