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New Escapist Column! On the “Superman II” as the Rosetta Stone of Zack Snyder’s DCEU…

I published a new column at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League this week, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to take a look at the strange and enduring influence of Superman II on the DCEU, from Man of Steel forward.

Superman II is one of the cornerstones of the superhero genre. It was the first big superhero blockbuster sequel, setting the stage for the franchises that would follow. It was the first depiction of the urban devastation that has become a fixture of the modern superhero spectacle. However, what makes movies like Man of Steel and Zack Snyder’s Justice League so interesting is the extent to which they interrogate and explore the fantasy presented in Superman II.

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

New Escapist Video! “Zack Snyder’s Justice League – Review in 3 Minutes +”

I’m thrilled to be launching 3-Minute Reviews on Escapist Movies. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute feature film review to the channel, discussing Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

New Escapist Column! On “Dark Phoenix” Taking the X-Men Into the MCU…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With New Mutants limping into cinemas this week and drawing the shutters down on the X-Men Cinematic Universe, it seemed like an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the dying days of a shared universe.

Dark Phoenix is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fascinating one. It is a movie that embodies the strange listlessness of the X-Men franchise in the wake of X-Men: Days of Future Past, reflecting on the failed attempt to turn the series into a generic superhero franchise in X-Men: Apocalypse. It is a movie about the nightmare of stripping out any sense of identity from the merry mutants and packaging them as conventional and straightforward superheroes.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Snyder Cut” and Superhero Apocrypha…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Over the weekend, some new details came to light about Zack Snyder’s plans to restore his original vision for Justice League, particularly the assertion that it would not be “canon” with Warners’ other superhero films.

To a certain extent, this is obvious. There is no way to make Snyder’s version of Justice League fit with the films that followed, like Aquaman or Shazam! However, it’s a somewhat bolder statement. Since the emergence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the shared universe has been treated as a romantic ideal towards which these films should aspire. Indeed, a large part of the justification for recutting Snyder’s film was to protect the brand. As such, it seems appropriate that The Snyder Cut rejects the idea of the canon for apocrypha.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Batman Begins” as the Perfect Superhero Origin Story…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. It’s the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Batman Begins, so it felt appropriate to look back on the film as the perfect superhero origin story.

Christopher Nolan dedicates Batman Begins to getting inside the head of Bruce Wayne, to the point that the villainous Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow are defined almost entirely as counterpoints to the Caped Crusader. Nolan builds the character from the ground up, explaining everything about the character’s perspective and psychology – why he says what he says, why he acts like he does, why he thinks what he thinks. Most impressively, Nolan provides a meaningful answer to a question the character’s mythology long glossed over. “Why bats, Master Wayne?”

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

New Escapist Column! On “Wonder Woman” and What It Means to Be a Hero In a World Where Men Are Not Always Good…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Wonder Woman celebrated its third anniversary this weekend, and Wonder Woman 1984 was originally scheduled for release this weekend.

Wonder Woman is a fascinating film, in large part because it manages to feel like a decidedly old-fashioned story of heroism that reflects the anxieties of a modern world. Too many modern superhero films divorce themselves from even the idea of heroism, embracing the power fantasy of superheroism as an end of itself. In contrast, Wonder Woman asks what it means to try to be a good person in a world that is not.

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

Non-Review Review: Scoob!

Have you ever wondered what it might look like is a beloved fifty-one-year-old children’s television franchise had a midlife crisis?

If so, Scoob! might just be for you.

We have lift-off.

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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.

“We’re Not Soldiers”: The Cautious Superhero Optimism of “The Avengers”…

Before it was a Bomb, the Bomb was an Idea. Superman, however, was a Faster, Stronger, Better Idea. It’s not that I needed Superman to be “real,” I just needed him to be more real than the Idea of the Bomb that ravaged my dreams. I needn’t have worried; Superman is so indefatigable a product of the human imagination, such a perfectly designed emblem of our highest, kindest, wisest, toughest selves, that my Idea of the Bomb had no defense against him.

– Grant Morrison, Supergods

There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles we never could.

– Nick Fury, The Avengers

In hindsight, The Avengers looks like a sure bet; a bunch of recognisable characters from successful properties bound together to create a blockbuster.

It is a testament to how profoundly The Avengers has reshaped the media landscape in its image that this appears almost a given. In a world that has seen the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the original film in the franchise seems almost quaint. Only six heroes? Only one primary villain, and one who was previously defeated by Thor in Thor? Sure, Thor is “the strongest Avenger”, but that seems almost quaint in this era of universe-spanning crossovers that fold on the expansive casts of films like Ant Man or Black Panther or Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps it is an ode to the power of  the idea that The Avengers feels so small in hindsight.

At the same time, there’s a maturity and reflection in the original Avengers that is largely lacking from Infinity War and Endgame. One of the most frustrating aspects of Infinity War and Endgame is the way in which the films devolve into unquestioning power fantasies; stories about great men who wield the power of gods for their own benefit with little regard for the obligations or responsibilities that come with that power. The characters of Infinity War and Endgame never question the use of their power for their own benefit, never contemplate their right to hold the fate of four different universes in their hands. Banner never questions the appeal of living as the Hulk forever, just as Thor insists on abandoning his people to have wack adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy cast.

In hindsight, what is most striking about The Avengers is how fascinated it is with the question of what superheroes are, and what function they serve. Perhaps in keeping with the general enthusiasm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or perhaps reflecting his own affection for the genre, Joss Whedon keeps coming back to the suggestion that superheros represent an idea and an ideal. They represent an idealised manifestation of American power and identity, quite literally contrasted at the end of the film with the horror and majesty of the atomic bomb.

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127. Akira – Anime April 2019 (#249)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Graham Day and Marianne Cassidy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime April, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Kaze no tani no Naushika and Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira.

This week, the first part of the double bill, Akira, set in the then-distant future of 2019.

In the streets of Neo-Tokyo, an entire generation is left to fend for itself. Against a backdrop of reckless violence and urban chaos, as the city seems ready to burn to the ground around them, teenagers Tetsuo and Kaneda have forged a friendship rooted in desperation and necessity. However, everything changes when Tetsuo has a fleeting encounter with a strange child, and opens doors to possibilities that were previously unimaginable.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 216th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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