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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.

Doctor Who: Dark Water (Review)

I presume you have stairs?

I’m not a Dalek.

Dark Water is downright provocative in places, and rather ingenious.

On the surface, Dark Water is the first part of a season-ending two-parter building to the return of two very obvious pieces of Doctor Who continuity. In doing so, it cleverly demonstrates one of the most obvious issues with the two-part structure in contemporary Doctor Who. The episode spends forty-five minutes building to a game-changing cliffhanger that is quite easy to figure out ahead of time. (Not least because the BBC’s publicity department loves Cybermen.) As such, the typical first part of a two-parter ends where the Doctor Who story actually begins.

doctorwho-darkwater9

However, there’s something far shrewder happening beneath the surface. While Dark Water spends most of its runtime affectionately mocking the inevitability of the two revelations at the climax, it is very in keeping with the aesthetic of the Moffat era around it; it is much more interested in the intimate than the epic. The climax beautifully subverts the classic Davies era “global invasion” cliffhanger by dismissing the Doctor as “another mad Scot” while the public look on bemused at the six Cybermen wandering down from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

In contrast, the juicy parts of Dark Water are those defined by the personal relationships at play. For all the iconic visuals and soaring music, the episode doesn’t close on the Cybermen or the Master; it closes on Danny and the reflection of the young child he killed. The episode’s big dramatic beat is that final conversation between Danny and Clara. The reveal that Missy is really the Master is obvious, but it is more interesting for her re-contextualising her relationship with the Doctor as that of a spurned and abandoned lover. It’s all personal.

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Doctor Who: Time Heist (Review)

Why? There’s no immediate threat?

Warning, intruder alert!

I should really stop saying things like that.

After the ambition of Listen, Time Heist feels like a return to the general narrative conservatism that marks the first half of the season. Introducing the Twelfth Doctor, the first six episodes of the season are all written by veteran writers. With the exception of Listen, they all play it relatively safe. Five episodes into the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure, the approach is starting to grate just a little bit. The training wheels are still on, but there is a sense that the show is itching to remove them.

Indeed, without the ambition that tempers the many flaws with In the Forest of the Night, Time Heist is probably the weakest episode of the season. However, there is something to be said about that; Time Heist may not be a particularly memorable piece of television, but that alone is enough to mark it as much stronger than misfires like Fear Her or Night Terrors or Evolution of the Daleks

or Curse of the Black Spot.

... and they lived happily ever after...

… and they lived happily ever after…

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Straight Up, With A Twist…

In the run-up to Inception, I got thinking about Christopher Nolan’s extensive filmography, and how many movies of his involve massive twists in the last third (The Dark Knight is arguably the exception, unless you consider the addition of a second villain to be a ‘twist’). It got me thinking about the nature of plot twists and how they can essentially harm and help a movie.

Yes, this would be the best twist ending ever...

Note: This article is going to discuss twists on the ends of movies and – as such – might be fairly heavy on the old spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

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What Constitutes a Spoiler?

What constitutes a spoiler? I mean, really? Is discussing anything about the ending of a film a spoiler? What about talking about a twist earlier on, or an underlying theme or premise that pays off at the end? Is that a spoiler? How long does a movie have to be out before you can talk about it without worrying that you’ll spoil the ending for some poor unsuspecting individual who deserves to see the movie and take it in without having their perception coloured? Some stuff got me thinking about this and I’m not really sure I know where the line falls.

I see a twist coming...

I see a twist coming...

Spoiler: This article contains spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers. But that was kind of obvious from the header, wasn’t it? I wonder if anyone ever actually heeds these warnings. Tell you what, cycle down to the end of the article and leave a comment if you do. Nah, I’m just kidding, but still… spoilers ahoy!

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