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New Irish Independent Column! On Whether “The Last of Us” Can Beat the Video Game Curse…

I published a new piece at The Irish Independent last week. With the release of The Last of Us, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the history of video game adaptations.

There’s a lot riding on The Last of Us, and HBO have really gone all-out on the show. It stars Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian and is written by Craig Mazin of Chernobyl. It’s an interesting approach, in large part because video games have frequently posed a challenge to studios longing to adapt them to other screens. Just based on Hollywood’s experience with the medium, The Last of Us poses a significant challenge to any production team hoping to translate it to another medium.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Last of Us” as a Character-Driven Apocalyptic Narrative…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. To start with, though, a look at the series as a whole.

Although it takes a little while to get going, with its first two episodes largely given over to exposition and worldbuilding, The Last of Us is an incredible accomplishment from HBO. The show is clearly the result of a great deal of care and attention, and a substantial investment from the service. It’s a show that benefits from the best possible talent and from the freedom afforded to that talent, to find a distinct angle on the end of the world. It’s a charming, emotional and deeply moving character study at the end of the world.

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

New Escapist Column! On “White Noise” and the Human Death Drive…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of White Noise on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s classic postmodern novel.

White Noise has long been considered unadaptable. However, Baumbach zeroes on a consistent throwline that guids his weird and eccentric adaptation through its various shifts and turns. White Noise is fundamentally a story about death. It is about the way in which so much culture – sex, media, consumerism – is designed as an effort to drown out the encroaching and inescapable sense of mortality. Baumbach presents a broad and cartoonish exploration of man’s inability to grapple with that universal certainty. In doing so, he tells a strangely moving story.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Sandman” and the Art of Adaptation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. It’s a big weekend for media releases, and one of those new releases was The Sandman from Netflix, an adaptation of the comic book series from Neil Gaiman.

The Sandman is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the source material, often lifting images and dialogue directly from the comic. However, it’s also an interesting illustration of the art of adaptation as it purtains to ten-episode seasons of streaming television shows. It’s interesting to see how the source material is tweaked and altered to make it fit that familiar template, and what the adaptational choices say about what the streaming service and the production studio want from the show.

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

New Escapist Video! “The Sandman is a Reminder of What Made the Comic So Beloved”

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 television review of The Sandman, which is streaming on Netflix now.

215. Dune (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Charlene Lydon and Joe Griffin, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, David Lynch’s Dune.

The galaxy is in turmoil. Rumours swirl of a plot against House Atreides. As Duke Leto Atreides takes control of the desert planet of Dune, he tries to track down the traitors in his midst. Meanwhile, his son Paul finds himself on the verge of an awakening that will have a profound impact on the future of mankind.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Hannibal” as the Perfect Adaptation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With Hannibal premiering on Netflix and generating a host of new appraisals and discussions, connecting with a new generation of fans, I thought it might be worth looking at Bryna Fuller’s television masterpiece.

In an era dominated by recycled intellectual property, remakes and reboots, it would have been easy to be cynical about another adaptation of Thomas Harris’ seminal serial killer novels, particularly given how severely the film franchise had degenerated since the triumph of Silence of the Lambs. However, Bryan Fuller used Hannibal as a showcase for a particularly ambitious and inventive approach to adaptation, one that used an existing set of iconography in new and innovative ways. Hannibal was the perfect adaptation of a familiar property, breathing new life into it.

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

New Escapist Column! “Watchmen” and the Limits of Textual Fidelity…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday. With the release of Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen, it seemed appropriate to cast an eye back to Zack Snyder’s cinematic adaptation.

I have a huge amount of admiration for Snyder’s version of Watchmen, even if I don’t think it actually works. It is a Herculean effort to bring the story to the screen, one committed to directly transposing as much of the source material from page to screen, but often without really stopping to think about what the dialogue or imagery actually means. It is in many ways a demonstration of the limits of slavish devotion in adaptation. It is a counterpoint to the argument that all it takes to adapt a major work from one medium to another is literalism.

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

“… You Wanna Get Nuts?” The Unique Legacy of Tim Burton’s “Batman”…

Tim Burton’s Batman is thirty years old this year, having opened in Irish cinemas thirty years ago this weekend. It leaves a complicated and underappreciated legacy.

To be fair, at least part of that is down to how the series ended. Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin count among the worst blockbusters of the nineties and the worst comic book movies ever made. Taken together, they were responsible for killing not only that iteration of the cinematic Batman franchise, but also for effectively killing the superhero as a blockbuster genre until the triple whammy of Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man kick-started it again at the turn of the millennium.

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Non-Review Review: The Lion King (2019)

It’s a very strange comparison to make, but the film that most obviously comes to mind when watching Jon Favreau’s The Lion King is Gus Van Sant’s infamous nineties remake of Psycho.

This is Favreau’s second “live action” adaptation of a classic Disney animated film, even if that descriptor is somewhat misleading. It might be more accurate to describe The Lion King (which was shot entirely in virtual reality) as “verisimilitudinous.” It is designed to approximate “live action”, rather than being live action itself. On that note, the film is a technical triumph. On the level of pure craft, The Lion King is a staggering accomplishment. It is a virtual reality film that is in many ways indistinguishable from reality itself. However, the onion has even more layers to it. It is a virtual reality film approximating the reality while meticulously and faithful reproducing a beloved animated film.

Join the cub.

As such, and much like Van Sant’s Psycho, there is an element of reflexive postmodernism to The Lion King. Both the Psycho and Lion King remakes feel more like conceptual art installations than movies in their own right. They are certainly more interesting as abstract objects than as actual stories. After all, the stories in question were so closely wedded to form and context the first time around that the idea of remaking them so literally and so faithfully seems absurd from a creative point of view. As such, the process of replication becomes intriguing of itself. Both Psycho and The Lion King are incredibly faithful copies that consciously lean into their uncanniness.

Favreau’s Lion King looks beautiful, but largely feels like a limit case. It is a certain approach to modern filmmaking taken to – and perhaps pushed beyond – its farthest extreme.

Pride of the Pridelands.

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