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New Escapist Column! On the Eternal Battle Between Good and Evil in “Masters of the Universe”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger franchise.

The He-Man franchise originated as a toy line from Mattel, obviously taking its cues from a host of contemporary pop culture like Conan the Barbarian and Star Wars. However, the franchise’s origins as a toy rather than a book or a feature film led to an interesting tensions. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a classic epic fantasy about the battle between good and evil, but it is a story without a predetermined origin or ending. Good may win individual battles against evil, but it will never triumph completely. As a result, He-Man presents the struggle of good against evil as eternal and unwinnable, but worth fighting.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Order 66” as the Unlikely Lynchpin of the “Star Wars” Universe…

I published a new column at The Escapist earlier in the week. Given that The Bad Batch launched this week on Disney+, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the way in which it solidifies “Order 66” as an unlikely lynchpin of the larger Star Wars universe.

There are any number of big events in the Star Wars canon, many of which have been depicted on screen – the destruction of Alderaan, the Battle of Yavin, the Battle of Hoth, the Battle of Endor. However, it’s striking that the event that has played most frequently across a wide variety of Star Wars media is the implementation of “Order 66” from the end of the prequels. It speaks to both the power of the event itself, its versatility and scale, but also to how the prequels have been rehabilitated and integrated thoroughly into the canon.

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

New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “More Mooney, More Problems”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about The Immunity Syndrome. The bulk of the episode came out last week, and is well worth your time if you’re specifically interested in discussing that individual episode.

However, the initial recording session was actually much longer than the version that appeared last week. It was a more casual and free-form conversation, covering everything from the state of the modern franchise to Doctor Who and plenty of stuff beyond. It’s a bit unfocused and wild, but I really enjoyed chatting with Aaron on such a wide range of topics.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

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New Escapist Video! On How “Star Wars” Killing the Adult-Skewing Christmas Blockbuster….

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.

This is a slightly older one, one that was prepared for both Christmas and for the fifth anniversary of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. I looked at one of the film’s most understated and under-explored legacies: the way in which the arrival of The Force Awakens killed one of the few spaces in the calendar where the adult-skewing blockbuster could thrive and prosper.

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.

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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.

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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.