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New Film Trend Alert! Implosions are the New Explosions

New Film Trend Alert! Implosions are the New Explosions

At Slate’s Brow Beat blog, Forrest Wickman observes a new trend in Hollywood: onscreen implosions. They’re all the rage in blockbusters right now. Could implosions be the new explosions? Let’s check out Wickman’s evidence:

“When the opening action set-piece of ‘The Avengers’ ends with the destruction of a remote research facility, the structure goes out not with a bang but more of a cool sucking noise. Meanwhile, in the first trailer for ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ Bane is set not on exploding a football stadium full of thousands of people so much as imploding it. In the second ‘Dark Knight Rises’ trailer, released last week, rather than sending a bridge up in a fiery blast, a few tactical detonations send it neatly collapsing into the water. We appear to be entering a boom in Hollywood implosions.”

Wickman also compares the big planetary destruction in 1977’s “Star Wars” — an enormous teeth-rattling explosion — with the big planetary destruction in 2009’s “Star Trek” — a quiet, contemplative implosion. Wickman suggests the contemporary renaissance of onscreen implosions has two points of origin: improving CGI technology and the specter of 9/11. An implosion, unlike an explosion, is a complicated matter to achieve with practical effects (especially when you’re trying to implode, say, a planet that doesn’t actually exist). Computers make the process a whole lot simpler. The imagery of September 11th that lingers in our minds is that of two building collapsing in on themselves. Evoking that imagery can be a quick shortcut — and possibly a distasteful one — to easy emotional resonance.

Does Wickman have a point? Absolutely. Is he overselling it? Maybe a little. The destruction of Vulcan in “Star Trek” does come via implosion, but the rest of the film still packs plenty of wallop (think of the bombastic opening sequence, culminating in the USS Kelvin colliding into the Romulan ship, producing an enormous fireball). “The Avengers”‘ opens with an implosion at a remote research facility but it concludes with (SPOILER ALERT) a gigantic nuclear explosion in outer space. Trailers for upcoming summer movies like “Battleship,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” and “The Expendables 2” (which Wickman does cite in his piece) are littered with combustible imagery.

So maybe implosions aren’t the new explosions after all. Maybe Hollywood just needs a way to make a stale concept feel fresh. Not too long ago, the Praxis effect was all the rage in blowing-things-up technology. Today it’s implosions. Tomorrow it’ll be something else. The only constant: Hollywood’s — and audiences’ — desire to watch things get destroyed.

Read more of Forrest Wickman’s “Is the Hollywood Explosion Collapsing in on Itself?

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