Because popularity is commonly equated with escapism and triviality, blockbusters have either been shunned or dismissed by most academic film scholars as calculated exercises in profit-making. This is in contrast to the work of an auteur like Orson Welles, who receives an enormous amount of critical attention but whose films were commercial failures. However, those who dismiss blockbusters as exercises in profit-making fail to understand the New Hollywood's mode of production. Rather than the assembly-line production of the Old Hollywood, where stars, directors and technicians were tied to long-term contracts, in the New Hollywood talent is hired on a film-by-film basis. As a result, power has shifted to the deal-makers (the agents), who can attract and package talent around individual projects and films. The shift from assembly-line production to dealmaking has had another effect: more and more money goes into the making of fewer and fewer films. Consequently, the films that are produced need to make enormous amounts of money in order to recoup their costs. 2

So, expensive blockbusters are central to the output of modern Hollywood. But what, aside from costs, are their dominant characteristics? How are they able to attract, engage and entertain millions of people? One dominant characteristic of the blockbuster is its mode of address. As Timothy Corrigan has pointed out, the blockbuster, in contrast to the small-scale independent feature, is aimed at an

undifferentiated popular audience rather than at any particular sector of the viewing population. 3 It addresses this audience by means of a mix of genres - often combining action-adventure with comedy, drama, romance, science-fiction and the like - and by means of a remodelling of character and plot. Many critics argue that, in comparison with Old Hollywood, New Hollywood films are not structured in terms of a psychologically motivated cause-effect narrative logic, but in terms of loosely linked, self-sustaining action sequences often built around spectacular stunts, stars and special effects. Complex character traits and character development, they argue, have been replaced by one-dimensional stereotypes, and plot-lines are now devised almost solely to link one action sequence to the next. Narrative complexity is sacrificed on the altar of spectacle. Narration is geared solely to the effective presentation of expensive effects.