Flashdance wasn’t a traditional musical, but it played like one, with a series of meticulously choreographed montages instead of traditional singing-and-dancing numbers. Critics derided the result as little more than a series of MTV-style music videos connected by thin threads of plot and character, but the quick-cut editing style soon became vastly popular in Hollywood. And not just in music- or dance-oriented films like Footloose or Purple Rain, but in comedies and action movies, too. MTV returned the hat tip by airing videos for soundtrack songs that were cut like trailers from otherwise non-musical films (like the clip for Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” from the Top Gun soundtrack).
Critics continued to complain that the MTV montage style emphasized flash and sensation at the expense of narrative, character, and emotion, and that the technique had effectively dumbed movies down for the short-attention-span generation. One study found that average shot length had declined from 8 to 11 seconds in the 1930s to three or four seconds in the 1980s. Action films (many of them bearing the stamp of Flashdance and Top Gun producer Jerry Bruckheimer) were rendered especially incoherent.
But some directors argued that MTV-style editing was a way of packing more content for multitasking young viewers who were accustomed to processing visual information faster. In fact, it took directors trained on music video shoots, like Spike Jonze and David Fincher, to figure out how to use the abstract nature of MTV-style editing to tell more complex, non-linear stories.