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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Critique of the Marvel Power Fantasy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about the larger thematic preoccupations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is built around the superhero power fantasy, with much of the franchise focusing on the idea that its central characters should be allowed to do whatever they want, to bend the world to their tremendous wills. Multiverse of Madness is an interesting and deliberate deconstruction of this power fantasy, focusing on a superhero who has internalised that idea to a dangerous degree, while teaching another character that perhaps the ends don’t always justify the means.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Marvel’s Strength at Improv…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about Marvel Studios’ production model.

After more than a decade of success, Marvel Studios have built up a deserved reputation as a company that makes efficient and clean blockbusters. However, this reputation is often built upon the myth of the company’s ability to make and commit to long-term plans, to map out the shared universe months and years in advance. In reality, the opposite is true. Marvel Studios succeeds in large part because it has built a robust production machine that has the flexibility to adapt and evolve on the fly and in real-time, to account for any number of unforeseen potential possibilities.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange” as a Film About Time and Death…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Scott Derrickson’s somewhat underrated contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange felt like an oddity when it was released, sandwiched between Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. It was a very conventional origin story, stripped of the legacy character attributes of Ant Man, the crossover baggage of Black Panther or the period piece nostalgia and narrative trickery of Captain Marvel. It was perhaps the most straightforward superhero origin story since the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically recalling both Iron Man and Thor.

However, underneath the surface, there was something more interesting happening. Doctor Strange is a rare superhero movie that is about both the passage of time and inevitability of death, where the ultimate act of villainy is to pervert either flow. It’s a movie about accepting that change happens, and that sometimes a moment doesn’t last forever. It’s a theme that felt particularly relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that it was going to lose two of its three lead characters in the very near future.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Northman”, and the Desire to Make Movies Weird Again…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Northman in the United Kingdom this week and in the United States next week, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at the welcome return of weird to the blockbuster arena.

Modern blockbusters are frustratingly generic. As budgets have ballooned and intellectual property has trumped high concepts, studios have grown increasingly conservative with their larger projects. This is part of what makes The Northman so interesting. It’s great to see a director like Robert Eggers receive a reasonable budget and a sizable platform in order to make a movie that speaks very specifically to his own aesthetic. It’s refreshing to see a movie this expensive that is this committed to its aesthetic.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “The Northman is a Breathtaking Blockbuster”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of The Northman, which is in theatres in the U.K. and Ireland now and in the United States next week.

New Escapist Column! On the Forgotten Nineties Pulp Superhero Boom…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Sam Raimi’s first superhero movie: Darkman.

Darkman is notable because it belongs to a wave of early nineties superhero movies that were heavily influenced by the pulp heroes of the thirties and forties: Batman, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, The Mask, The Phantom. This is a fascinating and often overlooked trend in the history of what would become the biggest genre in Hollywood. It’s interesting to look at these movies collectively, to place in the wave of a broader cultural nostalgia for the pop culture of the era.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Motion Picture” Gave the “Star Trek” Universe Room to Breathe…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the recently remastered Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the first feature film in the Star Trek franchise.

The Motion Picture is often derided by its critics as “the Motionless Picture”, reflecting the film’s slow pacing and simplistic plot in contrast to its more relaxed runtime. These criticisms are entirely valid, but they also ignore one of the central appeals of The Motion Picture. Just two years after George Lucas welcomed viewers to “a galaxy far, far away” with Star Wars, The Motion Picture made the Star Trek universe truly tactile and tangible. The film is perhaps best understood as an experience rather than a narrative, a window into the franchise’s fictional universe.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the Fate of the MCU Rests on “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good time to reflect on how so much of the fate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to rely on he sequel to Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange was a solid midtier entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was warmly, but not raptuously, received by both audiences and critics. However, there is something fascinating in how the studio has positioned Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as essentially the franchise’s first true “event” movie since Avengers: Endgame. Indeed, there’s a surprising amount riding on the film, following the performance of the previous three Marvel Studios films and the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and the New Age of Disposable Media…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. One of the big news stories of this week concerned the apparent (albeit accidental) censorship of an episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+.

While the matter was eventually resolved following news coverage and outcry on social media, there is something unsettling about how easily that mistake happened and how readily it could have been missed or overlooked. It underscores the risks of trusting companies like Disney to serve as the digital curators of their own legacy, particularly in a landscape where so much of film and television has alreayd been lost. In some ways, it suggests that the transition to streaming has rendered film and television truly disposable in a way that they haven’t really been in almost half a century.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Fantastic Beasts” Fails to Capture the Magic of “Harry Potter”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at one of the more inert major franchises of the past decade or so.

The success of the Harry Potter movies made the extension of the franchise inevitable; and the intellectual property has expanded into theme parks and stage shows. However, the attempts to expand the world into feature films has met with frustrating results. So far, the Fantastic Beasts franchise has felt a little lifeless and inert, a blockbuster franchise driven by exposition and apocalyptic spectacle, rather than allowing the audience to really immerse themselves in the world as they did with the earlier stories.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.