More Than Meets the Eye
Special Effects and the Fantastic Transmedia Franchise
From comic book universes crowded with soaring superheroes and shattering skyscrapers to cosmic empires set in far-off galaxies, today’s fantasy blockbusters depend on visual effects. Bringing science fiction from the studio to your screen, through film, television, or video games, these special effects power our entertainment industry. More Than Meets the Eye delves into the world of fantastic media franchises to trace the ways in which special effects over the last 50 years have become central not just to transmedia storytelling but to worldbuilding, performance, and genre in contemporary blockbuster entertainment.
More Than Meets the Eye maps the ways in which special effects build consistent storyworlds and transform genres while traveling from one media platform to the next. Examining high-profile franchises in which special effects have played a constitutive role such as Star Trek, Star Wars, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings, as well as more contemporary franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter, Bob Rehak analyzes the ways in which production practices developed alongside the cultural work of industry professionals. By studying social and cultural factors such as fan interaction, this book provides a context for understanding just how much multiplatform storytelling has come to define these megahit franchises. More Than Meets the Eye explores the larger history of how physical and optical effects in postwar Hollywood laid the foundation for modern transmedia franchises and argues that special effects are not simply an adjunct to blockbuster filmmaking, but central agents of an entire mode of production.
"Elegantly written and extensively researched, More Than Meets the Eye makes an impressive contribution to digital and special effects studies. Bob Rehak moves beyond critical perspectives that have dominated this area of inquiry, exploring how special effects have a life of their own beyond momentary appearances in films and television programs. Studying both analog and digital effects and their continuing interface, he finds that they create vast narrative networks across media, platforms, and time, speaking to a variety of concerns in media studies from authorship and convergence culture to performance and fan labor. That he is able to bring exciting new concepts to bear on canonical media franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings is a testament to the provocative originality of this book."
—Barbara Klinger, author of Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home
Rehak has produced the kind of history that film and media studies needs right now, and his book displays elegance and serious intellectual chops in equal measure. He’s unafraid of theory or his predecessors, he’s alert to both the big picture and nuances of form, and his scholarship—in numerous areas—is thorough. More Than Meets the Eye is hugely original and a pleasure to read.
—Scott Bukatman, author of Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins
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