• Christian Bredvig Larsen
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
There is a common perception that superheroes have been the rulers of Hollywood since the turn of the 21st century. A perception that partially based on the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). With the long-lasting prevalence of superheroes in general and the MCU in particular, it is not uncommon for industry analysists and scholars to wonder why this genre has survived in the limelight for so long. This thesis attempts to solve that mystery, as it questions the conventional wisdom that superheroes have been dominating Hollywood blockbusters for the past two decades. Given that genres are not unchanging entities and since movies do not need to declare themselves as a specific genre, it can be difficult to create clear dividing lines between genres. However, if the ambition is to predict the trend of superhero movies, it must first be established exactly what this trend entails. This thesis delves into how the MCU actually consists of movies pertaining to widely different genres and how this might be why the MCU has managed to persist for as long as it has.

This is shown by applying Rick Altman's semantic/syntactic approach to genre, in order to show how the movies in MCU's phase 1 adhere to different genre conventions. This is followed by an analysis into Liam Burke's attempt to categorize contemporary Hollywood blockbusters as "comic book movies"; a genre label Burke himself has defined. Burke attempts to include the MCU as part of the comic book movie genre, but this is critiqued for its poor applicability and lack of explanatory power. Since genre theory, in part, is a tool to explain audience engagement with narrative patterns, it is argued that this lack of explanatory power represents an oversight in Burke's approach. Instead, it is proposed that the MCU as a film series represents the emergence of a new genre for Hollywood blockbusters.

This new genre (christened "worldbuilding cinema") has evolved from the trend of transmedia narratives. Henry Jenkins describes transmedia narratives as stories that unfold over multiple forms of media, with each text adding to a greater whole. The MCU has adopted this approach to storytelling, but instead of spreading across multiple media platforms, the MCU offers the enjoyment of a transmedia narrative through a single medium: movies.
Ultimately, the following is concluded: any attempt at confining MCU movies to a single genre either suffers from reductionism or lacks explanatory powers in terms of describing the MCU phenomenon. Instead, it is proposed that worldbuilding cinema as a genre label for film series can describe the genre conventions of film series, and thus avoid the issue of applying genre labels to individual movies within a given film series. Hereto, it is offered that worldbuilding cinema can explain blockbuster trends over the past decade, as well as unveil the business model that Hollywood studios are currently trying to achieve.
Publication date2 Jun 2019
Number of pages68
ID: 304963682