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New Escapist Column! On “Obi-Wan Kenobi” as a Brand Management Checklist…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the broadcast of the final episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi this week, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look back at the show.

Despite a promising start, Obi-Wan Kenobi descended into a mess of content. The final episode was not a story so much as a collection of demands compiled from what the studio assumed that the internet might want. There were gratuitous callbacks to memetic lines. There were largely redundant cameos. There were battles that just ended in stalement because of the understanding of what had to follow. There was the return of characters who last appeared in the premiere, with the assumption that audiences would care about them because they were “important.”

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Moon Knight” Offers an Interesting Solution to the MCU’s Villain Problem…

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

One of the more consistent criticisms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the idea that it suffers from a “villain problem.” While this is perhaps an over-simplification of the situation, there is some truth to the suggestion. Part of what makes Moon Knight so interesting is that the streaming series posits an interesting solution to this long-standing issue. It offers a superhero who can legitimately serve as his own worst enemy.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and the New Age of Disposable Media…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. One of the big news stories of this week concerned the apparent (albeit accidental) censorship of an episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+.

While the matter was eventually resolved following news coverage and outcry on social media, there is something unsettling about how easily that mistake happened and how readily it could have been missed or overlooked. It underscores the risks of trusting companies like Disney to serve as the digital curators of their own legacy, particularly in a landscape where so much of film and television has alreayd been lost. In some ways, it suggests that the transition to streaming has rendered film and television truly disposable in a way that they haven’t really been in almost half a century.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and Why It’s Okay for Pop Media to Be Dark…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the first trailer and initial press for Obi-Wan Kenobi, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the troubled production.

In January 2020, it was announced that filming on Obi-Wan Kenobi had been delayed at the last minute, with the season’s scripts thrown out and a new showrunner brought in. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that this was the case, that the initial scripts had been junked because they contrasted with the hopeful and uplifting tone that Disney wanted for the show. However, it’s interesting to wonder whether a show like Obi-Wan Kenobi really must be optimistic and uplifting, or whether it is sometimes okay for populist entertainment to strike a tone that suits its story.

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

New Escapist Column! On The Genre Dissonance of “Hawkeye”…

I published a new column at The Escapist at the weekend. With the release of Hawkeye on streaming, it seemed worth an opportunity to take a look at the show.

In particular, there’s a fascinating genre dissonance between what Hawkeye is trying to be and what it actually is. The show positions itself as a feel-good holiday buddy comedy, but it also inherits the weight of a film noir. It is essentially a six-episode series rooted in the title character’s attempts to recover the one piece of evidence that links him to mass murder, but the show absolutely refuses to let any of these considerations get in the way of its desire to be “fun” and “chirpy.” The result is an interesting tonal clash between what Hawkeye wants to be, and what it actually is.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Quiet Revolution of Disney’s Modern Princess Movies…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Encanto this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the animated “princess” movies being produced by Disney.

Disney has always been associated with these movies, dating back to the breakout success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. However, the company has also long had a complicated relationship to them, and in particular the way in which they are perceived as movies aimed at young girls. However, the past decade has seen the studio clever and consistently reinventing this archetypal “fairy tale” sort of story for the twenty-first century, to the point that it’s arguably that the run of movies from Tangled onwards has been the most consistent of the studio’s output.

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

Non-Review Review: Encanto

One of the most interesting and overlooked entertainment trends in the past decade has been the extent to which Disney’s animated films have quietly become the studio’s most reliable output, ahead of higher-profile properties like Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, it’s possible to argue at least convincingly that Disney’s animated films have been more consistent in quality than those from Pixar, even allowing for Pixar’s success with movies like Inside Out.

The studio entered the twenty-first century in a state of crisis over its traditional animated features. There was a perception that the studio’s classic “princess movies” like Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid or Pocahontas or Mulan were outdated, and that the studio needed to reconfigure its image to appeal to young male demographics. The acquisition of other brands like Star Wars eased the pressure somewhat, and the studio’s animated output has become more comfortable in its own skin with female-led animated projects including Tangled, Frozen, Moana, Frozen II and Raya and the Last Dragon.

Family portrait.

The studio’s animation division has spent the past decade tinkering with the formula and assumptions that drive these sorts of films, in some ways cutting to what was always the heart of the genre. Love stories are now optional for female leads. Villains are more complex and multifaceted. Themes are richer and more ambitious. It’s perhaps too much to suggest that Disney has spent the past decade quietly and carefully deconstructing and then reconstructing the familiar “princess movie” storytelling engine, but it’s also not inaccurate. The studio has done this in a careful and considered manner, never feeling false or cynical.

In some ways, Encanto feels like the culmination of this larger trend. It is a movie that is instantly recognisable as part of the familiar animated “princess movie” template, a musical about a young woman in a remote location coming into her own to find her identity. It’s a stunning piece of animation, with a charming cast and some catchy musical numbers. However, it’s also a surprisingly thoughtful and clever subversion of some of the core ingredients in these sorts of movies. It’s a story about a lead character whose epic adventure begins at home, who finds herself without needing to leave the house.

Food for thought.

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251. Up (#123)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week with special guests Deirdre Molumby and Brian Lloyd, 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, marking the passing of Ed Asner, Pete Docter’s Up.

Carl Fredricksen is a widower who finds himself facing the end of a modest life in the small house that he once shared with the love of his life. When it looks like what little remains of that life migth be disturbed and destroyed, Carl decides to embark on the one last adventure that he never got to take with his beloved life: a trip to mysterious “Paradise Falls”, without leaving his home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 123rd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! “Luca – Review”

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 film review of Luca, which is released on Disney+ this weekend.

New Escapist Video! “Loki – Predicting the Direction of the Series”…

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, with Loki launching next Wednesday, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about our expectations and our predictions for the last of this wave of big three live action Marvel shows on Disney+.