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New Escapist Column! On “Birds of Prey” and Marginalised Characters…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, to mark the release of Birds of Prey.

One of the interesting aspects of Birds of Prey is the way in which it’s essentially a story about marginalised characters, characters who have historically been pushed to the edge of comic book narratives – erased and reinvented by the demands of universe-wide reboots, defined primarily in relationship to more popular male characters, and just generally subject to the whims of the shared universe. Part of what makes Birds of Prey so interesting is the way in which it builds that into the narrative, creating a story for its characters where the absence of Batman and the Joker is the entire point of the exercise.

It’s a very clever approach to the source material, and one which suggests a more fundamental understanding of the source material than many critics credit it. In some ways, it is a more faithful adaptation of the Suicide Squad concept than Suicide Squad, building itself around the flotsam and jetsam of DC continuity. It helps that Birds of Prey finds an emotional hook into this story and uses it to offer a feminist perspective on this familiar trope. After all, its notable that so many of these marginalised and erased characters are women.

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

New Escapist Column! On how “Star Trek” has Always Been more about Our Present than Our Future

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening, looking at the launch of Star Trek: Picard last week.

One of the minor controversies around Picard has concerned the series’ more cynical and world-weary tone, particularly in contrast to the optimism and enthusiasm of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the mythology around Star Trek tends to over-emphasise the franchise’s optimistic outlook, ignoring the extent to which the shows are better reflections of the present than reflections of the future. They offer snapshots of moments in time, rather than a roadmap to a better future. In that regard, Picard is very much a snapshot of this moment in time, grappling with the legacy of The Next Generation.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Cautious Conservatism of the Mandalorian…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine late last week. This one looking at the big streaming news of the week, the release of The Mandalorian.

I have very mixed feelings about The Mandalorian. There are parts of the show that I enjoyed, like its obvious debts to samurai cinema or its exploration of the aftermath of Pax Imperiosa as a way of anchoring the franchise in the present moment. However, I was much less convinced of how decidedly retrograde it felt. So much of The Mandalorian seems designed to assure viewers that “this is Star Wars“, retreating away from the relative ambition of projects like Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for the safe and the familiar.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Computer-Generated James Dean and the Collapse of Movie Stardom into Intellectual Property…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. This one covered the news that a computer-generated James Dean would be starring in a significant secondary role in the upcoming Finding Jack.

It’s an interesting precedent, the resurrection of a dead star to appear in a work completely unrelated to their previous commitments or roles. In some senses, although this particular case is very odd, it feels like a trial balloon for a larger shift happening behind the scenes. Over the past couple of decades, Hollywood has been moving closer and closer to intellectual property as a driving force behind its movie-making. The idea that movies could be populated with computer facsimiles of recognisable stars represents an attempt to collapse movie stardom into that intellectual propertisation.

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

New Escapist Column! “Gemini Man”, and the Battle Between Hollywood’s Past and Future…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday. This one takes a look at Gemini Man.

Ang Lee’s latest is a very strange beast, a nineties action movie throwback wrapped in modern technology. It pits nineties action movie icon (and one of the last surviving movie stars) Will Smith against a young computer-generated replacement, while allowing Ang Lee to embrace both a strange fascination with nineties era John Woo and his enthusiasm for technology literally so advanced that no cinema in the United States could show the film as intended. And this tension between old and new plays through Gemini Man in interesting ways.

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

New Escapist Column! “Joker” as a Perverted Superhero Origin Story…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday. Naturally, it tackled the big release of the moment, Todd Phillips’ Joker.

Joker has been the source of a lot of controversy and attention. However, one of the most interesting debates around it has been the discussion over whether it counts as a superhero story at all – director Todd Phillips and actor Marc Maron have been quick to distance the film from the genre. However, despite these claims, Joker actually works very well as a perversion of the archetypal superhero origin story. In doing so, it suggests something interesting about the state of the genre at the current cultural moment.

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

Escapist Column! How “Mindhunter” Deconstructs the Serial Killer Procedural…

Hey there.

A few weeks back, I launched a new column at Escapist Magazine, titled In the Frame. The idea is to look at pop contemporary pop culture – whether film or television or anything else besides. I’d like to thank Nick Calandra and Samantha Nelson for their support and encouragement in making this happen. Over the course of this week, I’ll be posting links to the columns that have already been published.

First up, a piece looking Mindhunter, and the way in which it plays with the format and structure of the conventional serial killer procedural to produce something much more interesting and compelling. Give it a read, I hope you enjoy. You can read it here, or click the picture below.