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New Escapist Column! On “The Animatrix”, “Into the Spider-Verse”, “Star Wars: Visions” and “What If…?” and the Potential of Animated Spin-Offs…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of What If…? on Disney+ and the trailer for the anime series Star Wars: Vision, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at how best to approach the idea of an animated spin-off.

Animation is a unique medium, with its own particular strengths and weaknesses that distinguish it from live action filmmaking. The best animated films and shows understand and exploit this distinction, and it’s frustrating how committed What If…? is to trying to emulate live action rather to take advantage of the opportunities that animation provides like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or The Animatrix.

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

New Escapist Column! On Why Tom Holland Not Knowing What’s Happening in “Spider-Man 3” Would Be a Bad Thing…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. With all the debate about what Tom Holland does or doesn’t know about Spider-Man 3, I thought it was worth unpacking what that says about modern movie production.

It seems likely that Holland is just playing with the press, riffing on his familiar goofy persona. However, it’s also entirely possible that Holland doesn’t actually know what the movie he’s been shooting for eight weeks is about. Given the way in which actors have talked about working with Marvel, a lot of that material is handled in post-production, so it’s possible for an actor to have no idea of the context of the scene they’re shooting, who they’ll be appearing with, and what will actually be happening on screen. That is a problem.

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

New Escapist Video! On Sam Raimi and What it Means to be a Good (Spider-)Man…

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.

With that in mind, here is last week’s episode. With the release of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the central stakes of the film: the question of what it means to be a good man, Spider- or otherwise.

New Escapist Column! On Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and What It Means to be a Good Man…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. There’s been a lot of coverage about the new videogame Spider-Man: Miles Morales, so it seemed like a nice opportunity to go back and take a look at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.

In hindsight, one of the most striking things about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is how low the stakes are. Barring the climax of Spider-Man II, Peter Parker never faces an apocalyptic threat. Even when Peter does face down larger-than-life supervillains, Raimi is sure to ground the films in more relatable stakes. Raimi’s trilogy is fascinated with the question of whether Parker Parker will become a good man. It understands this question as it relates to a lot of young men. Peter’s dark side doesn’t build omnicidal robots or order killer drown strikes, but offers a more mundane evil.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Future of Cinemas…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the summer effectively lost, the future of cinema is a subject of much discussion.

Will cinemas open soon? If they open soon, what will they show? If they have films to show, will audiences turn up? If audience show up, how will basic safety measures like social distancing and masks impact their financial bottom line? Will cinemas be among the attractions that people are most eager to revisit when the chance presents itself? More than that, what will a visit to cinemas actually be like? To answer these questions, I actually took a trip to a recently reopened cinema in Ireland.

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: Spider-Man – Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home cannot help but exist in the shadow of Avengers: Endgame.

Indeed, one of the problems marketing Far From Home was the manner in which the entire emotional premise of the film served as a spoiler for Endgame, which meant that the film had to wait quite late in the game to release its second trailer. This sets up an interesting tension with Far From Home, which finds itself in the the seemingly contradictory position of being both the last movie in the current “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also a film actually being produced by a company other than Marvel Studios.

Masking his feelings.

This weird push-and-pull runs through Far From Home, which seems caught between existing as a coda and epilogue to Endgame and working as a Spider-Man movie in its own right. To a certain extent, this was always going to be a tension within Far From Home, even before Endgame set its sights on becoming the biggest movie of all time. Endgame was always going to exert a gravity on Far From Home, given its plot mechanics and its character decisions. Writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, along with director Jon Watts, were always going to be reacting to narrative and character choices that they never made.

As such, the most interesting thing that Far From Home can do is to literalise that tension.

Night Monkey Moves.

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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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My 12 for ’18: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” & Doing This One Last Time

It’s that time of year. I’ll counting down my top twelve films of the year daily on the blog between now and New Year. I’ll also be discussing my top ten on the Scannain podcast. This is number four.

“Alright, let’s do this. One. Last. Time.”

There were few cinematic experiences this year as joyous as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I first saw it at a preview screening, surrounded by children of all ages. This was entirely appropriate. After all, Into the Spider-Verse is a movie that connects immediately and emotionally to any audience member’s inner child. Like many of the best modern family films, it understand the wonder and awe with which children see the world. It also understands the intelligence with which children process information, something adults often overlook.

A lot has been written about the fantastic animation employed in making Into the Spider-Verse. The technique is revolutionary and jaw-dropping; everything from the use of Ben Day dots to the shading using red and green to create an uncanny depth perception to the blurring of various styles for characters like “Spider-Man Noir” or “Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.” It is no surprise that Sony are attempting to copyright the animation process, to render it proprietary. The film would make a good case for its place on the list based on animation alone.

However, what has been less discussed in terms of Into the Spider-Verse is the actual storytelling. Part of this is obviously visual, and reflected in all of the praise that the animation is receiving. However, a lot of this is in the scripting and the structuring of the film. Into the Spider-Verse is a revolutionary film in a technical sense, a breathtaking cinematic accomplishment bursting at the seams with a remarkable visual imagination. It is also a story that understands how such stories are told. It also understands that the audience understands how such stories are told.

Into the Spider-Verse is a thoroughly modern superhero film, a narrative that is consciously designed for a contemporary audience that have been trained to process information in a more dynamic and exciting way. Even beyond its long overdue acknowledgement that “anybody can wear the mask”, Into the Spider-Verse is very much a film for 2018.

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Non-Review Review: Spider-Man – Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an amazing Spider-man movie.

There is no other way to describe it. Into the Spider-Verse is a clean lock for the best superhero film of the year, neatly leapfrogging the superlative Black Panther. Into the Spider-Verse is also the best animated film of the year, placing comfortably ahead of The Breadwinner or Incredibles 2. In fact, it seems fairly safe to describe Into the Spider-Verse as the best feature film starring Spider-Man since Spider-Man II. Even that feels like hedging, and would be a very closely run race.

Just dive on in.

Into the Spider-Verse is a creative triumph. It is a fantastically constructed movie, in virtually every way. The film’s unique approach to animation will inevitably dominate discussions, and understandably so. Into the Spider-Verse is a visually sumptuous piece of cinema that looks unlike anything ever committed to film. However, the film’s storytelling is just as impressive if decidedly (and consciously) less showy in its construction. Adding a phenomenal cast, Into the Spider-Verse is just a film that works in an incredibly infectious and engaging way.

Into the Spider-Verse does whatever a Spider-Man movie can. And then some.

Suits him.

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