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New Escapist Video! On What Makes “The Suicide Squad” the Year’s Best Blockbuster…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am doing some film critic work at The Escapist. Part of that includes long-form video criticism, such as this piece which is now available to watch at YouTube, editted by the wonderful Matt Laughlin, looking at what makes The Suicide Squad the best blockbuster of the year to date.

New Escapist Video! On How “The Suicide Squad” Uses Idris Elba…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday’s article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. 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 release of The Suicide Squad last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at one of the things that the film did very well. In particular, the movie used its lead actor to great effect. The Suicide Squad is a movie that understands Idris Elba’s movie star persona and understands how it enhances the general mood of the film around it.

New Escapist Column! On How “The Suicide Squad” Uses Idris Elba…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Suicide Squad, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at one of the keys to the film’s success. James Gunn understands how to use Idris Elba as a leading man.

Movie stardom is a fascinating concept. So much of what makes a particular person a movie star is ineffable. It is hard to quantify or gauge. It can also be difficult to harness with intent and purpose. This is particularly true in an era where Hollywood seems to be moving away from movie stars, and films like Jungle Cruise seem to struggle against their leads’ screen personas. However, part of what makes The Suicide Squad so effective is that it understands exactly what makes Idris Elba so compelling as a screen presence, and finds a way to play into that to the movie’s benefit.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Suicide Squad” Deconstructs Amanda Waller…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Suicide Squad, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at one small-but-clever aspect of James Gunn’s superhero sequel.

The character of Amanda Waller is a pop culture archetype. She is an example of the ruthless intelligence operative who will cross whatever line it takes in pursuit of what she believes to be the greater good. Outside of comic books, one need only look at the character of Jack Bauer. Within the modern superhero landscape, the archetype is embodied by Nick Fury. These characters might be edgy or ambiguous, but they are also undeniably cool. Gunn’s approach to Waller in The Suicide Squad is interesting in large part because it rejects that idea of effortless cool in favour of something a lot blunter and more horrific.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Guardians of the Galaxy” as the MCU’s Best Exploration of Loss…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. With all the talk about how so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe is about “loss”, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not a machine that is designed to deal with concepts like loss head on. After all, most of its major departures were down to contract negotiations rather than narrative priorities. Characters are often resurrected, and losses are often temporary. This is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so compelling. Director James Gunn understands that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a space into which the audience and characters escape to avoid dealing with loss, even if it haunts them still.

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

New Escapist Video! On “Joker” and the Exhaustion of Outrage Culture…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode, covering the anniversary of the outrage over the release of Joker, and how that demonstrates how cheap outrage has become.

 

New Escapist Column! On James Gunn’s Upcoming “The Suicide Squad”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist earlier in the week. With DC’s Fandome event at the weekend, it seemed like a good time to take a look at one of their upcoming projects: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.

Gunn didn’t actually premiere too much material from The Suicide Squad, primarily unveiling the cast roster and screening some behind the scenes footage. However, the announcement was interesting, marking a clear delineation from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. In these brief snippets, Gunn suggests an understanding of what has historically made the Suicide Squad such a compelling concept: its status the island of misfit toys in larger DC continuity.

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

121. Guardians of the Galaxy (#248)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, to mark the release of Captain Marvel, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stealing a mysterious orb from a dead world, Peter Quill become embroiled in a high-stakes plot with galactic repercussions. As time runs out and the threat rises, Quill finds himself forced to assemble a ragtag band of misfits because the galaxy isn’t going to save itself. Among that team, Quill finds the deadliest woman in the galaxy, a literal-minded killing machine, a bounty-hunting raccoon and his “personal house plant slash muscle.” Separately, they are a bunch of failures. Together, they are the Guardians of the Galaxy.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 248th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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“When I Left Earth”: The Simple Childhood Trauma of “Guardians of the Galaxy”

This Saturday, to mark the release of Captain Marvel, I will be discussing Guardians of the Galaxy on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first. You can listen to the podcast here.

Twenty-one films in, there is a solid argument to be made that Guardians of the Galaxy ranks among the very best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Variety has consistently ranked Guardians of the Galaxy the best film in the shared universe on its own frequently updated list. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film is ranked joint sixth (but on the fourth tier) of Marvel movies in terms of review aggregation. On a list that included non-Marvel-Studios-properties, MetaCritic ranked the film as the fifth best of the top fifty Marvel films released in the twenty-first century. It landed in the same position on a similar list compiled by Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian. It ranked second on the list compiled by The Independent. Although such a metric is hardly absolute and academic, it is also one of the longest-enduring Marvel films on the Internet Movie Database‘s top 250 movies of all-time.

Similarly, the film endures in popular culture. It is arguably one of the most influential blockbusters of the past decade. It was notably the first film to have its soundtrack top the Billboard album charts without an original song on it. Although directors like Martin Scorsese and Richard Linklater had defined the “jukebox soundtrack”, Guardians of the Galaxy turned it into a standard for blockbuster films. Somewhat ironically, given how James Gunn’s career has since developed, Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that seems like the template for the modern wave of blockbusters like Suicide Squad or even Kong: Skull Island. These are massive tentpole films that consciously wear their weirdness on their sleeve.

At the time, this seemed strange. Guardians of the Galaxy was a fringe property before the film was released, largely unknown to audiences outside of comics. The film does not even adapt the “classic” team line-up, relegating them to a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Instead, the team depicted in Guardians of the Galaxy was drawn from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s well-loved but under-appreciated twenty-first century run. More than that, the film was to be helmed by a director who had developed his trade working at Troma and whose career included oddities like Slither or Super. The star was a supporting actor on a well-liked-but-not-breakout sitcom. The biggest names were voicing a talking raccoon and “his personal houseplant-slash-muscle.”

As such, the film’s status as a breakout hit and cultural phenomenon seems strange. What is it about Guardians of the Galaxy that endures, that elevates it in the popular memory ahead of other superhero films (and other Marvel Studios films) like Captain America: The First Avenger or Ant Man or Doctor Strange? It’s in interesting question to contemplate, particularly when Guardians of the Galaxy comes with so much of the baggage of those middle Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rewatching the film in hindsight, there is a lot of clunky exposition and unnecessary detail, a host of elements that exist to set up other movies (like Avengers: Infinity War) rather than serving this individual film. This is the film that properly introduced Thanos and the Infinity Stones, after all.

It is perhaps to the credit of Guardians of the Galaxy that it works well enough in spite of the demands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is the rare Marvel Studios film that feels entirely sure of itself and its own identity. Despite all this continuity and all of these connections, Guardians of the Galaxy is structured by Gunn and credited co-writer Nicole Perlman as a very simple allegory beneath all the talk of “Celestials” and “the Nova Corps”, between trips to “Xandar” and “Morag.” At its core, Guardians of the Galaxy never loses sight of what it’s actually “about” beneath the trappings of comic book lore and the spectacle of a twenty-first century blockbuster. It is the story of a young boy who responds to a massive trauma by retreating into a world of fantasy.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #27!

Your podcast, should you choose to accept it…

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Luke Dunne from Film in Dublin to discussion the week in film news. There’s a host of interesting stuff here, from the James Gunn controversy over Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 to the film noir compromise of Gilda to the divisive Dublin Oldschool. Along the way, we take a side-trip into discussions of vaguely unsettling YouTube algorithms aimed at children. However, perhaps the real reason to give it a listen is to hear Luke’s “grand unified theory of Tom Cruise” as part of a broad discussion about Mission Impossible: Fallout.

Give it a listen at the link, or check it out below.