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New Escapist Column! On the Future of “Star Wars” on Streaming…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the announcement that Star Wars is launching a Bad Batch television series off the back of The Clone Wars, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at why the franchise’s future might lie on streaming.

To a certain extent, Star Wars has suffered because it is no longer a pop cultural monolith. It arguably hasn’t been a monolith since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Since then, Star Wars has built a fanbase populated by different audiences who want different things from the franchise. There are a lot of problems with The Rise of Skywalker, but at least part of the problem comes down to the fact that the film tried to avoid offending anybody and so satisfied nobody. Streaming offers a chance for Star Wars to be multiple things, to multiple people.

On streaming, freed from the burden of being a box-office-record-smashing success, Star Wars has the opportunity to be more experimental and more bold. It can also specifically target particular segments of its diverse fanbase, offering a little something for everybody while still potentially offering room to grow and expand. If managed wisely, Star Wars is in prime position to make the jump from big screen to small screen.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Snyder Cut” Went From Impossibility to Inevitability…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. The big news this past week has been that Zack Snyder has been given $30m to finish his cut of Justice League.

This is quite a complicated matter. There’s a lot of discussion and debate around it, about what this means for the future of Hollywood. However, the news about the release of The Snyder Cut is down to a number of unique factors aligning in completely unpredictable ways, meaning that a project like this one went from being the last thing that Warners would want to being exactly what they needed. In the course of a few months, the Snyder Cut morphed from seeming impossibility to inevitability. That is an incredible turnaround.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On the Fan Reaction to the Final Season of “Game of Thrones”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. It’s the one year anniversary of the end of Game of Thrones, so it seemed appropriate to look back on the fan reaction to that final season.

The final season is admittedly a flawed season of television. However, that doesn’t quite explain the level of vitriol that it provokes online. After all, the finale was widely enjoyed by general audiences, performed reasonably well at the Emmys and is doing very well for itself in streaming in social isolation. This contrast is interesting, suggesting that there’s something particularly prickly about the final season that alienated its most vocal fans so extremely.

In hindsight, this seems to be the actions of Daenerys Targaryen in the second half of the season. In the home strange, Daenerys ceased to be seen as a “liberator” of the continent, and instead became a conqueror. She did what all conquerors do, raining down death and destruction on those civilisations that do not welcome her. This was all very clearly seeded across the previous seven seasons, but it turned rather sharply against the audience’s sympathy for Daenerys. In doing so, it made the audience complicit in the carnage. One suspects that complicity stings.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Avatar’s” Lack of a Cultural Footprint Might Be Its Best Feature…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine earlier this week, given the release of new concept art for the Avatar sequels.

Much as been made of the extent to which Avatar left no tangible pop cultural footprint, despite its massive financial success. It’s a fascinating conundrum, and almost impossible to imagine in this age of fractured fandoms and hot takes. Indeed, that lack of a strong cultural footprint might even be the best thing about it. For better or worse, Avatar was a film that millions and millions of people saw and enjoyed, before getting on with their lives. And in an era where films increasingly feel like religious events, there’s something vaguely comforting in that.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Need of “Star Wars” to “Grow Beyond” the Skywalkers…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last night, looking at the future of the Star Wars brand.

While there is still some ambiguity about where Disney will take the cinematic franchise following the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, a clean break might be the best course of action. Modern franchises are too beholden to fan service and familiarity, to retreading old ground in order to avoid offending or challenging existing fans. This prevents franchises from growing and embracing new ideas and new possibilities. It leaves them stagnant, and ultimately does little to appease fandoms with very strong ideas of how characters or ideas should be portrayed.

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

New Escapist Column! How Disney Have Monetised Spoiler Culture…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine over the weekend. I’ve been thinking about this for a little while, since the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and it came bubbling to the surface with the announcement that the first episode of The Mandalorian would include “a dramatic Star Wars-universe spoiler in the first episode.”

This got me thinking about the way in which, more than any other mass media company, Disney have weaponised spoiler culture as a selling point, to create urgency among consumers and to use that to drive the market. They have also used it to shape the conversation, to control what can or cannot be said about their films and at what point. Spoiler culture has grant Disney a surprisingly strong control of the fandom-driven market. It’s an incredibly canny move from the company, one which has exploited a core part of current nerd culture.

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

Star Trek: Voyager – Renaissance Man (Review)

Renaissance Man is a poor episode of television. However, it is not an especially misguided one.

The flaws with Renaissance Man are largely structural and familiar. They are the flaws that define Star Trek: Voyager, from a storytelling point of few. The plotting is loose. The characterisation is threadbare. There are good ideas, but the manner in which those ideas are developed and explores leaves a lot to be desired. There are flashes of a much better episode, but it is unclear that even the production team realise what those flashes are. The pacing is awkward, with act breaks positioned very poorly. There is an unnecessary secondary climax that muddies the episode.

Leaps and bounds ahead.

However, Renaissance Man largely avoids the more fundamental philosophical problems that have haunted so much of the seventh season before it. Renaissance Man seems cobbled together from stray ideas seeded in earlier episodes of the season, but those ideas are not inherently toxic or bad. Following on from the deeply uncomfortable isolationist and xenophobic triptych of Friendship One, Natural Law and Homestead, there is something refreshing in the fact that Renaissance Man is not explicitly about how people should keep to themselves.

Renaissance Man is underwhelming, but it is not a spectacular misfire. At this point in the season, that counts for much more than it really should.

I, EMH.

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131. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion – This Just In (#201)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Graham Day and Bríd Martin, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion.

At time of recording, it was ranked 201st on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Shazam!

There’s a lot to like about Shazam!

Most obviously, there’s the sheer joy that the film takes in live-action superheroics. It is, of course, something of a cliché to suggest that a certain film or television show “makes superheroes fun again.” Even just among the recent crop of superhero cinema, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseIncredibles 2, Ant Man and the Wasp, Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming can all claim to have injected fun back into the genre. (Indeed, for their myriad flaws, the problem with Justice League and Aquaman was not that they weren’t trying to have fun. Quite the opposite in fact.) So it is disingenuous to state that Shazam! reintroduces the concept of fun into the genre.

Dab-bling in superheroics.

However, Shazam! still takes an incredible amount of joy in playing with the tropes and conventions of the genre. Part of this comes built into the premise. While the character of Captain Marvel could be seen as an example of the “flying brick” archetype most effectively embodied by Superman, the most appealing part of the concept has always been his secret identity. Unlike other superheroes who simply change costume to fight crime, the character physically transforms into a superhero through the use of the magic word. Captain Marvel’s secret identity is Billy Batson, usually portrayed as a child or a teenager. There’s something endearing about the wish fulfillment that anchors that concept. Shazam! invites its audience to look at superheroics through the eyes of a child.

The first two acts of Shazam! are (mostly) a joy, an engaging riff on a playful concept that understands a large part of the appeal of superheroes to their target audience. Unfortunately, the film fumbles the ball in its third act. While the relative innocence and simplicity of Shazam! are a large part of its appeal, the climax of the film gets a little bit too boggled down in cynical worldbuilding, indulging in a bloated and over-extended computer-generated fight sequence that feels lifted from a much less playful and exciting film. To borrow an old cliché, Shazam! almost convinces its audience that a man can fly, but it just can’t stick the landing.

Zap to it.

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109. Star Wars (#22)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guests Marianne Cassidy and Grace Duffy, 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 second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, George Lucas’ Star Wars.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, the Empire and the Rebellion struggle for control of the cosmos. Against this backdrop, three unlikely heroes ascend, embarking upon a mythic journey that will reveal dark secrets and promise new hope.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 22nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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