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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 How “Loki” Betrayed Itself…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With Loki wrapping up its first season this week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the show. In particular, how the season finale betrayed the show’s core themes and characters.

Loki is a story about many things, but it is primarily about power. It is about whether individuals have the power to determine the paths of their own lives. It is about who has the power to determine what stories get told and what they do with that power. It is also about how power intrinsically acts in its own best interests. There’s a lot of really interesting and biting stuff in Loki, which makes it slightly frustrating when the final makes a conscious choice to rob its characters of their agency, to reveal that this story doesn’t belong to them, and to argue that power must be centralised. In the end, Loki betrayed itself.

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

242. Captain America (-#65)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guest Scott Mendelson, The Bottom 100 is a subset of The 250. It is a journey through the worst 100 movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Albert Pyun’s Captain America.

Polio sufferer Steve Rogers is selected for a dangerous experiment that could turn the tide of the Second World War, being reborn as Captain America. When a mission behind enemy lines throws him into conflict with the Italian supervillain the Red Skull, Steve Rogers ends up trapped in the ice. However, he awakens just as his country needs him most.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 65th worst movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “Loki” as a Fugitive From Continuity…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. Following the premiere of Loki, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at some of the meta-fictional aspects of the beloved trickster.

At its core, Loki is essentially the story of a character trying to escape their own narrative and wrest control of the story in which they’ve found themselves trapped. The title character of Loki has always been a supporting player, an antagonist or an ensemble player. Loki finds the character pushing his way to the fore, trying to figure out his own arc and his own place when he is no longer defined by the role that he has played for the past decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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

New Escapist Column! Reviewing “Loki”…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. I took a look at the opening two episodes of Loki.

Loki arrives as the third and final of the first wave of live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe shows on Disney+. The opening episode suggests that it is burdened with “glorious purpose”, featuring one of the cinematic universe’s breakout characters while also introducing the Time Variance Authority to the cinematic continuity. The result is an interesting mix, something with a great deal of potential that also feels curiously cautious and overly familiar in places. Still, there’s a lot to like in the show.

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

New Escapist Column! On “M.O.D.O.K” as a Breath of Fresh Air…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday evening. With the release of M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at this unusual addition to the Marvel television canon.

M.O.D.O.K. is not a perfect show, but it is a breath of fresh air. In particular, it arrives in a cultural landscape that is becoming increasingly homogeneous and consolidated, existing as one of the last projects produced by Marvel Television before it was swallowed by Marvel Studios. As such, it is a Marvel adaptation with a distinct aesthetic. More than that, it is a comic book adaptation that is completely and utterly unashamed of its comic book roots. It is a show that revels in the inherent absurdity of comic books in a way that puts many higher profile adaptations to shame.

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

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – “M.O.D.O.K. Full Series Review”…

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, in the gap between The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, KC Nwosu and I take a look at a rather unconventional entry in the Marvel television canon: M.O.D.O.K., the half-hour sitcom from Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum about the maniacal supervillain trying to strike a work/life balance.

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – Falcon and the Winter Soldier – “Full Season Review”…

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 back at the first season of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, including the news that Sam Wilson will be wielding the shield in Captain America 4 and trying to make sense of some of the season’s more chaotic plotting decisions.

New Escapist Column! On How “Captain Marvel” and the Perils of Prioritising Plot Above Character…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the news that Nia DaCosta will be directing the sequel to Captain Marvel, it seemed the right time to take a look back at the earlier film.

There is a lot to like about Captain Marvel. It is an extremely charming movie. However, it also suffers from one of the bigger recurring problems of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is structured around a major plot reveal that lands at pretty much exactly the halfway point. However, this plot reveal is both incredibly obvious and something that prevents the first half of the movie from engaging in any characterisation. Captain Marvel feels like an expression of the recurring sense that Marvel Studios movies are nothing more than plot delivery mechanisms.

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

New Escapist Column! On Edward Norton, “The Incredible Hulk”, and the Kinds of Movies Marvel Doesn’t Want to Make…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Prompted by a conversation with a colleague Matthew Razak, I took a look at the troubled second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk.

I have always had something of a soft spot for The Incredible Hulk, in large part because it feels appropriate that a movie about the Green Goliath should find itself caught between extremes. The Incredible Hulk was caught in a conflict between Edward Norton and Marvel Studios. Norton wanted an introspective character-driven superhero film, and Marvel… didn’t. In some ways, The Incredible Hulk offered as clear a roadmap to the future of Marvel Cinematic Universe as Iron Man, if only because it served to illustrate what Marvel didn’t want from their blockbusters.

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