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New Escapist Column! How “The Empire Strikes Back” Invented the Modern Sequel and Franchise…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine late last week, hopefully one a little bit less contentious than discussions of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

The piece takes a look at Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and the impact that it had on shaping a lot of modern blockbusters. We tend to think of Jaws and Star Wars as the cornerstones of the modern blockbuster movie, and that’s certainly fair. However The Empire Strikes Back has arguably had an even greater impact on the way in which franchise movies are built – from ballooning budgets to the idea of the perpetual second act.

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

Non-Review Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a staggeringly beautiful piece of work. Every frame of the movie is elegantly crafted and beautifully composited. It’s a wonderful example of how computer-generated animation is every bit as artistically valid as the classic hand-drawn style. The vistas are breathtaking, the choreography is stunning, the design work is elegant. It’s a wonderful piece of animation that is never anything less than visually amazing.

Structurally, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is well-constructed – perhaps a little too well-constructed. It’s a wonderful demonstration of just how fantastic the sequel structure established by The Empire Strikes Back can be when applied well. The sequel is meticulously put together, carefully and precisely calibrated to strike the right notes at the right time with the right intensity. As far as constructing a sequel goes, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is following some impressive blueprints.

There are moments when it feels like How To Train Your Dragon 2 adheres a little too rigidly to formula, but given how well it pays off, it’s easy enough to forgive.

Sky hopes...

Sky hopes…

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Family Guy: Something Something Something Darkside

Say what you will about the quality of recent seasons of Family Guy (it does go up and down like a yoyo), the Star Wars specials are an ingenious production. Blue Harvest was a fascinating experiment, and attempt to mount a comic retelling of the classic sci-fi mythos in an animated hour-long cartoon. It was a work of genius which worked far better than one might have expected, given the excesses of the show (some where present in the mini-movie, but they were all certainly toned down). So, when a sequel was announced (albeit two years later), anticipation was high. I am pleased to announce that Something Something Something Darkside is just as good as its predecessor.

Brothers at arms...

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