Epic Films

THE NEW HOLLYWOOD ERA

Although epic war films and big-budget musicals continued to be made in the 1970s and early 1980s, the road shown superspecial and the prestige epic were increasingly displaced by what has come to be known as the New Hollywood blockbuster. As exemplified by Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), New Hollywood block-busters drew their inspiration from the B film, the serial, comic books, and action-adventure pulps rather than from the culturally prestigious traditions of the Hollywood epic. Wide-released rather than road shown, they were designed to appeal to teenagers and families with young children and to garner profits as rapidly as possible. However, productions in the prestige epic tradition such as Dances with Wolves (1990), The English Patient (1996), and Schindler's List were still occasionally made. Some of them received a relatively exclusive "platform" release. And the New Hollywood blockbuster, like the old Hollywood epic, functioned as a special vehicle for spectacle, large-scale stories and new technologies. Indeed, the advent of CGI (computer-generated imagery) seems to have been a major factor in the recent revival of the epic not just in its traditional forms, as exemplified by Gladiator , Troy , King Arthur (2004), and Alexander , but in the guise of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well. In all these films the themes of heroism, justice and the uses and abuses of power, representational prowess, large-scale spectacle, and large-scale stories and settings remain among the epic's principal ingredients.

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Steve Neale

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