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New Escapist Column! On the Future of “Star Wars” on Streaming…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the announcement that Star Wars is launching a Bad Batch television series off the back of The Clone Wars, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at why the franchise’s future might lie on streaming.

To a certain extent, Star Wars has suffered because it is no longer a pop cultural monolith. It arguably hasn’t been a monolith since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Since then, Star Wars has built a fanbase populated by different audiences who want different things from the franchise. There are a lot of problems with The Rise of Skywalker, but at least part of the problem comes down to the fact that the film tried to avoid offending anybody and so satisfied nobody. Streaming offers a chance for Star Wars to be multiple things, to multiple people.

On streaming, freed from the burden of being a box-office-record-smashing success, Star Wars has the opportunity to be more experimental and more bold. It can also specifically target particular segments of its diverse fanbase, offering a little something for everybody while still potentially offering room to grow and expand. If managed wisely, Star Wars is in prime position to make the jump from big screen to small screen.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Clone Wars” and the “Star Wars” Prequels…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. The Clone Wars wrapped up recently, and so I had occasion to binge the series.

The Clone Wars is an interesting artifact, existing largely space between the prequel and sequel trilogies, although briefly resurrected after the release of the sequels for an abridged final season. Watching the show, what was most striking about it was the way in which it felt true to the prequels, embracing and embodying the myriad complexities and contradictions of that divisive and polarising era of Star Wars output. This was reflected in everything from the kind of stories that The Clone Wars told to the ways in which it opted to tell them.

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

New Escapist Column! On Qui-Gon Jinn as the Flawed Figure at the Centre of the Phantom Menace…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Earlier in the week, a clip of Dave Filoni on Disney Gallery: The Manadalorian went viral, discussing the role of Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Filoni argued that Qui-Gon was a hero fighting for Anakin’s soul.

This is interesting, because it reduces Qui-Gon to a much more generic character than the version featured in the film. Qui-Gon is a deeply flawed character, one with several blindspots and one who is unable to assume the role of hero whether because of the audience’s understanding of the mechanics of a Star Wars prequel or because of the character’s increasing sense of disconnect with the larger universe. Qui-Gon is a character that means well, who positions himself as a hero in this story, but is unable to fulfill that function.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Unique Appeal of David Lynch’s “Dune”…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week saw the release of the first production photos from Denis Villeneuve, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at the last attempted adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic science-fiction classic.

David Lynch’s Dune is not necessarily a coherent film. It’s not a good film by any traditional metric of quality. However, it is a unique film. There has, quite simply, never been another blockbuster like it. It’s a film at war with itself, caught between extremes. The producers clearly want the film to look like a Star Wars rip-off, while Lynch is pulling from his own esoteric influences. The results are dazzling and chaotic. It’s hard to believe that a film like this could ever exist.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Dune” as a Deconstruction of the “Chosen One” Fantasy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week saw the release of the first production photos from Denis Villeneuve, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to dig into Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic.

A lot of the press around Dune is making a big deal about the novel as an epic on the scale of something like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. However, this seems to sell the novel short. Dune is not a simple “chosen one” fantasy narrative, although it has many of the familiar trappings of the genre. It is the story of a teenage boy who comes to inspire religious devotion in his followers, after all. However, the novel problematicises that sort of story, by complicating the messiah at its core. Dune is warped and grotesque reflection of those power fantasies.

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

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.