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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.

New Escapist Video! On Why Chris Evans Returning to the MCU Would Be a Bad Idea…

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 – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, with rumours that Chris Evans might be returning to the role of Steve Rogers, I took a look at why this would be a bad thing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has the opportunity to push ahead and evolve in a way that the comics never have been.

New Escapist Video! On Power Without Responsibility in the MCU…

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 – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, I take a look at the power fantasy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Captain America: Civil War, the MCU becomes a study in power without any responsibility.

New Escapist Column! On How “WandaVision” Finds the MCU Coming to (and For) Television…

I published a new column at The Escapist last week, but didn’t get a chance to share it. With WandaVision now streaming on Disney+, it seemed like a good idea to take a look at it.

The most striking thing about WandaVision is how immersed it is in the language of television. Previous attempts to bring the MCU to television treated it as secondary to movies; Netflix shows like Daredevil or Iron Fist were treated as thirteen-hour movies, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter lived off scraps from the films that drove the shared universe. In contrast, WandaVision is not just a thriving celebration of television as a medium, it’s also an exploration of it. This is very firmly and very definitely the MCU coming to television.

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

New Escapist Video! Launching “A Marvelous Escape” With “WandaVision”…

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.

The plan if for the weekly episodes to launch on Saturday, but our first episode is launching today looking at the first two episodes of WandaVision. We talk about expectations, about continuity, and about what it means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come to television.

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #16!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Grace Duffy to discuss the week in film. There’s a lot to discuss. As one might expect given the big release of the week, there’s a lot of Marvel Cinematic Universe talk; The Incredible Hulk, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s also time to discuss Tropic Thunder, Catch Me If You Can and The Shallows. In terms of film news, Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium is screening at Cannes and the IFI is hosting a Trish McAdam season in May.

The top ten:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Five Feet Apart
  3. Little
  4. Pet Sematary
  5. Captain Marvel
  6. Wonder Park
  7. Greta
  8. Wild Rose
  9. Shazam!
  10. Dumbo

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

Luke Cage – Can’t Front On Me (Review)

On of the most remarkable things about Luke Cage is just how much it enjoys being a superhero series, particularly compared to the other Marvel Netflix series.

The Punisher felt distinctly uncomfortable with its source material, and so instead tried to position itself as a low-rent 24 knock-off. Jessica Jones largely embraces the superhero genre as a vehicle for metaphors about trauma rather than as something to be enjoyed or appreciated of itself. Iron Fist made a strange choice to tone down both the most outlandish aspects of its character’s back story and the genre elements inherent in a kung-fu exploitation adventure. Daredevil is the only show to give its protagonist a costume, but it skews towards a much more sombre and serious school of superheroics.

All of these series contrast with Luke Cage, which eagerly embraces the trappings of the superhero genre, even as the second season remains deeply ambivalent about the very idea of a superhero. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has described himself “a hip-hop showrunner”, and that sensibility infused the series. Hip-hop is a genre that heavily draws on sampling and remixing, so it makes sense that Luke Cage should draw on that tradition with its own stylistic influences, embracing the opportunity to create a deeply affectionate (and surprisingly traditional) superhero story around its hero.

For a story that inevitably goes to some very grim places, Luke Cage takes a great deal of joy in being a superhero television series.

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To Infinity and Beyond: Of Life (and Death) Without Meaning in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Avengers: Infinity War”

Avengers: Infinity War is a staggering accomplishment, from a purely logistical standpoint.

The film features approximately fifty major characters drawn from ten years of cinematic storytelling, all drawn together to face a major existential threat in a story that spans from a fictional African kingdom to the depths of outer space, all told within two-and-a-half hours, and all packaged in a neat and easy-to-follow delivery mechanism. Marvel Studios and the Russo brothers might make it look easy, but there’s no denying the level of skill and technique involved in shepherding a story like this to the big screen and making it work in a fundamental “this is entertaining” kind of way.

It’s important not to undersell this, not to dismiss the level of craft involved in stitching together a coherent narrative from the differing lengths of cloth. There is pleasure to be had in watching the various characters come together; in watching Peter Quill get insecure around Thor, in listening to Rocket joke about stealing the Winter Soldier’s arm, in the fact that Tony Stark and Stephen Strange spend the bulk of the movie attempting to out-Sherlock one another. Infinity War succeeds on these terms. It’s easy to be dismissive of this cinematic experiment, given how easy it looks, but that does not diminish the accomplishment.

However, there’s also something gnawing away in the background of Infinity War, an awkward question that the film never actually answers. “What is this actually about?” somebody might legitimately ask, and there are any number of possible answers. Infinity War is a film about a big purple dude with a magic glove. Infinity War is about paying off ten years of continuity. Infinity War is about proving that it is possible to make a movie like Infinity War. Infinity War is about ensuring that the next Disney shareholders’ meeting is a blowout party.

All of these are legitimate answers, but they dance around the truth. On its own terms, taken as a piece of popular culture projected on to a screen for two-and-a-half hours, Infinity War isn’t actually about anything. When people sit down to look at Infinity War in the years and decades ahead, to dissect and examine it, what will they come back with? What is it actually saying? What is it actually talking about? Not even in some grand “thesis statement about the universe” way, but in a more basic “this is the thematic arc of the film” manner?

Watching Infinity War, there is a deeply uncomfortable sense that Infinity War is about nothing beyond itself.

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