• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

New Escapist Column! On “Star Wars” Continuity Power Games…

I published a new piece at The Escapist today. As ever, there are rumours in Star Wars fandom about the possibility that the sequel trilogy will be removed from canon.

As ever, these rumours are most likely nonsense designed to generate clicks in an economy that has monetised outrage clicks by stoking and feeding fan resentment and anger. However, they also reveal something very interesting about the nature of canon in modern fandom. The idea of “canon” has nothing to do with continuity. It is instead a way of asserting power and ownership over media, of asserting that a franchise “belongs” to one particular group and not for others.

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.

Luke Inside Yourself: The Self-Help Philosophy of “Return of the Jedi”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, has a tradition of covering Star Wars films at Christmas. Last weekend, we covered the last of the films on the list, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. It’s a fun, broad discussion. However, watching the film and talking about the film got me thinking about the film as a cultural snapshot of 1983.

Every generation gets the Star Wars movie that they deserve.

The original film was intended as George Lucas’ statement on Vietnam. Lucas had originally planned to make Apocalypse Now, and it is possible to see shades of that in his existential parable about a plucky band of rebels facing a technologically superior evil empire. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was perhaps one of the first true blockbusters of the eighties, and also helped to further codify the future of mainstream cinema as the New Hollywood movement endured its death throes with failures like Heaven’s Gate.

As such, it makes sense that Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi was the perfect film for 1983. It was a much less creative sequel, one that reduced the franchise down to a set of easily repeatable iconography while also maximising its toyetic potential. However, there is more to it than that. Return of the Jedi arguably marked the end of a journey that began with Star Wars. After all, the original Star Wars was in many ways a radical allegory for late seventies America, bristling with anger and rage at a broken world.

In contrast, Return of the Jedi is essentially a self-help movie, where the fate of the galaxy matters much less than how Luke Skywalker chooses to think about his father.

Continue reading

New Escapist Video! On “Dune” and “Flash Gordon” as Biblical Epics for the Eighties…

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.

As Flash Gordon is forty years old this month and as a new Dune was supposed to open this month, I thought it was worth taking a look at Dino DeLaurentiis’ two big eighties science-fiction epics. In particular, the ways in which they responded to Star Wars by drawing on the scale and spectacle of the biblical epics of the fifties.

212. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (#86)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy, Luke Dunne and Andy Melhuish, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi.

It is a time to settle old scores. Returning to his home planet of Tatooine, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker begins the final stage of his journey towards reconciliation with his father Darth Vader. Meanwhile, the Empire has embarked upon construction of another planetary superweapon, as the Emperor hatches a plot to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all.

At time of recording, it was ranked 86th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

New Escapist Column! On “Flash Gordon” and “Dune” as Biblical Epics for a Secular Age…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. As this week marks the fortieth anniversary of Flash Gordon and this month would have seen the release of the next cinematic adaptation of Dune, it seemed like a good time to talk about Dino DeLaurentiis’ science-fiction epics.

Flash Gordon and Dune exist in the shadow of George Lucas’ Star Wars, but they are markedly different films. While Lucas drew heavily from classic science-fiction serials, he adopted modern techniques in production and editing. In contrast, Dune and Flash Gordon are more old-fashioned in their storytelling. More than that, with the death of New Hollywood and the emerging blockbuster film market, it seems like the studios leaned rather heavily into the kind of epic that they knew how to make. As a result, Dune and Flash Gordon feel rather like biblical epics… in space!

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

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Unwrapping a Star Wars and Netflix Christmas”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Matt Razak for the fourteenth episode. It’s a seasonal special, as we discuss The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, The Star Wars Holiday Special and the Christmas Prince trilogy.

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 “The Mandalorian”, Continuity and Brand Synergy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. There’s been a lot of Star Wars continuity dropped into the second season of The Mandalorian, with Boba Fett returning to the show following his apparent death in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and the live action introduction of characters like Bo Katan and Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars.

This is interesting, in large part because the first season of The Mandalorian was comfortable aiming for a broader sort of Star Wars nostalgia, things that looked like existing elements of continuity, rather than things that were existing elements of Star Wars continuity. The second season is much more heavy of Star Wars cross-promotion, populated with references designed to push viewers towards supplementary material. This is a nice illustration of transmedia storytelling in the streaming age, where it isn’t enough to attract fans, services have to retain them.

Streaming services hold on to existing subscribers by adding value, and Disney appear to have figured out that continuity offers its own added value. In its second season, The Mandalorian increasingly feels like an advertisement for the other riches that the streaming service has to offer, and a promise that any subscriber who doesn’t cancel once the season is over will have a treasure trove of archival material to binge at their leisure.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Return of the Jedi” Set Boundaries on What “Star Wars” Could Be…

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 new season of The Mandalorian on the air and with the release of The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at nostalgia within the Star Wars franchise – in particular, at Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

Non-Review Review: The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

“The past is the best present,” promised the trailer to The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. That seems to be the special’s statement of intent.

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is the latest example of Disney’s efforts at brand consolidation within the Star Wars franchise, arriving just as the second season of The Mandalorian has begun folding characters from animated series like The Clone Wars and Rebels into live action continuity. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is not so much about bringing another marketed part of Star Wars history into the larger tapestry of the Star Wars franchise. Instead, it is effectively about replacing The Star Wars Holiday Special, the famously terrible special from 1978.

“Life Day comes around so fast…”

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special seems designed to effectively neutralise a lot of the stench of The Star Wars Holiday Special by repurposing the core concept and idea in a manner that is easier to package and distribute without potentially harming the overall brand. It largely works. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is a much better production than the earlier iteration. Crucially for Disney, it is also much less embarrassing. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is an iteration of that foundational Star Wars text that can stream on Disney+ without harming the brand.

That is perhaps the best thing that can be said about The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. It is a perfectly serviceable piece of Star Wars content.

The hole issue with modern Star Wars.

Continue reading