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New Escapist Video! On How Streaming and the Algorithm are Shaping Modern Franchises…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, we took a look at a broader cultural trend: the way in which streaming services and the algorithms that drive them are reshaping modern franchise media in a way that makes them more aesthetically conservative. When the algorithm drives studios to push towards recycling familiar ideas and iconography, it discourages any attempt to do something new or interesting with these long-lasting properties. As a result, many of the larger franchises have become hollowed versions of their past glories.

New Escapist Column! On Thor as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s One True Superhero…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Thor: Love and Thunder, it seemed like as good an excuse as any to take a look back at the character of Thor within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what makes him unique within the shared universe.

Interestingly, Thor is perhaps the only major character within the shared universe who feels like an old-fashioned superhero rather than a product of the military industrial complex. This is particularly apparent within Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, both of which are essentially stories about Thor being exiled from or rejecting the structures of Asgardian society. The result of all this is interesting. In a universe where so many heroes are defined by their relationship to the armed forces, Thor actually feels like a superhero.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Lost World” as a Nasty and Subversive Spielbergian Sequel…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Jurassic World Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the best sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

The Lost World was somewhat maligned on initial release, with much of the criticism hinging on how dark and how cynical the movie was perceive to be. This was seen as something of a betrayal of the audience, with Spielberg sacrificing wonder and majesty for terror and horror. However, this is the most interesting thing about the movie. It is Spielberg playing with horror in a very deliberate and conscious way. If the original Jurassic Park was a movie about the majesty and spectacle of blockbuster filmmaking, The Lost World can feel like a horror movie about turning such a project into a sequel.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Jurassic World Dominion” Encapsulates Everything Wrong With Modern Blockbusters…

I published a new piece at The Escapist on Friday evening. With the release of Jurassic World Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film.

Dominion is a bad film. It is a terrible film. It is barely functional as a film, a collection of post-it notes held together by nostalgia and muscle memory. However, what is perhaps most depressing about Dominion is the fact that it doesn’t feel particularly novel in its badness. Dominion is bad in the way that so many modern franchise films are bad: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jurassic World, Joss Whedon’s Justice League, Terminator: Genisys. It’s a collection of nostalgic iconography stapled together, and served up to audiences in dull grey goop.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Jurassic Park” as a Movie About Fatherhood…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the looming release of Jurassic World: Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the original Jurassic Park.

Spielberg’s classic is regarded as one of the defining summer blockbusters, and deservedly so. However, Jurassic Park is also a quintessential Spielberg film, dealing with some of the director’s core themes and preoccupations. Like so many Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park is a movie that is essentially about fatherhood, and about what it means to be a father in a radically changing and evolving world. It’s an interesting exploration of an idea that preoccupies Spielberg as a filmmaker, and which spoke to the cultural anxieties of the era that produced it.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Star Wars” Learned the Wrong Lessons from Solo…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the arrival of Obi-Wan Kenobi on streaming, it seems like a good time to take a look back over Disney’s ownership and management of the Star Wars brand. In particular, Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was the moment where everything seemed to go wrong for the company’s vision of the larger franchise. It should be possible to learn from past mistakes, and Solo certainly provides an ample amount of education material, but can Disney learn the right lessons?

New Escapist Column! On “Top Gun: Maverick” as a Tom Cruise Movie About Tom Cruise Saving Movies…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Top Gun: Maverick, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the blockbuster sequel. In particular the way that it is a movie that is very consciously and very deliberately built around its star.

Tom Cruise has been described as one of the last movie stars, and that means that the actor exerts a certain gravity on his projects. Most Tom Cruise movies wind up being about Tom Cruise in one way or another. This is particularly true as Cruise has entered the later years of his career, as Hollywood has changed around him and as he has found himself having to constantly fight to assert his own relevance in a rapidly-shifting market place. Most recent Tom Cruise movies are about this, in one way or another, and Maverick is no different.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Urge to Stop Imitating John Carptenter and Just Hire John Carpenter…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Firestarter in theatres and on Peacock, and the way that the movie draws overtly from Carpenter, it seemed like a good opportunity to ask the question: why aren’t studios simply paying John Carpenter to make movies?

After all, Carpenter is a director who is responsible for some of the most influential and beloved horror movies ever made, including The Thing and Halloween. Modern horror owes a massive debt to Carpenter, a debt that it repays by paying him as an original creator, as an executive producer, or even as a composer. However, with Carpenter openly stating that he would love to return to directing under the right conditions, it’s worth asking why studios haven’t done more to assure those conditions.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Critique of the Marvel Power Fantasy…

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 the larger thematic preoccupations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is built around the superhero power fantasy, with much of the franchise focusing on the idea that its central characters should be allowed to do whatever they want, to bend the world to their tremendous wills. Multiverse of Madness is an interesting and deliberate deconstruction of this power fantasy, focusing on a superhero who has internalised that idea to a dangerous degree, while teaching another character that perhaps the ends don’t always justify the means.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Star Trek” Gave Up on the Future…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the end of the second season of Star Trek: Picard and the launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger Star Trek franchise, which has become increasingly backwards-looking in recent decades. While a lot of fans will place the blame on the franchise’s more recent output, the truth is that this nostalgic impulse took root much earlier than many fas will acknowledge.