Cinema as a Worldbuilding Machine in the Digital Era
Essay on Multiverse Films and TV Series
This essay examines the primacy of worldbuilding in the age of CGI, transmedia practices and "high concept" fiction by studying the principles that govern the creation of a multiverse in a wide range of film and TV productions. Emphasis is placed on Hollywood sci-fi movies and their on-screen representation of imaginary machines that mirror the film medium, following in the tradition of Philip K. Dick's writings and the cyberpunk culture. A typology of worlds is established, as well as a number of analytical tools for assessing the impact of the coexistence of two or more worlds on the narrative structure, the style (uses of color, editing practices), the generic affiliation (or hybridity), the seriality and the discourse produced by a given film (particularly in fictions linked to post-9/11 fantasies). Among the various titles examined, the reader is offered a detailed analysis of the Resident Evil film series, Total Recall and its remake, Dark City, the Matrix trilogy, Avatar, Source Code and other time-loop films, TRON and its sequel, Christopher Nolan's Tenet, and several TV shows – most notably HBO's Westworld, but also Sliders, Lost, Fringe and Counterpart.
About the Author
Alain Boillat is professor in the Film History and Aesthetics Department of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Lausanne. His research interests include fiction theory, narration, adaptation and serial practices in cinema and comics, the history of screenwriting practices, the interaction between voices and images in audiovisual media, the representation of technology on film, the science fiction genre, as well as gender and star studies. He is notably the author of Du bonimenteur à la voix-over [From the Film Lecturer to Voice-over, 2007], "Star Wars", un monde en expansion ["Star Wars", a Constantly Expanding World, 2014], and En cas de Malheur, de Simenon à Autant-Lara. Essai de génétique scénaristique [Love is My Profession, From Simenon to Autant-Lara. An Essay on Screenplay Genetics, 2020]. He is the coeditor of Dialogues avec le cinéma. Approches de l'oralité cinématographique [On Dialogue with Movies. Perspectives on Cinema's Oral Dimension, 2016], BD-US: les comics vus par l'Europe [BD-US: Comics as Seen From Europe, 2016], Case, strip, action! [Table, Strip, Action!, 2016], L'Adaptation. Des livres aux scénarios [Film Adaptation. From Books to Screenplays, 2018] and Loin des yeux le cinéma. De la téléphonie à Internet: zimaginaires médiatiques des telecommunications et de la surveillance [Far From the Eyesthe Movies. From Telephony to the Internet: Imaginary Media of Telecommunication and Surveillance, 2019]. In 2019, he edited a special issue of the online academic journal ReSFuturae, devoted to Francophone science fictions comics.