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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.

271. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (-#86)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Graham Day and Niall Glynn, 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, Sidney J. Furie’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

It is a turbulant time in the life of Clark Kent. He finds himself considering selling the family farm. The Daily Planet has been brought out by an aggressive media conglomerate. A young boy has begun to question his faith in Superman, asking whether the Man of Steel can truly protect the world from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Tired of standing by as a passive observer, Superman decides to finally take action. However, an old enemy is lurking in the shadows, waiting to spring a trap of his own.

At time of recording, it was ranked 86th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Topps Comics #1 (“Not to Be Opened Until X-Mas” / “A Dismemberance of Things Past”)

I’ve been thrilled to guest on The X-Cast over the past few years, and have really enjoyed digging into The X-Files with the guests and hosts. However, this is particularly thrilling, because it’s particularly geeky. The wonderful Tony Black asked me join him for a discussion of the first two stories published by Topps comics, Not to Be Opened Until X-Mas and A Dismemberance of Things Past, written by Stefan Petrucha and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.

I have made no secret of my long-standing affection for these comics. I think that they are probably among the very best licensed comic books ever published. So it was a delight to be asked to talk about them, and to get to geek out with Tony about these stories. There’s a lot of fun stuff here, including context about the comics industry in the nineties and the question of what was possible in a monthly tie-in to a weekly television series.

You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Escapist Column! On “Spider-Man: No Way Home” As An Unlikely Divorce Movie…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. With the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film.

No Way Home is technically Tom Holland’s sixth film the role of Peter Parker. So it’s interesting that No Way Home effectively puts his version of the character through the standard narrative beats of a Spider-Man origin story. In many ways, No Way Home feels like it’s a movie that is aiming for a clean start and fresh break. It also feels like something of a divorce movie between Sony and Marvel Studios. The movie opens with Aunt May dumping the director of Iron Man, and the film seems eager to announce that it is living its best life. The first thing that it does is to hit up some of its exes.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Tangled Ethics of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This weekend marks the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, so it seemed like a good idea to take a look at the movie’s big themes and ideas.

On the surface, No Way Home feels a lot like recent nostalgia plays like Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, in that it’s very much an appeal to the memory of a pop culture object. However, No Way Home has certain advantages over these movies, in that it’s a film that seems to be trying to be about more than just recycled imagery. However, it never seems like No Way Home is entirely sure what exactly it is about and what exactly it is trying to say about that.

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

New Escapist Column! On Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Streaming Villain Problem…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. The penultimate episode of Hawkeye featured a major reveal of a significant villain for the show. This is very typical of how the Disney+ streaming shows have operated, so it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about Marvel’s streaming villain problem.

Marvel Studios have long been criticised for their fairly generic villains. However, in the transition from blockbuster releases to streaming series, the company has created a new sort of problem. Instead of generic and forgettable antagonists, these shows tend to feature puzzle boxes and references, clues and riddles. The identity of villains are often hidden and concealed, treated as late-in-the-story revelations that reward long-term fans at the expense of pacing and characterisation.

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