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New Escapist Column! On the Eternal Appeal of Lando Calrissian…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the release of the nine core Star Wars films on streaming in Ultra-HD, I thought it was worth revisiting the most compelling character in the franchise, Lando Calrissian.

Lando is great. A lot of that is down to the cool and charismatic performance of Billy Dee Williams in the role. However, there’s also something very interesting in the way that Lando is built. He’s a lot more flawed than the other heroes of the franchise, a lot more relatable. Lando is a pretty normal guy who suddenly happens to find himself drawn into this epic battle between good and evil, largely to serve as a foil to the genuinely heroic Han Solo. Lando’s primary function is that he demonstrates that Han really is the leader and hero that Leia believes him to be, by showing the audience and the characters what a selfish rogue actually looks like.

It’s a trend that continues with the character, right through to the way in which Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker parallels Lando’s loss of his only child with Han’s loss of his son. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Narrative Patching of “The Rise of Skywalker”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. This is one is a bit topical, the constant narrative patching of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

The Rise of Skywalker was released to something of a collective sigh. It was a spectacular mess of film, one full of dangling plot threads, unnecessary revelations and mountains of fan service. However, that messiness left a number of awkward lacunas, that were gradually filled in with supplemental material that revealed the nature of Lando’s arc and the identity of Rey’s father. All of this stuff radically alters the experience and understanding of The Rise of Skywalker, and the decision to strip that stuff out of the film itself illustrates how horrific the production process truly was. The awkward efforts to shoehorn this stuff back in are arguably comparable to the day-one patching of Cats to cover terrible special effects. This is not a flattering comparison.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Ewoks as Quintessential “Star Wars”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This is one I’ve been thinking about for quite a while: the Ewoks.

Conventional fan wisdom is that the Ewoks are crap. After all, they don’t even get a look in when Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker returns to the ruins of the Death Star, ending up consigned to a brief cameo in the closing montage. There’s a certain strand of fandom that considers the Ewoks the weakest part of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. This is a shame, as the Ewoks are actually one of the best parts of the film. More than that, they are on of the best parts of the franchise. They speak to the kind of things that only Star Wars could do, that gonzo blend of wholesome and radical.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Franchise Revanchism in “Star Wars”, “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek”…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday, looking at one of the more interesting (and frustrating) trends in modern franchise storytelling.

New ideas in existing franchises have always been controversial. After all, fans were taken aback by the changes made to existing properties in films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. So the controversy around things like the first season of Star Trek: Discovery or Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi are nothing new. What is new, however, is the way in which these properties now seem to be swayed by fan anxieties, retreating from bold ideas into the safety of familiarity. This leads an emptiness, and runs the risk of letting these properties stagnate.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Rogue One” as “Star Wars” for the Twenty-First Century…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine a little while ago, looking at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Like most films, the original Star Wars was a product of its time. It spoke to simmering tensions and traumas related to the late seventies, from lingering atomic anxieties to the horrors of the Vietnam War. However, a lot of time has passed since the original trilogy, and our cultural anxieties have changed over the intervening years. Since the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, the Star Wars franchise has been fixated and focused on the original trilogy. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the only film to make an effort to ask what those tropes and conventions mean moved to the present day.

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

New Escapist Column! On Servicing the Wrong Fans in “The Rise of Skywalker”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine a few weeks back, looking at the ways in which Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker worked so hard to erase Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, and in doing so played to the worst aspects of fandom. It proved controversial.

It is hard to determine exactly what The Rise of Skywalker is about, beyond the vague hope of parents that their radicalised children might be redeemed. Indeed, The Rise of Skywalker is largely defined by reaction. It exists primarily as a rejection of The Last Jedi, often feeling as though it was written from a beat sheet punctuated by angry replies to Rian Johnson over the past two years. The result is a movie that knows what it isn’t, but desperately unsure of what it actually is.

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

 

New Escapist Column! On the Need of “Star Wars” to “Grow Beyond” the Skywalkers…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last night, looking at the future of the Star Wars brand.

While there is still some ambiguity about where Disney will take the cinematic franchise following the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, a clean break might be the best course of action. Modern franchises are too beholden to fan service and familiarity, to retreading old ground in order to avoid offending or challenging existing fans. This prevents franchises from growing and embracing new ideas and new possibilities. It leaves them stagnant, and ultimately does little to appease fandoms with very strong ideas of how characters or ideas should be portrayed.

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