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New Escapist Column! On the MCU’s CGI Problems…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of the trailer for She-Hulk last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the raging debate over the very questionable use of computer-generated imagery.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest multimedia franchise in the world, and its projects enjoy some of the biggest budgets. So why do so many of their special effects look so terrible? There are a number of reasons for this, tied to both larger cultural trends, the visual effects sector as a whole, and the peculiarities of Marvel Studios’ production methodology. The result of all this comes together to explain why some of the most expensive movies on the planet look so cheap.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Strange New Worlds” Takes Small Steps Towards Improvement…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The third episode released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Like both Strange New Worlds and Children of the Comet, Ghosts of Illyria is drawing on a familiar stock Star Trek plot. This is the traditional early-season viral infection plot, recalling The Naked Time, The Naked Now, Babel or Dramatis Personae. It’s a tried and tested formula. That said, there’s a good reason for a young show to try an episode like this, primarily as it invites the cast to push themselves outside of their character templates, so the production team can recognise and develop interesting new facets of these characters. It’s not the worst idea for a first season episode.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Strange New Worlds” Feels Like a Photocopy of a Photocopy of a Photocopy…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The second episode released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

The problem with Strange New Worlds, and it is a problem that runs through each of the five episodes released to the press, is that it is essentially writing Star Trek as if nothing had changed since 1989. This is the approach that ultimately ran the franchise into the ground, as Star Trek: Voyager and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise exhausted a formula that had been run through every possible permutation after more than a decade in use. Strange New Worlds returns to that format, but it is a faded copy of a faded copy, a pale imitation of episodes that were just about functional two decades earlier.

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

New Escapist Column! On Ncuti Gatwa’s Casting in “Doctor Who”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. This weekend saw the surprise announcement of Ncuti Gatwa’s casting as the new lead of Doctor Who, so it seemed like a good opportunity to make sense of it.

Gatwa is an interesting choice, and marks something of a departure from the recent casting of older and more established actors with more conventional prestige, like Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker. Capaldi and Whittaker were both choices that spoke very much to an older audience with more mature and perhaps conventional taste. In contrast, Gatwa’s casting suggests that new showrunner Russell T. Davies is pushing the show towards a younger audience, that rather than trying to appease or flatter older fans, Davies might be trying to attract new ones.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Star Trek” Gave Up on the Future…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the end of the second season of Star Trek: Picard and the launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger Star Trek franchise, which has become increasingly backwards-looking in recent decades. While a lot of fans will place the blame on the franchise’s more recent output, the truth is that this nostalgic impulse took root much earlier than many fas will acknowledge.

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and Old Trek Tropes…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The premiere released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Strange New Worlds is very much a blast from the franchise’s past, essentially serving as a spin-off series from the original and unaired pilot The Cage. That feels somewhat appropriate, given that Strange New Worlds has little interest beyond nostalgically chasing the feeling of old Star Trek, trying to recapture the vague memory of the older franchise. The result is an episode that offers a shallow but efficient riff on classic stories like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, and which ends with the suggestion that the key to world peace is that we should all become Star Trek fans.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and Storytelling Fundamentals…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The final episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

On paper, the second season finale of Picard cycles through a series of checkboxes regarding the show’s long-form arcs, dutifully ticking off each of its obligations in a manner that could theoretically be satisfying. However, this just demonstrates how clumsy Picard is when it comes to storytelling fundamentals. There are interesting and big ideas at play in the second season of Picard, but the show frequently fails at finding ways to develop these ideas organically or cohesively.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Moon Knight” and the Lack of Surprises…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Moon Knight, which is streaming weekly on Disney+. The final episode of the show released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

As Moon Knight wraps up, the most surprising thing about the latest Disney+ streaming series is how completely lacking in surprise it was. The show didn’t pull any sharp last-minute twists or surprise cameos from the extended universe. Instead, it delivered exactly what it promised viewers. The result is interesting, a show that is more consistent than most of its streaming compatriots, but which ends up feeling particularly anonymous.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Tragedy of Nacho Varga and What It Says About “Better Call Saul”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul in full swing, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at one of the show’s more under-appreciated central figures.

Nacho Varga was introduced in the first season as a potential foil for Jimmy McGill, intended to serve as the antagonist of the show’s premiere year. However, when the writers stumbled upon the idea of Jimmy’s brother Chuck as the main character’s nemesis, Nacho was left somewhat listless. However, much like the character of Kim Wexler, this initial lack of a clear arc allowed the production team to figure out a compelling approach to Nacho, who has become one of the most tragic figures in the entire show, and a character whose attempts to assert agency tie into the show’s core themes as a prequel to Breaking Bad.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Star Trek: Picard” Squanders the Borg…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The ninth episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

The second season of Picard has been a stew of nostalgia for nineties Star Trek, drawing particularly heavily from Star Trek: First Contact. This has inevitably seen the return of the Borg as a major threat. However, the second season of Picard falls into many of the familiar traps of the larger Star Trek franchise when it comes to handling probably the most iconic antagonists from the last thirty or forty years of the franchise. Picard knows the Borg are iconic and important, but has no idea what to do with them.

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