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New Escapist Column! On “Black Adam” as a Superhero Vanity Project…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. The big release of the week was Black Adam, the superhero blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson as the eponymous antihero.

Part of what makes Black Adam so fascinating is the sense in which it exists between two very different styles of big budget Hollywood production. Most obviously, it’s a big and bombastic superhero blockbuster, albeit one built around a less well-known character. However, it also feels like an old style of blockbuster. It feels very much like a superhero vanity project for Dwayne Johnson, an effort to tie his star power into its own high-profile intellectual property.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Scream 2” as the Perfect Slasher Sequel…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist last week. With the film’s 25th anniversary approaching and Halloween coming up, it seemed like a good time to talk about Scream 2, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s underrated slasher sequel.

Scream 2 is in many ways the perfect sequel to a smash success like the original Scream, despite its rushed and troubled production. Scream 2 is a movie that manages to both double-down on what made Scream so compelling, while also honing in on the emotional heart of the story being told. It’s the rare sequel that manages to heighten an already heightened premise, without ever losing sight of the characters within the story. It’s clever, it’s funny, but it’s also very sharply observed.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Andor” as a Show About Loving “Star Wars”…

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 typically be 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 Andor, the new Star Wars streaming show. There are a lot of interesting things about Andor, including how good it is. However, the show also feels like a meditation on Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon. Showrunner Tony Gilroy has talked candidly about how he was never a particular fan of Star Wars, and ended up working on the franchise almost by accident. As such, Andor feels like it is, in some small way, about learning to love Star Wars and to understand what Star Wars is capable of.

New Escapist Column! On the Meanness and Meaninglessness of “Halloween Kills”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Halloween Ends, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the last entry in the horror franchise.

Halloween Kills is a divisive addition to the slasher movie canon, a grubby and nihilistic horror movie that completely lacks a central ordering principle. Halloween Kills is a movie without a hero. Instead, it is just a monster and his victims. The result is a surprisingly brutaly and bloody slasher movie from a major studio, at a point in time where these films are becoming increasingly homogenised by the logic of intellectual property brand management. Halloween Kills is a film in which there is no reason or logic for the horror that unfolds, and that only serves to make it more scary.

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

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?