Perpetual motion pictures

Sisyphean burden and the global screen franchise

Authored by: James Walters

The Routledge Companion to World Cinema

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138918801
eBook ISBN: 9781315688251
Adobe ISBN:


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Somewhere in the world, Batman fastens his utility belt. Somewhere in the world, James Bond loads a Walther PPK. Elsewhere in the world, different individuals watch the same actions performed by Batmen and Bonds that have different faces, different attitudes, and belong to different eras. The pattern can repeat and repeat, as global audiences experience characters that span years and years of screen time, creating perpetual chains of continuity and variation. Given that these repetitions extend beyond a few shared gestures involving belts and guns, we are entitled to speculate upon the wider resonances of the global screen franchise. Moving beyond more familiar considerations of commercial imperatives and audience responses, this chapter seeks to find some ways of discussing the global screen franchise in relation to questions of value and meaning. More specifically, I am interested in how a series of screen texts that involve a fundamental structure of Sisyphean repetition (and perhaps, as a consequence, risk a perceived lack of invention or originality) might achieve meaningfulness precisely as a result of themes and ideas being continually revived and revisited.

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