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New Escapist Column! On the “Back to Basics” Message in the Marketting of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week saw the release of the final trailer for the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. What was most interesting about the trailer was the extent to which it contained no surprises or teases. It was a very matter-of-fact “this is what the movie is” trailer.

It’s an interesting approach, particularly for a studio that takes pride in keeping secrets and teasing the audience. The trailer for Quantumania looks very much like a blueprint for the movie, mapping a lot of its character and narrative arcs very clearly, including a third act twist. It’s an approach that feels a little desperate, very much in keeping with the general sense of how Marvel Studios has been packaging and selling Phase Five. The past two years have seen some small erosion in the studio’s cachet, and the trailer for Quantumania feels like the studio trying to convince audiences that it still adheres to the old template.

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

New Escapist Column! On the DCEU and the Chasing of the Shared Universe…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last weekend. Since James Gunn and Peter Safran have taken over the running of the DCEU, they have made a number of dramatic cuts and decisions, including the reporting scrapping of the company’s Wonder Woman and Aquaman franchises. There is some suggestion that the entire primary cast of the shared universe is gone, and that the team is starting over to rebuild a new shared universe from scratch.

It is a bold decision, and one that sidesteps a fairly obvious question: why are DC so excited for a shared universe? After all, it was the company’s over-enthusiastic pursuit of that ideal that left their continuity feeling like a mess in the first place. For all the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shared universes are not easy to build, and DC has enjoyed a surprising amount of success with standalone projects like The Batman and Joker. Why is the company throwing everything away to try a strategy that already failed for them, and is showing signs of wearing off for their main competitor?

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

New Escapist Column! On “Wednesday” and the “Superherofication” of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the massive success of Wednesday on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show in the context of larger pop culture trends.

Wednesday is an addition to the larger Addams Family franchise, focusing on the family’s eldest child. The show is built around the decision to send Wednesday to an elite private school for freaks and monsters, “Nevermore Academy.” The series obviously riffs on the genre conventions of young adult drama, particularly the high school show. However, it is also notable for leaning into another inescapable trend in contemporary pop culture. At its core, Wednesday is a superhero show.

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

New Podcast! Craft Disservices – “Constantine”

I was delighted to join the wonderful Aaron Coker for an episode of his film podcast, Craft Disservices.

The premise of the podcast is built around the discussion of movies that were perhaps undervalued at the time, or that were greeted with critical hostility, and placing them in a broader context. Constantine is an interesting subject for such a reappraisal, and not just because there has recently been a sequel announced. Constantine represents one of the last of a certain breed of comic book adaptations, movies willing to play fast and loose with the lore in the process of translating them to screen. It is also a movie that exists among the last of a wave of truly diverse comic book adaptations before the superhero genre takes over.

You can listen directly to the episode below or by clicking here.

New Escapist Column! On How “She-Hulk” Relates To Its Audience…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the show wrapping up its first season this week, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about She-Hulk, and the show’s interesting and provocative relationship with its audience.

Setting aside the fact that big villains of She-Hulk are arguably a bunch of internet trolls, She-Hulk is engaged in a literal and constant ongoing conversation with its audience. However, what’s fascinating about that dynamic is the tone of it. Jen often seems to feel trapped by the expectations of the audience for fan service and continuity references, and the need to shape her show in such a way as to hit all of the beats expected of a Marvel Studios project.

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

New Escapist Column! On “She-Hulk” and Unnecessary Origins…

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

Like a lot of these streaming shows, She-Hulk suffers from an identity crisis. It is caught between the show that it clearly wants to be and its obligations to the familiar formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In particular, She-Hulk begins with an extended and unnecessary origin story, which the show itself doesn’t seem particularly enthused about. It’s strictly formula. Giving the first thirty-odd minutes of the show over to this generic and paint-by-numbers exercise undermines a lot of the show’s potential appeal.

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

297. Steel – Shaq Week 2022 (-#47)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this time with special guests Niall Glynn and Graham Day, 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.

This week, we’re doing something a bit unusual. To round out Shark Week, we are marking Shaq Week. So today, ending the week with Kenneth Johnson’s Steel.

Following a horrific accident during weapons research, John Irons returns home to South Central Los Angeles to discover that some of the weapons he helped design have been making their way into the hands of the local gangs. Unable to accept this, Irons crafts a superhero persona for himself, vowing to protect the local community as the vigilante Steel.

At time of recording, it was ranked 47th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Marvel’s Strength at Improv…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about Marvel Studios’ production model.

After more than a decade of success, Marvel Studios have built up a deserved reputation as a company that makes efficient and clean blockbusters. However, this reputation is often built upon the myth of the company’s ability to make and commit to long-term plans, to map out the shared universe months and years in advance. In reality, the opposite is true. Marvel Studios succeeds in large part because it has built a robust production machine that has the flexibility to adapt and evolve on the fly and in real-time, to account for any number of unforeseen potential possibilities.

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

284. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Luke Dunne, 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, Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The master of the mystic arts, Doctor Stephen Strange, is attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer when New York is attacked by a strange creature chasing a young refugee named America Chavez. Strange finds himself drawn into a chase across the vast and infinite multiverse, questioning the nature of the reality in which he has found himself.

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 “The Batman” as an Argument for Superheroes…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the release of The Batman this weekend, it seemed a good opportunity to take a look at the film, and what it says about the state of the superhero genre.

The superhero genre is arguably the dominant mode of American blockbuster cinema, the prism through which the populist form must be viewed in its present incarnation. Perhaps the superhero is best understood as a descendent of the classic pop archetypes like the cowboy or the gangster. However, very few superhero films actively engage with what that transition actually means, what makes the superhero a more modern American archetype than the cowboy or the gangster. The Batman is the rare superhero movie engaged with this question.

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