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New Escapist Column! On the Uncanny Valley that “Star Trek: Picard” Occupies Between “Star Trek” and Prestige Television…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The seventh episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

One of the big problems with modern Star Trek has been the extent to which the franchise finds itself caught between the past and the future, between a nostalgic impluse that pulls it back to the plotting that defined the franchise’s long history and something more ambitious that pushes it towards prestige television. The recent shows have never quite managed to square that particular circle, and this problem comes to the fore as Picard tries to delve inside the head of its protagonist.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Fantastic Beasts” Fails to Capture the Magic of “Harry Potter”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at one of the more inert major franchises of the past decade or so.

The success of the Harry Potter movies made the extension of the franchise inevitable; and the intellectual property has expanded into theme parks and stage shows. However, the attempts to expand the world into feature films has met with frustrating results. So far, the Fantastic Beasts franchise has felt a little lifeless and inert, a blockbuster franchise driven by exposition and apocalyptic spectacle, rather than allowing the audience to really immerse themselves in the world as they did with the earlier stories.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the “Chucky” Franchise Is About Being Both Mass Produced and Remaining One of a Kind…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. I’ve been watching the Child’s Play and Chucky franchise, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to delve into one of the more distinctive major horror franchises.

There’s an interesting tension to the Chucky franchise, one that plays out across the various entries. This is a horror series about a mass-produced piece of children’s entertainment, controlled by the demented soul of a monstrous serial killer. Much of the franchise is about the contrast between those two ideas: the factory-assembled doll and the distinctive spirit inside of it. It works well as a metaphor for the larger Chucky franchise as a whole, which has changed form repeatedly across its various incarnations, but somehow managed to retain a unique and consistent identity.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Matrix Resurrections” Utilises Franchise Nostalgia…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the release of The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max and in theatres, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film and its themes, in particular its relationship with the earlier films in the franchise.

The Matrix Resurrections exists as part of a larger wave of long-delayed nostalgic sequels to older franchises, from Space Jam: A New Legacy to Ghostbusters: Afterlife to Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, what distinguishes The Matrix Resurrections from these other examples is the way in which it uses nostalgia to a very specific purpose. It’s a film that is aware of both the passage of time since the original film and very engaged with the debate over the reason for its own existence. The result is a movie that has something meaningful to say about the modern movie landscape… and much beyond.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Wrath of Khan” and “The Voyage Home”, and the Soul of “Star Trek” in “First Contact”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Given that this month marks the 35th anniversary of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at their relationship within the Star Trek franchise – and how they connect to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

For many Star Trek fans, The Wrath of Khan remains the most beloved and most brilliant entire in the franchise’s cinematic canon. However, it’s notable that The Voyage Home was a much more populist hit, resonating with general audiences. For a decade following the release of The Voyage Home, it provided a template for the franchise for a decade. However, with the release of First Contact, the balance of power shifted. Suddenly, the franchise found itself caught in the gravity of The Wrath of Khan, which exerted a powerful gravity on the franchise’s direction and development.

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

New Escapist Column! On the the Folly of Franchising the Predator…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With news that Dan Trachtenberg’s new Predator film might receive an edit for PG-13, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the difficulty in trying to reshape the iconic eighties movie monster into a modern franchise.

The appeal of the Predator is very simple. It hunts. It’s a concept that is perhaps best suited to a mode of franchising that doesn’t really exist any more, a set of reasonably budgeted sequel films that swap out characters and locations while retaining the core concept. However, modern franchises demand more. They demand world building, mythology, scale, spectacle and a shared universe. There’s something absurd about trying to retroactively apply that to the Predator as a concept.

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

Non-Review Review: Scoob!

Have you ever wondered what it might look like is a beloved fifty-one-year-old children’s television franchise had a midlife crisis?

If so, Scoob! might just be for you.

We have lift-off.

Continue reading

New Escapist Column! On the Franchise Revanchism in “Star Wars”, “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek”…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday, looking at one of the more interesting (and frustrating) trends in modern franchise storytelling.

New ideas in existing franchises have always been controversial. After all, fans were taken aback by the changes made to existing properties in films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. So the controversy around things like the first season of Star Trek: Discovery or Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi are nothing new. What is new, however, is the way in which these properties now seem to be swayed by fan anxieties, retreating from bold ideas into the safety of familiarity. This leads an emptiness, and runs the risk of letting these properties stagnate.

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! The “Hiatus” After “The Rise of Skywalker”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last night, looking at what follows Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

Disney have announced that there will be a three-year gap between The Rise of Skywalker and the franchise’s next theatrical release. However, is this really a hiatus? In the nineties and even into the twenty-first century, franchises like Batman and X-Men routinely went three or four years between new releases. Each of the original Star Wars films were separated by three years. It perhaps speaks to the heightened nature of modern franchise production that the idea of going three years without a Star Wars film feels like a really long time – even with The Mandalorian on the air.

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