All posts by Matt Dykes

Matt is a huge film and TV buff who studied film and moving image production at university. In his spare time he enjoys reading comics and books, the occasional gaming session and writing novels.

Dancing with the Devil by the Pale Moonlight: Batman 30 Years Later

In a time where superhero movies were not dominating the box office; where the idea of a dark, moody and serious comic book movie was something that people would screw their noses up at, one film managed to break the mold of what we conceived comic book films to be. It showed us that they could be serious and didn’t have to be about extraordinary characters.

But the transition from the pages of comic books to the big screen was not an easy one.

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The Death of the Western: the 50th Anniversary of The Wild Bunch

The genre of the western film was a staple of Hollywood cinema from the earliest days of film. It was a genre that would continue to attract audiences throughout the decades. The first film that showed that cinema could be a commercial success was a western called The Great Train Robbery. The era of John Wayne only served to further blast the Western further into the stratosphere, with Wayne personally starring in over 80 different Westerns alone. It was a genre that seemed like it would never die- until 1969 with the release of The Wild Bunch.

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In Space They Still Can’t Hear You Scream: The 40th Anniversary of Alien

Still seen as one of the most iconic horror films of the modern era, Alien has re-written the book on what a Sci Fi Horror film could be, and in doing so, has launched the careers of several influential people in modern cinema. From its humble beginnings to its worldwide phenomenon- even 40 years after its release, Alien still has the power to terrify audiences to this very day.

The brainchild of writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the story of how Alien came to be is one of risk and timing. Dan O’Bannon worked on a student film called Dark Star with John Carpenter and it was through this that he got into contact with Ronald Shusett. Shusett had heard about Dark Star from a friend and contacted both O’Bannon and Carpenter. After a phone call with both, he found that he had more of a rapport with O’Bannon and invited him to his house. They both decided that they would like to work together on a project, and Shusett had acquired the rights to the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. Meanwhile, O’Bannon had been working on his own script about an alien monster that systematically attacks and kills the crew of a space ship. He had written 29 pages so far and was stuck. Shusett read the initial pages and decided that they should focus on O’Bannon’s script as it would be a cheaper film to shoot.

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Blood, Grit and Skulls: Garth Ennis’ The Punisher MAX 15 Years Later

Garth Ennis has always been known for more adult comic writing and his series Preacher is a perfect example of this. However, his writing has also always had a sense of humour to it. He had been brought on to re-launch The Punisher with Welcome Back Frank in 2000 and after a successful run under the Marvel Knights imprint, he wanted to try something different. In 2002 Ennis teamed up with Darick Robertson and wrote a proposal for a short run of comics about Frank Castle’s time in Vietnam. This outline would ultimately become The Punisher: Born. This became the framework story for the series, detailing the differences between Castle and another main character in the series, a young Private called Stevie Goodwin.

At this time, the MAX imprint was relatively new. It was created in 2001 when Marvel broke from the Comic Codes Authority to establish their own rating system. The first series in the MAX line was the Jessica Jones Alias series- which served as inspiration for the recent Netflix series. The MAX line allowed artists and writers greater freedom to tackle more adult storylines. It wasn’t just about blood, gore, swearing and nudity- the stories would tackle hard hitting themes such as rape and also give readers the first ever star of their own comic that was openly gay (Rawhide Kid). The MAX imprint was essential for Garth’s Born mini-series. It allowed them the freedom to really drive home the horrors of war. With the success of Born, a new series of The Punisher was greenlit with the first issue premiering in March 2004.

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One Giant Leap for Filmmakers: 50 Years Since the Moon Landing

July 20th 1969 was a watershed moment for the human race; from the moment that spacecraft touched down on the surface of the Moon everything changed. The real-life events- that 20 years previous would have seemed like science fiction-became science fact and the stars were within our grasp for the first time ever. We could land a human on the Moon, then we could colonise it. If we could land a human on the Moon, then we could land a human on Mars. The fantastical had become reality and we now knew what it took to travel amongst the stars.

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Time Travel in Film: An Attempt to Explain the Science of Time Manipulation

Time travel is a trope that has existed in fiction for over a century. From the days of H.G. Welles’ novel The Time Machine, audiences have been captivated by the idea of traveling through time. And really, why not? The idea of being able to travel back or forward in time-to see the times of old or look into a future that awaits us-is a fascinating concept. It has also raised questions as to how the mechanics of time travel and changing timelines would work. I am going to attempt to explain some theories of time travel, which films use these theories and how they apply.

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Come with Me if You Want to Live: The 35 Year Legacy of The Terminator

It’s not very often that a film comes along that will launch the career of one of the most financially successful directors of the modern age of cinema. It’s even rarer that it will also make the star of the film a household name, especially with a name that was so difficult to pronounce, he had been told that he would never be a star because of it. But that is exactly what The Terminator did to James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The original idea came from a fever dream James Cameron had in March 1982. Cameron had collapsed onto his bed with a temperature of 102 degrees, and in his sleep he conjured up an image of a chrome skeleton emerging from fire, torn in half and dragging itself across the floor with a kitchen knife. Cameron sketched the image down and one of the first things he thought was how he hadn’t seen anything like that in a movie before. That image then inspired him to start writing a treatment, which was initially just called Terminator. Cameron wanted to appeal to the kids who go to the cinema to see a cool action film, but also the older academics who would think there was some sort of socio-political significance hidden behind all the action: An intelligent Sci-Fi Action film with a stylish slasher-movie edge to it.

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Airwolf: 35 years on

A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE OF A UNIQUE TELEVISION SERIES THAT BROKE THE MOLD OF THE ACTION-ADVENTURE GENRE.

The whirring of the engines, the whooshing of the rotors, and that iconic theme song. Airwolf was a TV series that broke the mould of the action-adventure genre of 1980s television. Looking back, the pilot episode doesn’t feel like a TV program at all; it feels more like a feature. From the opening shots of the desert and the close-ups of Airwolf to the intense aerial photography, the TV pilot has some serious production value behind it. The storyline of the pilot also includes some rather dark themes. The series would last for three seasons totalling 55 episodes before being cancelled in 1986.

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Remake Fever

WE AS A CULTURE ARE FASCINATED WITH REMAKES, BUT MAYBE WE SHOULDN’T BE.

It seems that a lot of cinema today is either a sequel, part of a wide cinematic franchise, or a remake/reboot/re-imagining of an existing property. The term “reboot” has become the go-to phrase for when studios want to remake an older film. In my opinion, the only thing that gets “rebooted” is a crashed computer, but that’s just me.

Remake fever is kicking into high gear again, with Disney remaking their old animated films as live action ones and remakes of male-driven films with female leads, and it has been announced that Ben Affleck won’t be returning as Batman in the next Batman film, which is sure to lead to a reboot of the character, again. But it’s not just films: TV series are going through this as well, with the recent remakes of Magnum PI, MacGyver and many others, as well as talk of a reboot of Lost, which has been off the air for fewer than ten years. It got me thinking about this fascination with remakes.

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Our Last Best Hope for Peace: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Babylon 5

Television as a medium has become the place to tell long-running stories and translate novels into a visual medium, but it wasn’t always that way. For the majority of its life, television was the place for simple, self-contained episodes that were easy to jump into at any point without knowing what happened before. There were several shows that broke new ground in the way television works, but none so game-changing as Babylon 5, a creation from the mind of J. Michael Straczynski that would change in how audiences watched TV.

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