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New Escapist Column! On “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as a Limit Case for the MCU…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that Avengers: Age of Ultron turned five years old, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at it.

Age of Ultron was an interesting film at the time, and it has become an even more interesting film in hindsight, following the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In many ways, Whedon positioned The Avengers as an argument in favour of the superhero genre as a romantic fantasy worthy of attention and respect. Age of Ultron feels like the flipside of that argument, a film about the limitations inherent in the genre and its perpetual second act. Age of Ultron is a deeply flawed film, but one flawed in very interesting ways.

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

New Escapist Column! On What Modern Superhero Films Could Learn From Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the news that Sam Raimi is going to be directing Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I thought it was worth taking a look back at his Spider-Man movies.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies helped to pave the way for the modern superhero blockbuster, arriving at a pivotal moment for mainstream blockbuster cinema. Along with Blade and X-Men, Spider-Man demonstrated that it was possible to accurately translate these heroes to screen. In the years since, the superhero genre has become the dominant form of contemporary blockbuster cinema. However, rewatching Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it is immediately clear that the genre hasn’t always developed in the healthiest or most satisfactory directions.

What could the MCU learn from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies? You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “The Edge of Tomorrow” as the Perfect Video Game Movie…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday. With the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, I figured it was the perfect chance to revisit the best video game movie ever: The Edge of Tomorrow.

Look, I freely concede that there are maybe some slight issues with that argument, given that The Edge of Tomorrow isn’t actually or literally based on an established video game franchise. However, there’s something very compelling in the way that The Edge of Tomorrow embraces the aesthetics and sensibilities of video games in order to tell its story, offering a much more faithful replication of the experience of playing a video game than films like Street Fighter or Super Mario Brothers.

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

New Escapist Column! On How We’re Still Talking About “Batman vs. Superman” Four Years Later…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Monday. Given that last week was the fourth anniversary of Batman vs. Superman, it felt like an appropriate subject to tackle.

I continue to find myself fascinated by Batman vs. Superman, and I’m clearly not the only one. The film still generates a lot of chatter and attention among movie fans and superhero genre fans, particular when a lot of the discussion around other superhero film from the same period – like X-Men: Apocalypse or Fantastic Four – have faded from cultural memory. Indeed, Justice League is arguably only lingers in the memory because of the continuity fascination with what an actual sequel to Batman vs. Superman might look like.

In an era where so much pop culture is transient and disposable, there’s something endearing in the capacity of a film as odd and abrasive as Batman vs. Superman to linger in the public consciousness. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and Parental Failure…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. Given that Star Trek: Picard just wrapped up its first season, I had some thoughts expanding on my discussion of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II on Make It So.

The first season of Picard is undeniably messy and awkward. The pacing is a little off in places, and it pulls several of its most powerful punches. However, at the heart of the series is a story that simmers through a lot of contemporary pop culture, from Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker to Bad Boys for Life, the idea of a failed parent trying to redeem themselves through their child. It’s a fascinating inversion of the Campbellian archetype embodied by Star Wars, the quintessential story about a son come to terms with his relationship to his father. Stories like Picard invert that dynamic, and look at the responsibilities that parents owe to their children to provide them with a better world.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Underrated Appeal of “Iron Man 3″…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given some online debates raging last week, I thought it was worth taking a look back at Iron Man 3.

Iron Man 3 remains a fascinating film, seven years after its release. What is particularly interesting is how fan and general audience opinions are polarised on it. This is not a coincidence. What audiences and critics love about Iron Man 3 is what alienates fans. Iron Man 3 is the rare film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that seems conflicted about superheroes as they exist in contemporary pop culture, and anxious about the implications of approaching them as an expression of the military-industrial complex. The result is the relatively rare Marvel Studios film that is genuinely and engagingly introspective, willing to ask play with expectations and ask questions about the genre’s place in the contemporary pop cultural landscape.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Understated Power of Pierce Brosan’s Bond…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week. With the release of No Time To Die pushed out, and St. Patrick’s Day relatively understated, I thought it was worth taking a look at Pierce Brosnan’s tenure playing James Bond.

Brosnan is often overlooked in assessments of the James Bond franchise, largely overshadowed by the (deserved) reappraisal of Timothy Dalton’s vulnerability in the role and the (deserved) celebration of the emotional complexity that Daniel Craig brought to the icon. This is a shame, because there’s a lot to like about Pierce Brosnan’s interpretation of the superspy. Most obviously, there’s a sense in which Brosnan’s interpretation of the character refused to be tormented and tortured by the work that he did. Brosnan played Bond as a man uniquely attuned to the demands of his job, an unchanging man in a rapidly changing world. The result is a character who seems unflinchingly brutal, but who also collapsed his patriotism into satisfaction of his more personal vices.

Whether intentional or not, Brosnan’s interpretation of the character makes the audience uncomfortable, particularly the joy that he takes in violence and the sense in which little really matters to him beyond satisfying his own urges. It’s a provocative approach to the character, one that stands in marked contrast to the more considered introspection of the the two performers either side of him. Brosnan’s Bond often seems to be challenging the audience, asking whether we enjoy the callous violence and detached brutality as much as the protagonist does, without offering us the “get out of jail free” card that Dalton and Craig’s more solemn portrayals afford viewers.

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