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New Escapist Column! On “Raya and the Last Dragon” and the New Cinema of Reconciliation…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Given the release of Raya and the Last Dragon last week, it seemed like an appropriate time to discuss an interesting and emerging trend, what I call “the New Cinema of Reconciliation.”

The past five years have been extremely turbulent and difficult for the United States and the wider world, and so there is an understandable yearning for a return to normality, a palpable desire to believe that things could go back to normal and that the damage down to the social fabric could be repaired. This is a major recurring motif in films aimed at younger audiences, from Trolls World Tour through to Wonder Woman 1984. However, Raya and the Last Dragon illustrates how complicated this can be.

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

New Escapist Column! On How “Trolls World Tour” Might Be the Most Important Movie of 2020…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. It’s 2020, so of course Trolls World Tour might end up being a film that redefines the cinematic experience.

Trolls World Tour was released directly on to digital platforms following the coronavirus pandemic. The movie apparently managed to earn more in three weeks as a digital rental than the original Trolls earned in its entire five-month theatrical run. Naturally, this has made Universal bullish, suggesting that they might look at day-and-date digital releases for films like Jurassic World: Dominion and F9, which would radically change the cinematic landscape. Understandably, cinemas are less than thrilled with this.

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


Non-Review Review: Trolls World Tour

If nothing else, Trolls World Tour demonstrates how far animated American films have come in the past few decades.

Modern family audiences have come to expect – and not unreasonably – a certain amount of polish and sophistication in terms of the stories being told. It’s common to credit Pixar with this evolution of expectation, given the narrative and thematic sophistication of films like Toy Story or Finding Nemo. However, the truth is that this was a movement across the medium, with Dreamworks also making significant contributions with films like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and even Kung-Fu Panda.

Keep Trollin’, Trollin’, Trollin’, ya!

Children have always been more sophisticated media consumers than people credit them, and it’s notable that younger children increasingly process information and storytelling in more concentrated bursts; platforms like Vine and Tik Tok spoke more to younger audiences than older ones, often hypercompressing narratives with an impressive efficiency. As an audience, kids are both smart and shrewd, and often capable of handling whatever film or television can throw at them. It seems like only recent have film and television begun to catch up to them.

This is part of what makes Trolls World Tour so disheartening, particularly in the context of this revolution in family films. Trolls World Tour believes that all it needs to do to distract children is to confront them with bold colours and familiar music. Maybe that’s correct, and it seems likely that Trolls World Tour will be suitably soothing to younger viewers. However, there’s something slightly cynical and patronising in the movie’s commitment to the philosophy of “just enough.”

Ballooning problems.

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