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New Escapist Column! On the Rejection of the “Chosen One” in “Blade Runner 2049″…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Since Blade Runner 2049 opened three years ago this week, I thought it was worth taking a look back at the science-fiction sequel.

One of the interesting tensions within Blade Runner 2049 is the way that the film continuously gestures at an epic plot – a story of a lost replicant messiah, of “miracles” and “angels”, of wars and revolutions. However, the film largely eschews this in favour of focusing on a much more intimate and personal level of drama. Blade Runner 2049 is a story about a character wrestling with the fact that they were never a “chosen one”, in a manner that perhaps reflects the mood of the culture around it.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Dune” as a Deconstruction of the “Chosen One” Fantasy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week saw the release of the first production photos from Denis Villeneuve, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to dig into Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic.

A lot of the press around Dune is making a big deal about the novel as an epic on the scale of something like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. However, this seems to sell the novel short. Dune is not a simple “chosen one” fantasy narrative, although it has many of the familiar trappings of the genre. It is the story of a teenage boy who comes to inspire religious devotion in his followers, after all. However, the novel problematicises that sort of story, by complicating the messiah at its core. Dune is warped and grotesque reflection of those power fantasies.

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

The Last Jedi, Dunkirk and the Death of the Hero…

One of the more interesting aspects of living through a pop culture moment is that it is often quite hard to properly assess anything from that subjective vantage point.

It is too easy to assume that this moment is the most important moment in history, to suggest that the entirety of history has been a path leading to this moment or to the moment just beyond it. There is also a clear desire to find signal in the noise, to sift through the nearly impossible volume of data that threatens to overwhelm any filter and find a pattern. As such, it is always tempted to declare particular movies as the important to this particular moment, or to find trends when none actually exist.

At the same time, there is something to be said for trying to sift through contemporary pop culture and to observe trends. In particular, to see how those trends reflect back on the world in which those films were produced and the world in which they were released. In particular, one of the more interesting aspects of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and Dunkirk is a clear and conscious shift away from the conventional heroic narrative inside genres traditionally associated with such grand epic themes.

At a point in time when the political right seems to veering closer and closer to fascism, it is particularly striking to have last year’s sweeping science-fiction epic and last year’s highest profile war film both consciously rejecting the politics of the “strong man” and the “chosen one.”

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My 12 for ’14: The Lego Movie and Everything is Awesome…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

The very idea of The Lego Movie invites cynicism.

It is the latest in the long line of toy-to-film adaptations that includes such auspicious cinematic magics Transformers and Battleship. More than that, it is a film about a toy that has found particular success licensing existing properties – so it would be very easy to turn The Lego Movie into a collection of recognisable characters having generic adventures while selling their toys to an eager young audience. In a market where studios like Pixar had raised the bar for family-friendly animation, The Lego Movie seemed like it could be cringe-worthy.

thelegomovie

Instead, The Lego Movie is one of the most purely enjoyable movies of 2014. It is a film that appeals to all children, no matter their age. From seven to seventy, The Lego Movie is constructed with such energy and enthusiasm that it is impossible to resist. Even the most hardened cynic and most ruthless pessimism will struggle not to smile at certain points as The Lego Movie marches to its own wryly and playfully subversive beat. The amount of charm on display here should win over everybody.

The Lego Movie is still a feature-length advertisement for a world-renowned brand, but it manages to capture the fun and the excitement of that brand in a way that will feel familiar to those viewers who do remember playing with blocks; no matter how long ago.

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The X-Files – Anasazi (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Burn it.

– C.G.B. Spender, 16 April 1995

On alien soil...

On alien soil…

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