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New Escapist Column! On the “The Hunt” as Empty Provocation…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine last week. This is one has been a while in the making, since at least August last year.

The Hunt was massive controversial before anybody had actually watched the finished cut of the film. It attracted the ire of Fox News and, through that, Donald Trump. Universal pushed the film back, eventually settling on a mid-March release date, with the advertising leaning heavily into that controversy as a selling point. As such, it’s impossible to discuss The Hunt without discussing the maelstrom around it. This means that the movie itself feels like a disappointment and a damp squib. Its potent political content is nothing more than empty provocation, its biting social commentary just an elaborate troll. The Hunt has nothing to say, which is particularly disappointing as it is sandwiched between the genuinely political provocations of The Invisible Man and Promising Young Woman.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Narrative Patching of “The Rise of Skywalker”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. This is one is a bit topical, the constant narrative patching of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

The Rise of Skywalker was released to something of a collective sigh. It was a spectacular mess of film, one full of dangling plot threads, unnecessary revelations and mountains of fan service. However, that messiness left a number of awkward lacunas, that were gradually filled in with supplemental material that revealed the nature of Lando’s arc and the identity of Rey’s father. All of this stuff radically alters the experience and understanding of The Rise of Skywalker, and the decision to strip that stuff out of the film itself illustrates how horrific the production process truly was. The awkward efforts to shoehorn this stuff back in are arguably comparable to the day-one patching of Cats to cover terrible special effects. This is not a flattering comparison.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Ewoks as Quintessential “Star Wars”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This is one I’ve been thinking about for quite a while: the Ewoks.

Conventional fan wisdom is that the Ewoks are crap. After all, they don’t even get a look in when Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker returns to the ruins of the Death Star, ending up consigned to a brief cameo in the closing montage. There’s a certain strand of fandom that considers the Ewoks the weakest part of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. This is a shame, as the Ewoks are actually one of the best parts of the film. More than that, they are on of the best parts of the franchise. They speak to the kind of things that only Star Wars could do, that gonzo blend of wholesome and radical.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Altered Carbon” and the Ghosts of Futures Past…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the release of the second season of Altered Carbon, I thought it was worth taking a look at the recent trend towards retro-futurism, how modern pop culture is haunted by the ghosts of futures past.

Altered Carbon works best as a celebration of the cyberpunk genre, drawing from a wealth of sources like Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner, steeped in nostalgia for a particular kind of future that was very popular during the eighties. It is not alone; after all, the first season was released after the Ghost in the Shell remake and Blade Runner 2049. However, it isn’t just cyberpunk that informs such nostalgia. Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek have taken to looking backwards, while it’s hard to think of a modern piece of science-fiction that suggests a novel vision of the future.

It’s an interesting and unsettling trend, as if pop culture has given up on the idea of the future being different. Instead of imagining bold new worlds, pop culture seems instead to be recycling early generations’ hopes and dreams. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Hubristic Tragedy of the Dark Universe…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the release of The Invisible Man this week, which is quite good, I took a look back to Universal Studios’ abandoned and cursed Dark Universe.

Frankly, there is no way to talk about the Dark Universe without acknowledging it as one of the greatest acts of cinematic hubris in the twenty-first century. The whole misbegotten experiment was transparently a result of Universal looking at the success of The Avengers, and deciding to built its own imitation using whatever properties it found lying down the back of the couch. The result was Dracula Untold and The Mummy (along with one of the most hilariously ambitious pieces of marketing ambition in living memory), two of the worst-reviewed blockbusters of the decade.

Luckily, The Invisible Man is a fantastic piece of work, a shrewd and sophisticated horror that is more interested in telling its own story than existing as a piece of “content” for a larger shared universe. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Fascinating Paradox at the Heart of “Alien: Covenant”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday. Because it was a light week for geek culture, I actually got to write a little bit about something I’ve thought far too much about; Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.

Covenant is not a great film. It’s not even a particularly good film. However, it is a fascinating film. A large part of that is because it emerged in the middle of a wave of compromised big budget blockbusters like Suicide Squad, Justice League and Solo: A Star Wars Story, films that often felt like watching a wrestling match between the director and the studio. Covenant feels the same way, trying to reconcile Fox’s desire for an Alien prequel with Scott’s desire for a Prometheus sequel. However, what’s most interesting about Covenant is how that conversation seems to play out within the movie itself.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Necessity” of the R-Rating for “Birds of Prey”…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday, looking at the debate around the “R-rating” that Birds of Prey earned.

Following the film’s release, there’s been a lot of a debate around Birds of Prey, particularly in light of its box office performance. One of the more interesting arguments has been around the film’s age rating, with several pundits arguing that the film did not “need” to be rated R, that it could have been cut to a PG-13 movie without losing anything of value. This is an interesting argument, one that deserves a little interrogation. After all, the scenes which likely earned Birds of Prey its R-rating – certainly the scenes singled out as unnecessary by such critics – are essential to its identity. They make the film unique and distinct.

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