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New Escapist Column! On “Dark Phoenix” Taking the X-Men Into the MCU…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With New Mutants limping into cinemas this week and drawing the shutters down on the X-Men Cinematic Universe, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the dying days of a shared universe.

Dark Phoenix is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fascinating one. It is a movie that embodies the strange listlessness of the X-Men franchise in the wake of X-Men: Days of Future Past, reflecting on the failed attempt to turn the series into a generic superhero franchise in X-Men: Apocalypse. It is a movie about the nightmare of stripping out any sense of identity from the merry mutants and packaging them as conventional and straightforward superheroes.

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.

New Escapist Column! On What Modern Superhero Films Could Learn From Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the news that Sam Raimi is going to be directing Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I thought it was worth taking a look back at his Spider-Man movies.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies helped to pave the way for the modern superhero blockbuster, arriving at a pivotal moment for mainstream blockbuster cinema. Along with Blade and X-Men, Spider-Man demonstrated that it was possible to accurately translate these heroes to screen. In the years since, the superhero genre has become the dominant form of contemporary blockbuster cinema. However, rewatching Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it is immediately clear that the genre hasn’t always developed in the healthiest or most satisfactory directions.

What could the MCU learn from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies? You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: X-Men – Dark Phoenix

It reflects the strange state of the modern multimedia landscape that X-Men: Dark Phoenix feels almost like a plucky underdog.

This is a major studio summer blockbuster with a budget of well over one hundred million dollars. More than that, it is the twelfth film in a series that has historically been both critically and commercially successful; the films have earned over $5.7bn dollars worldwide, eight of the twelve films have positive scores on Rotten Tomatoes, seven of those twelve have been popular enough to end on the Internet Movie Database‘s top 250 films of all-time. The current franchise stars a two-time Oscar winner. The last film in the series earned an Oscar nomination for its screenplay.

A hot property.

Dark Phoenix should be an event. Instead, it arrives with a relative whimper. The release date was pushed back repeatedly, first from November 2018 to February 2019, and then to June 2019. It has been hounded by largely unfounded industry gossip about terrible test screenings. It is tracking for the lowest opening weekend in the franchise. In the time between the film entering production and its eventual release, it has been somewhat overshadowed by news that Disney are to buy 20th Century Fox, and that this franchise will be rebooted.

“I am inevitable,” Thanos famously boasted in Avengers: Endgame, the literal manifestation of death and time who existed to be vanquished by the assembled heroes. He might have been speaking of the influence of Disney. Dark Phoenix crashes against that inevitability, shattering and snapping against those immovable objects. Dark Phoenix is a mess, a disorganised husk of a movie carved out in an editing booth and built from last-minute reshoots. However, it is not quite the disaster that it should be. Instead, it seems almost endearingly defiant, a blockbuster flavoured with passive aggression.

Raining on their parade.

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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.