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New Escapist Column! On The Enduring Appeal of “Marvel Zombies”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the release of What If… Zombies!?, What If…? finally brought the Marvel Zombies into the larger continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Zombies are an interesting piece of Marvel Comics lore, essentially imagining a world where all the superheroes have been transformed into flesh-eating monsters. While these sorts of alternate universe stories are common enough in comic books, Marvel Zombies have endured much longer than the zombie movie revival that likely inspired them. So why did the Marvel Zombies catch on? Why do they endure? Why are audiences so compelled by them?

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

New Escapist Video! “A Marvelous Escape” – What If – “… Zombies!?”

With a slew of Marvel Studios productions coming to Disney+ over the next six months, The Escapist has launched a weekly show discussing these series

This week, I join KC Nwosu and Amy Campbell to talk about the fifth episode of What If…?, streaming on Disney+.

New Escapist Column! On “What If…?” and “Mary Sues”…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. I’ve been covering What If…? for A Marvelous Escape, and it’s been a very fun experience. However, I have noticed that’s there’s a weirdly pervasive school of criticism that argues that the show has turned characters like Peggy Carter and T’Challa into “Mary Sues”, a criticism that has become increasingly common in discussions of modern franchise media.

Of course, it’s often very hard to come with a clear definition of what a “Mary Sue” is that doesn’t manage to encompass characters that the person using the description would never describe using such a term. It often seems like an “I know it when I see it” accusation, which can apply to Rey Skywalker but not Luke or T’Challa but not Steve Rogers. More to the point it demonstrates how blind some observers are to the appeal of these sorts of empowerment fantasies, and the double-standard that they appear to hold in an era where most franchise media is effectively fan fiction.

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

Non-Review Review: The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad is a stunning piece of blockbuster cinema.

There’s an understandable urge to treat The Suicide Squad as something of an outlier, particularly in the modern wave of big superhero blockbusters. After all, this is an R-rated blockbuster about a bunch of super-villains populated largely be characters that few people will recognise, let alone care about, and which exists in something of a strange continuity limbo away from the rest of the shared continuity. It is darkly funny, bitterly bleak, and decidedly uninterested in things like brand synergy. It is a sequel to a maligned film from a director now best known for his work with a rival studio and a rival property.

Squad goals.

Looked at from a certain angle, The Suicide Squad must seem as alien as the monster that rampages through the film’s third act – a space oddity that fell to Earth. However, this just makes it all the more remarkable that writer and director James Gunn has managed to fashion all of this into a thrilling and spectacular piece of blockbuster cinema that understands the appeal and the potential of the superhero genre without forsaking its own distinct perspective and while delivering on everything that a well-made populist blockbuster should.

There are very few superhero movies that are put together like The Suicide Squad. That’s their problem.

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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.