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New Escapist Video! “Wanda-Full Tonight”…

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 fifth episode of WandaVision, including the tropes and conventions of eighties sitcoms, the Full House allusions, who the real bad guy is, and – of course – that universe-cracking closing cameo.

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 Column! On Why Chris Evans Returning to the MCU Would Be a Bad Idea…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, there were rumours that Chris Evans might be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following his departure in Avengers: Endgame.

This is interesting, because it potentially undermines one of the more interesting facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Comic books are largely shaped and defined by nostalgia, with beloved characters filling familiar roles in perpetuity, with any major change to the status quo eventually rolling back to the default. In contrast, a cinematic universe operates by different constraints: actors move on, age out and even die. This would force a long-form shared universe to evolve in a way that comics haven’t had to. This is a good thing, as evolution is necessary.

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

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 Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “An Ever-Escalating Series of Star Wars”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Elijah Beahm for the sixteenth episode. Obviously, the big news is the slate of announcements from Disney’s Investor Day, including plenty of Star Wars and Marvel announcements, more news about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and reports about Tom Cruise’s rant on the set of the new Mission: Impossible movie.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Black Panther” and the Irreplaceable Chadwick Boseman…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. With the announcement earlier in the week that Marvel Studios would not be replacing Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther 2, I took a look at why that was the right call.

The original Black Panther was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and Chadwick Boseman was a large part of that. The part T’Challa might eventually be recast in an alternate universe or in a reboot, but Boseman played the definitive version within the MCU. Replacing him would be equivalent to trying to replace Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans, both of whom were allowed to retire their characters at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Boseman deserves at least that respect.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Avengers: Endgame” as a Shared Cultural Experience…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Given that Avengers: Endgame is one year old, it seemed only fair to mark that anniversary with a reflective piece.

I’m not a huge fan of Endgame. I think it’s a modest movie that works very hard to avoid doing or saying anything substantive, wrapped up in the power fantasies that drive so much of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet, in spite of that, I admire Endgame as something that has become increasingly rare in the twenty-first century: a piece of shared cultural experience that ties us all together.

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

“We’re Not Soldiers”: The Cautious Superhero Optimism of “The Avengers”…

Before it was a Bomb, the Bomb was an Idea. Superman, however, was a Faster, Stronger, Better Idea. It’s not that I needed Superman to be “real,” I just needed him to be more real than the Idea of the Bomb that ravaged my dreams. I needn’t have worried; Superman is so indefatigable a product of the human imagination, such a perfectly designed emblem of our highest, kindest, wisest, toughest selves, that my Idea of the Bomb had no defense against him.

– Grant Morrison, Supergods

There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles we never could.

– Nick Fury, The Avengers

In hindsight, The Avengers looks like a sure bet; a bunch of recognisable characters from successful properties bound together to create a blockbuster.

It is a testament to how profoundly The Avengers has reshaped the media landscape in its image that this appears almost a given. In a world that has seen the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the original film in the franchise seems almost quaint. Only six heroes? Only one primary villain, and one who was previously defeated by Thor in Thor? Sure, Thor is “the strongest Avenger”, but that seems almost quaint in this era of universe-spanning crossovers that fold on the expansive casts of films like Ant Man or Black Panther or Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps it is an ode to the power of  the idea that The Avengers feels so small in hindsight.

At the same time, there’s a maturity and reflection in the original Avengers that is largely lacking from Infinity War and Endgame. One of the most frustrating aspects of Infinity War and Endgame is the way in which the films devolve into unquestioning power fantasies; stories about great men who wield the power of gods for their own benefit with little regard for the obligations or responsibilities that come with that power. The characters of Infinity War and Endgame never question the use of their power for their own benefit, never contemplate their right to hold the fate of four different universes in their hands. Banner never questions the appeal of living as the Hulk forever, just as Thor insists on abandoning his people to have wack adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy cast.

In hindsight, what is most striking about The Avengers is how fascinated it is with the question of what superheroes are, and what function they serve. Perhaps in keeping with the general enthusiasm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or perhaps reflecting his own affection for the genre, Joss Whedon keeps coming back to the suggestion that superheros represent an idea and an ideal. They represent an idealised manifestation of American power and identity, quite literally contrasted at the end of the film with the horror and majesty of the atomic bomb.

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114. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – This Just In (#26)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Graham Day, Luke Dunne and Bríd Martin, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 26th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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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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