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New Escapist Column! On What Kevin Feige Doesn’t Get About “Superhero Fatigue”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Last week, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige made an argument that he could never understand the idea of “superhero fatigue”, referencing the diversity of genres and stories in superhero comics.

Feige’s response was interesting for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it was technically correct. Comic books are incredibly flexible in the kind of stories they tell and the way that they tell them. However, Feige’s answer sidestepped the obvious problem. In recent years, the superhero movie has grown more conservative and more conventional, becoming less likely to embrace different tones and styles, or to tell different kinds of stories. In the past fifteen years, the entire comic book adaptation genre has been flattened down to “Marvel movies”, and that is a very real problem.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “The Last of Us” Establishes the Rules of the Game…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. This week, the show’s second episode.

The Last of Us is an interesting piece of adaptation. It comes with a weight of expectation. There’s a sense in which the show needs to proves its adaptational bona fides to fans, by proving that it can faithfully adapt both the world and the internal logic of the source material. So the show’s second episode is an interesting fusion, a clear attempt to directly translate the experience of playing the source video game to a television series.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Menu” as a Study of Ethical Production Under Capitalism…

We’re launching a new column at The Escapist, called Out of Focus. It will publish every second Wednesday, and the plan is to use it to look at some film and television that would maybe fall outside the remit of In the Frame, more marginal titles or objects of cult interest. We kicked off the column with a look at The Menu, Mark Mylod’s black comedy.

The Menu has been framed of something an “eat the rich” satire, a companion piece to films like Glass Onion or Triangle of Sadness. However, that perhaps misses the intricacies of what The Menu is doing. The movie is not so much an example of the trend as it is a movie about the trend. In particular, it plays as a commentary on the extremely privileged individuals who make large sums of money producing art about how awful the superrich truly are, and whether that art can ever be truly insightful or engaging. It’s an exploration of how these stories work, where they come from, and the artists who make them.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the Fungus at the Heart of “The Last of Us” is a Monstrous Metaphor…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. To start with, though, a look at the season premiere.

The Last of Us is effectively a survival horror show. It’s very clearly riffing on archetypal zombie apocalypse narratives. The show’s opening scene evokes I Am Legend. Its depiction of the collapse of civilisation recalls everything from Night of the Living Dead to Shaun of the Dead. However, what makes this particular show interesting is the way that its central apocalyptic force, a infectuous fungus, ties into the show’s core themes of co-dependence and mutual support. The fungus at the heart of the show is a monstrous parasite, but The Last of Us argues that the only way human beings can survive is together.

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

New Escapist Column! On M3GAN’s Monstrous Motherhood…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the recent release of M3GAN in theatres, it seemed like a good opportunity to delve into the breakout horror success.

Like most stories about artificial intelligence, M3GAN is ultimately a story about parenthood. In particular, it’s a very modern story about parental anxieties, concerning how modern technology has in some ways usurped or replaced the role that parents place in shaping the lives of their children. Central to M3GAN is the idea that the eponymous doll serves as a parental surrogate for its companion, and in doing so makes life easier for parents. However, M3GAN itself is a child without a parent, left to educate and raise itself, with potentially horrifying results. What is M3GAN but a child of the internet?

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Back to Basics” Message in the Marketting of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week saw the release of the final trailer for the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. What was most interesting about the trailer was the extent to which it contained no surprises or teases. It was a very matter-of-fact “this is what the movie is” trailer.

It’s an interesting approach, particularly for a studio that takes pride in keeping secrets and teasing the audience. The trailer for Quantumania looks very much like a blueprint for the movie, mapping a lot of its character and narrative arcs very clearly, including a third act twist. It’s an approach that feels a little desperate, very much in keeping with the general sense of how Marvel Studios has been packaging and selling Phase Five. The past two years have seen some small erosion in the studio’s cachet, and the trailer for Quantumania feels like the studio trying to convince audiences that it still adheres to the old template.

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

New Escapist Column! On How the Bad Batch Adds Nuance to the “Star Wars” Hero Mythology…

I published a new piece at The Escapist last week. With the release of the second season of The Bad Batch, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about one of the more interesting facets of the series.

The Star Wars franchise has become synonymous with the idea of bloodlines, particularly the Skywalkers and the Palpatines. This can lead to a sense that the heroes of this massive saga have to be “insiders”, that they have to belong to a particular grouping, the membership of which is determined at birth. Part of what is interesting about The Bad Batch is that the show is an explicit rejection of that. It focuses on a group of people who are genetically identical to the armies of the First Galactic Empire, but who still find the strength of character to stand against it. Heroism is a choice, not a pre-determined genetic destiny.

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

New Escapist Column! On “The Last of Us” as a Character-Driven Apocalyptic Narrative…

I am doing weekly reviews of The Last of Us at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Sunday evening while the show is on, looking at the video game adaptation as the show progresses. To start with, though, a look at the series as a whole.

Although it takes a little while to get going, with its first two episodes largely given over to exposition and worldbuilding, The Last of Us is an incredible accomplishment from HBO. The show is clearly the result of a great deal of care and attention, and a substantial investment from the service. It’s a show that benefits from the best possible talent and from the freedom afforded to that talent, to find a distinct angle on the end of the world. It’s a charming, emotional and deeply moving character study at the end of the world.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Willow” Found Itself Adrift “Beyond the Shattered Sea”…

I am doing weekly reviews of Willow at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the legacy sequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

One of the both interestign and frustrating aspects of Willow is the way in which the show feels very much like an archetypal streaming show. It hits all of the marks and rhythms of the emerging medium, particularly in how it structures its story. There are several points in the season where the larger mechanics of the season arc become transparent. Wildwood was one such example, and Beyond the Shattered Sea is another. The second-to-last episode of the season very quickly entangles itself if doing all the necessary set-up for the looming season finale.

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

New Escapist Column! On Netflix’s Cancellation of “1899”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week, it was revealed that Netflix had cancelled 1899, their prestigious and high-profile mystery drama series. It’s especially notable because the announcement didn’t even come from Netflix, but fits a pattern for streaming services.

Streaming is not like regular television. It adheres to different rules and conventions. In particular, streaming shows don’t operate according the same real-time conveyor belt as conventional broadcast television, where it is possible for a network and a production team to react to audience response in real-time. As a result, the only space that these shows have to grow is in between seasons, and that becomes increasingly difficult in a climate where many streaming companies are cancelling these shows after just a single release.

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