• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

New Escapist Column! On “What If…?”, and How We Measure What Stories “Matter”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because What If…? wrapped its first season last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show.

In particular, What If…? demonstrates one of the tensions within modern pop culture. How does modern pop culture measure the worthy or value of a particular story? Historically, stories have been judged on their own quality, making arguments for their own value. However, with the emergence and evolution of shared universes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it increasingly seems like audiences are being told that they should measure the value of a given story by how it “matters” to the continuity of the larger franchise. A story no longer has worth because it is good, but because it promises a return down the line.

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

Non-Review Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

There’s something unsettling on how conservative Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is, even by the standards of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This is particularly frustrating when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings positions itself as a progressive piece of pop culture. There’s a lot to appreciate about the film, conceptually. It is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from an Asian American director. It is the first entry in the franchise with a predominantly (almost exclusively) Asian cast. It exists in conversation with the company’s long-standing history of clichés and stereotypes, exploring and reconstructing them. Even more than that, it has a fundamentally charismatic cast and a fairly solid emotional arc, both of which should sustain it.

Stick with it.

However, all of this ultimately feels like empty window dressing arranged around a weirdly traditionalist and pandering core. At its heart, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a story about how “kids these days” really don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going, and really just need to get back in touch with their roots and learn from their elders. There are points when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels a little bit like a Jerry Seinfeld joke about stupid millennials with their gap years and their gig economy.

There’s something disheartening in all this, particularly with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings positioned as the first true origin story to follow Avengers: Endgame, the herald of a new era for perhaps the most ubiquitous pop culture franchise in the world. However, when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings should be looking forward into a bold new era, it casts its gaze backwards.

Continue reading

New Escapist Column! Reviewing “What If…?”

I published a new column at The Escapist today. I took a look at the opening three episodes of the new animated series What If…?

What If…? is an interesting step into the Marvel multiverse. It is a series of adventures that depart from the existing shared continuity in interesting ways, imaging alternate possibilities within the established superhero framework. The series itself is at its most interesting when it embraces the possibilities of the shared universe, but it suffers from a weird conservatism. At its worst, What If…? feels far too beholden to what has been rather than would could be.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Black Widow” and the MCU’s Humour Problem…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Black Widow last weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at one of the film’s biggest issues and one of the biggest issues with the MCU in general: the question of tone.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is funny. It has always been funny. This is part of what distinguished it from a lot of its comic book movie contemporaries when it was released. However, as the universe has progressed and evolved, the “house style” has tended towards ironic and self-aware punchlines. Sometimes this approach works beautifully; many of the best Marvel Studios films are also the funniest. However, it can also serve as a distraction that lowers the dramatic stakes and undermines key character beats.

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

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Will Black Widow Have Us Russian Back to Cinemas?”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Richard Newby for the twenty-first episode of the year. With the release of Black Widow on streaming and in cinemas, there was only one movie to discuss. So we went for a deep dive into Marvel’s interquel, its character-centric movie for a dead Avenger.

You can listen to back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

New Escapist Video! “Black Widow – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Black Widow, which is releasing theatrically and on Disney+ Premier Access this weekend.

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – Loki – “The Variant”…

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the second episode of Loki, streaming on Disney+.

 

New Escapist Column! On “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Captain America 4″…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the announcement that Anthony Mackie would be reprising his role as Sam Wilson in Captain America 4, it seemed like a good opportunity to take stock of what is happening with Marvel’s streaming series.

Disney have long insisted that streaming represents the future of the company, investing heavily in bringing their existing brands to the medium. However, even with the boost that the pandemic has brought to streaming, there is a question to be asked about where the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe lies. Are shows like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier paving the future of the MCU? Or are they just commercials for big-ticket feature films?

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

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – Falcon and the Winter Soldier – “Power Broker” Discussion…

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series. I’ll be joining the wonderful Jack Packard and the fantastic KC Nwosu to break down WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki as they come out.

This week, we take a look at the third episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which I really liked. It’s an interesting and clever reworking of certain flawed elements of both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.

New Escapist Column! On How “WandaVision” Lags Behind “Legion” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”….

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Today marked the release of the WandaVision finale, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the season as a whole, and where it stands in terms of the modern television landscape.

One of the most striking aspects of the first half of WandaVision‘s first season was the skill and fidelity that the show demonstrated in recreating classic television sitcoms. The show’s basic conceit found the characters journeying through television’s history and hurdling towards the present. Unfortunately, WandaVision stumbled when it hit the present, particularly when compared to two relatively recent shows tackling similar themes and working in similar genres blending fantasy and reality as meditations on trauma and mental health problems: Legion and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

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