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New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Critique of the Marvel Power Fantasy…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at what the film says about the larger thematic preoccupations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is built around the superhero power fantasy, with much of the franchise focusing on the idea that its central characters should be allowed to do whatever they want, to bend the world to their tremendous wills. Multiverse of Madness is an interesting and deliberate deconstruction of this power fantasy, focusing on a superhero who has internalised that idea to a dangerous degree, while teaching another character that perhaps the ends don’t always justify the means.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Strange New Worlds” Feels Like a Photocopy of a Photocopy of a Photocopy…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The second episode released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

The problem with Strange New Worlds, and it is a problem that runs through each of the five episodes released to the press, is that it is essentially writing Star Trek as if nothing had changed since 1989. This is the approach that ultimately ran the franchise into the ground, as Star Trek: Voyager and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise exhausted a formula that had been run through every possible permutation after more than a decade in use. Strange New Worlds returns to that format, but it is a faded copy of a faded copy, a pale imitation of episodes that were just about functional two decades earlier.

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

New Escapist Video! On How “Star Trek” Gave Up on the Future…

We’re thrilled to be launching a fortnightly video companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch every second Monday, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel. And the video will be completely separate from the written content. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the end of the second season of Star Trek: Picard and the launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger Star Trek franchise, which has become increasingly backwards-looking in recent decades. While a lot of fans will place the blame on the franchise’s more recent output, the truth is that this nostalgic impulse took root much earlier than many fas will acknowledge.

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” as a Parable About the Dangers of Rejecting Reality…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about the film.

Despite its title, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems refreshingly wary of the multiverse as a concept, understanding that the collapse of reality is not necessarily a good thing. Indeed, despite the title, the film is largely about the importance of embracing and accepting one’s original reality, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of retreating into fantasy. In particular, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a horror story about the lengths that people will go to preserve their fantasies – and the consequences of those actions.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and Old Trek Tropes…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The premiere released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

Strange New Worlds is very much a blast from the franchise’s past, essentially serving as a spin-off series from the original and unaired pilot The Cage. That feels somewhat appropriate, given that Strange New Worlds has little interest beyond nostalgically chasing the feeling of old Star Trek, trying to recapture the vague memory of the older franchise. The result is an episode that offers a shallow but efficient riff on classic stories like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, and which ends with the suggestion that the key to world peace is that we should all become Star Trek fans.

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

New Escapist Video! “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is Good Old-Fashioned Superhero Fun”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. 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 film review of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is in theatres around the world now.

New Escapist Column! On “Star Trek: Picard” and Storytelling Fundamentals…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Star Trek: Picard, which is streaming weekly on Paramount+. The final episode of the second season released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

On paper, the second season finale of Picard cycles through a series of checkboxes regarding the show’s long-form arcs, dutifully ticking off each of its obligations in a manner that could theoretically be satisfying. However, this just demonstrates how clumsy Picard is when it comes to storytelling fundamentals. There are interesting and big ideas at play in the second season of Picard, but the show frequently fails at finding ways to develop these ideas organically or cohesively.

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

New Escapist Column! On “Moon Knight” and the Lack of Surprises…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. We’re doing a series of recaps and reviews of Moon Knight, which is streaming weekly on Disney+. The final episode of the show released this week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the series.

As Moon Knight wraps up, the most surprising thing about the latest Disney+ streaming series is how completely lacking in surprise it was. The show didn’t pull any sharp last-minute twists or surprise cameos from the extended universe. Instead, it delivered exactly what it promised viewers. The result is interesting, a show that is more consistent than most of its streaming compatriots, but which ends up feeling particularly anonymous.

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

New Escapist Column! On the “Doctor Strange” as a Film About Time and Death…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Scott Derrickson’s somewhat underrated contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange felt like an oddity when it was released, sandwiched between Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. It was a very conventional origin story, stripped of the legacy character attributes of Ant Man, the crossover baggage of Black Panther or the period piece nostalgia and narrative trickery of Captain Marvel. It was perhaps the most straightforward superhero origin story since the earliest days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically recalling both Iron Man and Thor.

However, underneath the surface, there was something more interesting happening. Doctor Strange is a rare superhero movie that is about both the passage of time and inevitability of death, where the ultimate act of villainy is to pervert either flow. It’s a movie about accepting that change happens, and that sometimes a moment doesn’t last forever. It’s a theme that felt particularly relevant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given that it was going to lose two of its three lead characters in the very near future.

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

New Escapist Column! On the Tragedy of Nacho Varga and What It Says About “Better Call Saul”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul in full swing, it seemed like an opportunity to take a look at one of the show’s more under-appreciated central figures.

Nacho Varga was introduced in the first season as a potential foil for Jimmy McGill, intended to serve as the antagonist of the show’s premiere year. However, when the writers stumbled upon the idea of Jimmy’s brother Chuck as the main character’s nemesis, Nacho was left somewhat listless. However, much like the character of Kim Wexler, this initial lack of a clear arc allowed the production team to figure out a compelling approach to Nacho, who has become one of the most tragic figures in the entire show, and a character whose attempts to assert agency tie into the show’s core themes as a prequel to Breaking Bad.

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