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New Escapist Column! On the Multiverse as the Future of Franchising…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The past few months have seen a lot of attention directed at the multiverse, with a suggestion that both Warner Bros. and Disney would be embracing it as a storytelling model going forward.

This shift is interesting, given how much effort these companies have build into fashioning internally consistent shared universes, singular narratives unfolding across dozens of films building inexorably towards a climactic pay-off. However, this shift towards the multiverse feels like a logical response to any number of market forces: the shattering of the idea of the monoculture in the midst of the streaming wars, the pull of nostalgia, and the demands of the actors making these movies. It’s a new world. Actually, it’s several new worlds.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Star Wars” Continuity Power Games…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. As ever, there are rumours in Star Wars fandom about the possibility that the sequel trilogy will be removed from canon.

As ever, these rumours are most likely nonsense designed to generate clicks in an economy that has monetised outrage clicks by stoking and feeding fan resentment and anger. However, they also reveal something very interesting about the nature of canon in modern fandom. The idea of “canon” has nothing to do with continuity. It is instead a way of asserting power and ownership over media, of asserting that a franchise “belongs” to one particular group and not for others.

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

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “An Ever-Escalating Series of Star Wars”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Elijah Beahm for the sixteenth episode. Obviously, the big news is the slate of announcements from Disney’s Investor Day, including plenty of Star Wars and Marvel announcements, more news about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and reports about Tom Cruise’s rant on the set of the new Mission: Impossible movie.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

New Escapist Column! On “The Mandalorian”, Continuity and Brand Synergy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. There’s been a lot of Star Wars continuity dropped into the second season of The Mandalorian, with Boba Fett returning to the show following his apparent death in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and the live action introduction of characters like Bo Katan and Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars.

This is interesting, in large part because the first season of The Mandalorian was comfortable aiming for a broader sort of Star Wars nostalgia, things that looked like existing elements of continuity, rather than things that were existing elements of Star Wars continuity. The second season is much more heavy of Star Wars cross-promotion, populated with references designed to push viewers towards supplementary material. This is a nice illustration of transmedia storytelling in the streaming age, where it isn’t enough to attract fans, services have to retain them.

Streaming services hold on to existing subscribers by adding value, and Disney appear to have figured out that continuity offers its own added value. In its second season, The Mandalorian increasingly feels like an advertisement for the other riches that the streaming service has to offer, and a promise that any subscriber who doesn’t cancel once the season is over will have a treasure trove of archival material to binge at their leisure.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Snyder Cut” and Superhero Apocrypha…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Over the weekend, some new details came to light about Zack Snyder’s plans to restore his original vision for Justice League, particularly the assertion that it would not be “canon” with Warners’ other superhero films.

To a certain extent, this is obvious. There is no way to make Snyder’s version of Justice League fit with the films that followed, like Aquaman or Shazam! However, it’s a somewhat bolder statement. Since the emergence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the shared universe has been treated as a romantic ideal towards which these films should aspire. Indeed, a large part of the justification for recutting Snyder’s film was to protect the brand. As such, it seems appropriate that The Snyder Cut rejects the idea of the canon for apocrypha.

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

New Escapist Column! On Versatility and Adaptability as Batman’s True Superpowers…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. It’s been a busy couple of weeks with actors talking about the role of Batman. Val Kilmer discussed it in a long-form interview with The New York Times and Robert Pattinson brought it up in his GQ quarantine profile.

Kilmer argued that the actor playing Batman was unimportant in irrelevant, which is both true in the general case and false in this specific situation. In a general sense, Hollywood is moving away from movie stars and towards intellectual property. However, Batman remains one of the few established brands that is flexible enough to allow a unique approach shine through; Adam West, Kevin Conroy, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Will Arnett and Ben Affleck have all offered distinctive takes on the Caped Crusader, each finding a different window to explore the cultural icon.

There is no single “right” interpretation of Batman, and this has contributed to the character’s ubiquity and endurance. Indeed, it’s arguable that Superman has struggled to remain relevant precisely because he doesn’t have that same flexibility. Superman remains largely stuck in a template defined by the Richard Donner movies, unable to escape their gravity and the pull of the nostalgia around them. Batman can be anything that he needs to be – and that is why he remains as popular as ever.

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

New Escapist Column! The Incredible Expansiveness of “Star Wars”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening, getting ready for the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

One of the most interesting and compelling aspects of the larger Star Wars mythos has always been its expansive nature, the extremely detailed world that George Lucas created to tell a very simple story. That complexity allows for imagination to run wild, for fans to populate that world with their own readings and speculation. However, there’s also an underlying tension at play; in that it exists as part of a marketing machine, it leads to the clutter of the prequels, and it occasionally leads fans to get over-invested with their version of these characters.

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

New Escapist Column! “Charlie’s Angels” and the Franchise-ification of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine a little while back, looking at the recent Charlie’s Angels film.

Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels is a mess of a film, one that struggles with a variety of problems. Its biggest problems are tonal, with the movie unsure of exactly how it wants to pitch itself: is it a gritty reboot or a campy adventure? There’s a tension at the heart of the film, one which traps it between past and future. Banks clearly wants to reinvent Charlie’s Angels, but she’s also unable to escape the franchise’s history. This is an interesting push-and-pull, one that arguably illustrates the tension of modern franchise film-making.

Most obviously, is it really necessary for a campy seventies sexy spy series to have a “canon”, and is it really necessary for a cinematic adaptation to be beholden to that “canon”? You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

139. The Lion King (#45)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall and Graham Day, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ The Lion King.

The Pridelands have enjoyed a period of sustained peace under the stewardship of the proud king Mustafa. However, Mustafa’s young son Simba finds himself embarking upon a journey of self-discovery and adventure as he learns just how fragile happiness can be and just how heavy responsibilities can weigh upon a king.

At time of recording, it was ranked 45th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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111. Beauty and the Beast (#248)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Andy Melhuish, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise’s Beauty and the Beast.

Once upon a time, a tired traveller came upon an isolated castle. Imprisoned by a foul-humoured beast, the man’s daughter was forced to trade her father’s freedom for her own. However, over time, the young woman comes to realise that there may something human lurking beneath the creature’s monstrous exterior.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 248th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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