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James Kang

Thesis Title: “Action Triggers: Action Scene Transitions in the Hollywood Blockbuster”

Supervisors: José Arroyo and Karl Schoonover

How do transitions work in relation to action scenes within Hollywood blockbuster narrative structure? Technical set-pieces and action scenes are naturally part of the narrative structure in Hollywood cinema. They function to produce exciting and thrilling moments which keep the spectator engaged in the motion picture. However, the thrilling car chase filled with explosions, and the precision choreography of the final battle scene are all credibly accepted by an audience because of logical plausibility. Logical plausibility provides an explanation as to why the bad guys are chasing the good guys or why two friends are engaged in a fist fight while laying down the foundations for the probability of the action scene.

My current research centers on transitions into action scenes within Hollywood blockbuster narrative structure. This dissertation will present the first extended study of the developmental process, catalysts and causal factors reinforcing action sequences in Hollywood cinema. Understanding the mechanics of cinematic action in Hollywood motion pictures is important due to the increasing emphasis of spectacle in big-budget action blockbusters, the lucrative success of which has dominated much of Hollywood production. The developmental process that leads to a series of catalytic events which then leads transition into an action scene will be identified and referred to as an “action trigger”.

This thesis will provide a new perspective on the effects of causality within Hollywood narrative structure and seeks to make a methodological contribution to the field that will refine and build upon existing formal approaches. This will inform film criticism as well clarify understandings of the different ways screenwriting and filmmaking practices lead to a successful action sequence.