End-of-Year Awards 2021

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers may be present for some of the entries on this list.

It’s the end of 2021, so it’s time to look back on a few of the entertainment highs (and lows) of the year! Like I did last year, I’ve picked out a few of my favourite entertainment experiences from the worlds of cinema, gaming, and television, and I’ll be giving each a totally official Trekking with Dennis award!

Most categories have a winner and a runner-up; some just have one title and in those cases they’re the winners by default. I’ve put Star Trek episodes into their own category, otherwise I’d just be saying that every TV show that I liked this year was Star Trek!

Caveat time! Obviously I haven’t watched or played anywhere close to everything that was published or released this year! The exclusion from these awards of titles such as The Last Duel or For All Mankind doesn’t mean they aren’t good; I just have no experience with them so I can’t comment. It goes without saying that everything here is entirely subjective! This is just one person’s opinion – so feel free to disagree vehemently with some or all of my choices!

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Best Documentary:

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Half-Life Histories series; Kyle Hill

There have been some interesting documentaries this year, but I wanted to highlight a semi-professional series that has been quietly ticking up views on YouTube. Kyle Hill has crafted a series of absolutely fascinating documentaries about nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and nuclear accidents – some of which were familiar to me, but several of which actually weren’t.

Nuclear weapons are an incredibly controversial topic, of course, but nuclear power is something I firmly believe that we as a species need to embrace. At least in the short-to-medium term, nuclear power offers a reliable way for humanity to meet our growing power needs while phasing out fossil fuels.

Kyle Hill’s documentaries show how early nuclear experiments could and did go wrong, but they aren’t alarmist. Hill has a gentle, almost understated style that tells these serious (and occasionally fatal) stories with due dignity and gravitas, but without sensationalising the events in question. For anyone interested in the likes of the Chernobyl disaster or the early history of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, the entire series is well worth a watch.

Best Web Series:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
The Jimquisition; Jim Sterling

I’d like to highlight a fellow non-binary creator here. Jim Sterling – also known as James Stephanie Sterling – is a video games critic on YouTube. Their main weekly series, The Jimquisition, often highlights bad practices in the games industry and draws attention to misbehaving corporations. The Jimquisition was one of the first shows to criticise the practice of lootboxes a few years ago, for example, and this year Sterling has worked relentlessly to call out the likes of Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard.

Too many publications – even blogs and social media channels – now work hand-in-glove with big corporations in the video games industry, leading many so-called independent publications to, at the very least, be cautious in what they say about both their corporate friends and the games they review so as to maintain their level of access. The Jimquisition has always been different because it’s self-funded, leaving Sterling free to criticise as they see fit.

On a personal note, seeing Jim Sterling come out as non-binary was one factor among many as I made my own decision earlier this year to discuss my gender identity in public for the first time, and I want to thank them for their brave decision.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Tasting History with Max Miller

There really isn’t anything quite like Tasting History. There are a plethora of cooking shows and channels online – many of which are fantastic! And there are some great history shows as well, everything from mini-documentaries to living history re-enactments. Tasting History blends these two things together, as host Max Miller cooks a variety of different historical dishes, and uses those as an entry point to talk about some of the historical events and personalities associated with the food.

I love history and I love cookery shows, so Tasting History is absolutely the kind of thing that was going to appeal to me! But a fun premise alone wouldn’t be enough, and Tasting History has a well-spoken host who makes both sides of the show entertaining as well as interesting. I’ve learned a lot about different dishes and historical cultures this year, things I never would have found out about if not for Tasting History.

Best TV Special:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
Lego Star Wars: Terrifying Tales

After 2020’s Lego Star Wars Holiday Special had been a ton of fun, I was pleasantly surprised to see Disney+ bringing back Lego Star Wars for another outing this year. Terrifying Tales was a fun Halloween special, one which drew on many classics of the thriller and horror genres for inspiration while maintaining a child-friendly atmosphere. I’m not a huge fan of horror, so this lighter tone was just perfect for me!

Focusing on Poe Dameron, Terrifying Tales used a frame narrative to tell three different spooky stories set in all three of the Star Wars franchise’s main eras. The first short, which focused on Kylo Ren, contained more backstory for the character than the entire sequel trilogy – and I would argue that it was actually better than the minuscule character development that Kylo/Ben Solo got in the films!

Palpatine was hilarious in the vignette that featured him, and I adored the way that Terrifying Tales used the character. The third and final vignette was a parody of a Twilight Zone episode and featured Luke Skywalker, and that was pretty fun to see as well. Overall, Terrifying Tales was a cute, funny, and lightly spooky way to get ready for Halloween!

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
The Grand Tour: Lochdown

As we approach the pandemic’s second anniversary, we need things like Lochdown to poke fun at what’s been going on in the world. In a unique way that only Hammond, Clarkson, and May can really pull off, The Grand Tour’s special episode made a trip to Scotland one of the funniest and most entertaining bits of television I enjoyed all year.

The trio have found great success at Amazon, and free from the constraints of the BBC (both financially and in terms of content), I’d argue that The Grand Tour is leaps and bounds ahead of Top Gear. As the show has switched its focus to these kinds of special episodes, there’s been a lot of fun to be had!

I’m not really a car person. Cars have always been a means to an end for me; a mode of transportation. But the enthusiasm of the three hosts for their vehicles is infectious, and the fun they have on their wacky adventures always manages to succeed at pulling me in and making me feel like I’m right there with them.

Worst TV Series:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Rick and Morty Season 5

After four pretty strong and funny seasons, Rick and Morty stumbled this year. It felt to me like the writers had become a little too aware of the show’s success and place in pop culture – and didn’t really know how to handle that. Season 5 was bland and forgettable, with several episodes that didn’t even win a smile, let alone a laugh.

Rick and Morty crossed over from being a fun series with a cult following and really hit the mainstream somewhere around its third season, and clearly that’s been a double-edged sword. Too many of the attempted jokes this year came across as either desperate or else simply as gross-outs or edginess for the sake of it.

Though the show had a few successful moments, such as the scenes between Rick and Birdperson toward the end of the season, Season 5 has to be considered a failure.

Best TV series:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
Foundation

The first season of Foundation was imperfect but nevertheless good. The novels upon which Foundation is based are incredibly dense works that can, at points, feel more like philosophy than sci-fi, so bringing something like that to the small screen was no small challenge – but Apple TV+ stepped up.

Jared Harris put in a wonderful performance as Hari Seldon, and was joined by several actors with whom I was less familiar – but who all did an outstanding job. Foundation is also a visually beautiful series, one which makes great use of Apple’s high CGI budget. A second season has already been confirmed – so that’s something to look forward to in 2022!

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time was the first of Amazon’s two big-budget fantasy shows to make it to screen. We’ll have to wait until next year for the corporation’s Lord of the Rings prequel/adaptation, but The Wheel of Time is definitely a show worth watching in its own right. It has struggled, at times, to break out from the shadows of both Game of Thrones and the aforementioned Tolkien adaptation, but I’m so glad that I gave it a chance to impress me on its own merits.

Outside of the Star Trek franchise, The Wheel of Time is unquestionably the best television show I’ve seen all year. Amazon managed to adapt the first part of a long and complex story in a way that was understandable and easy to follow, bringing a new high fantasy world to the screen for the first time. There are some fantastic performances from Rosamund Pike and Madeleine Madden in particular, making The Wheel of Time a series to get lost in.

The first season concluded recently, and a second is already on the way! I can hardly wait.

Worst Video Game:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

This is a difficult one. There were plenty of bad games this year – games with horribly intrusive monetisation, overladen with bugs, or that just plain sucked. But for me, the year’s most egregious video game failure is a so-called “remaster” that was lazy, that didn’t feel like much of an upgrade, and that left me incredibly disappointed when I consider what might have been.

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition contains a number of bugs that were present in the original versions of its three constituent games; bugs that BioWare failed to fix. Its visual upgrade, coming less than ten years after the third game in the series, was already going to be a hard sell, but there seem to be many textures that BioWare either didn’t touch at all or else did the absolute bare minimum to.

And that’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in a nutshell: it’s a “remaster” that tried to get away with doing the absolute bare minimum. The sad thing is that I adore the Mass Effect games – but this version was so much less than it should’ve been.

Best Video Game:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
Road 96

Road 96 is quite unlike anything else I’ve played all year – and probably for quite a long time before that too! The game focuses on characters, introducing players to dozens of completely unique NPCs during a branching quest to escape a totalitarian state. It’s a road trip game… but that definition scarcely does it justice.

Road 96 has a beautiful art style, too, one that really brings to life its characters and American Southwest-inspired locales. There’s a wonderful soundtrack that accompanies the game, one with a definite ’80s inspiration – which I’m totally there for! It’s hard to go into too much detail without spoiling Road 96, and it’s an experience I really think you should try for yourself in as unspoiled a manner as possible.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Kena: Bridge of Spirits

When I was thinking about my pick for “game of the year,” there was never any doubt in my mind that Kena: Bridge of Spirits would take the trophy. It’s one of the most visually beautiful games that I’ve ever played, bringing an almost Disney-esque art style to life in the most fantastic way possible.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a modern-looking game with a distinctly old-school feel to it. The game combines elements of puzzle-solving and 3D platforming with some tight, focused combat, and the addition of the Rot – little critters that accompany Kena – is both adorable and incredibly useful. Collecting things in video games can feel like busywork, but because Kena’s power grows with every Rot she picks up, even this aspect of the game manages to feel worthwhile.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits had been one of my most-anticipated games of the year. It didn’t just meet my expectations – it surpassed them by a country mile.

Worst Film:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that tried to be dark and edgy and in doing so ended up robbing its source material of any of the fun and entertainment value it could’ve had. DC Comics has struggled to compete with Marvel, failing to recognise that it’s Marvel’s blend of humour and action that makes those films so appealing to many viewers. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a case in point – and a great example, in my opinion, of a film that completely misses the mark.

Perhaps to distinguish it from the likes of The Avengers, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was packed with gimmicks, too. An incredibly dark and boring colour palette drowned the film in grey, black, and brown tones, and some scenes were so poorly-lit that following the action became difficult. It was also shot in a weird 4:3 aspect ratio – again, seemingly for the sake of a gimmick.

I’m genuinely happy for fans of DC who worked hard to secure the so-called “Snyder Cut” after a long campaign. But the end result was, for me, the worst film I’ve seen all year. And this was a year where I watched Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Best Film:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
Raya and the Last Dragon

I paid a lot of money (by my standards, at least) to watch Raya and the Last Dragon on Disney+! Maybe I should’ve waited the extra couple of months, but I was genuinely interested to see the latest big Disney animated picture. The one surprise was the lack of any musical numbers, but despite that I had a good time with Raya and the Last Dragon.

Kelly Marie Tran put in an outstanding performance as the titular Raya, a young woman on a quest to restore the life of a dragon and reunite a fractured land loosely based on Southeast Asia. The film was dramatic and exciting, with a fun cast of characters. It’s also noteworthy that all of the main characters – heroes and villains – were women.

Now that it’s on Disney+ (and out on DVD and Blu-Ray) it’s definitely worth a watch.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Dune

I was worried that Dune would once again prove to be too difficult to adapt, but I was thrilled to see that I was wrong! Dune is a sci-fi masterpiece, and if its second instalment comes anywhere close to living up to this first part, I think we’ll be talking about the duology alongside the likes of The Lord of the Rings in years to come as being an absolute classic.

Dune is a long and occasionally dense book, so condensing it down and keeping a cinematic adaptation with a large cast of characters easy to follow was no mean feat. Director Denis Villeneuve did an outstanding job, and every aspect of the film, from its dialogue to its visual effects, are pitch-perfect.

I’ve had a review of this one in the pipeline for a while, so stay tuned in the new year – I might finally get around to finishing it!

Most Exciting Announcement:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
Wicked

Picture Credit:Β Wicked the Musical London.

I was very lucky to have seen Wicked on the stage in London early in its run, and the soundtrack has to be up there as one of the best modern musicals. The announcement of a film adaptation came as a truly welcome surprise this year, and I will follow its progress with anticipation!

A spin-off from The Wizard of Oz, Wicked purports to tell the story from “the other side” – i.e. the Wicked Witch’s point of view. Disney in particular has shown in recent years that this concept can work exceptionally well, and Wicked pulls it off. The musical and the book that inspired it are very different, but both are enjoyable in their own ways – and I hope the film will be as well!

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Remake

Early in 2021 there were rumours of a Knights of the Old Republic game being in development, but it wasn’t until September that its existence was finally confirmed. A full-scale remake of the first game in the series is being worked on, and the idea of being able to go back and replay one of my favourite Star Wars games of all time is a truly exciting one!

So far all we’ve seen has been a CGI teaser, so the game is probably a couple of years away. But it’s still good to have something like this to look forward to! After several years of very limited success under Electronic Arts, Star Wars games are now being tackled by more developers and publishers – meaning we should see more from the franchise in the years ahead. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a remake of Knights of the Old Republic II after this one!

Best Star Trek Episode:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-Up πŸ₯ˆ
There Is A Tide…
Discovery Season 3

There Is A Tide is basically “Star Trek does Die Hard!” If that sounds like fun to you, then we are definitely on the same page! Featuring a desperate plan to re-take the USS Discovery following its capture by a villainous faction, Michael Burnham, Tilly, and several members of the bridge crew all get their chances to be action heroes.

It isn’t an entirely self-contained episode, as it brings to a head Starfleet’s conflict with the aforementioned villainous faction that had been running for much of the season, as well as containing other ongoing story threads. But it works well as a single episode, too, with an explosive and action-packed story that feels like it was lifted right out of an action blockbuster!

There Is A Tide is a great episode for Michael Burnham, but it’s also good for Admiral Vance as well. He truly seems to embody the values that Starfleet and the Federation have always held, and anyone who feels that Discovery has placed less of an emphasis on that should pay attention to Vance’s scenes in particular.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
First First Contact
Lower Decks Season 2

First First Contact is an incredibly well-done episode of Lower Decks. The series’ trademark sense of humour is still present, but we see the entire crew of the USS Cerritos working hard to overcome an incredibly difficult challenge and save not only an ailing Starfleet ship but also an entire planet. The crew rise to the occasion as we always knew they could, and First First Contact hits all of the emotional highs you could ever want from an episode of Star Trek.

It’s also an episode that truly embraces the spirit of the franchise. The Cerritos’ crew aren’t faced with some horrible monster or alien to defeat, instead the puzzle that lies before them is scientific – and the solution to it has to be as well. All of the main and secondary characters get moments in the spotlight, and First First Contact even found time to further advance the relationship between Ensign Mariner and Captain Freeman.

Finally, there was an incredible moment of symmetry toward the end of the episode, as the Cerritos saved the day in a very similar fashion to how it had to be saved in the Season 1 finale. That moment was pitch-perfect – and I won’t lie… I teared up!

So that’s it!

We’ve dished out a handful of awards to some of the best – and worst – entertainment experiences of the year. 2021 is a difficult one to summarise. The ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic has been noticeable, with delays and even some cancellations getting in the way and spoiling the fun. But there were some fantastic projects across cinema, television, and video games too – including some brand-new titles that I feel have the potential to lead to ongoing franchises, or to be talked about a lot in future as classics of their various genres.

As 2022 approaches, I hope you’ll stay tuned for a lot more to come from Trekking with Dennis! In the days ahead I plan to look forward to some of the films, games, and television shows that we could enjoy throughout the coming year, so definitely stay tuned for that! And I have a number of reviews and other articles in the pipeline.

So the only thing left to do is to wish you a very Happy New Year! Whatever you have planned for tonight, I hope you have an amazing time. See you next year!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective owner, company, studio, broadcaster, developer, distributor, publisher, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


Check out reviews or articles featuring some of the films, games, and TV shows mentioned on this list by clicking or tapping the links below:

Lego Star Wars: Terrifying Tales

Rick and Morty Season 5

The Wheel of Time

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Raya and the Last Dragon

Wicked

Knights of the Old Republic Remake

Discovery 3×12 There Is A Tide…

Lower Decks 2×10 First First Contact

Raya and the Last Dragon – a review

The first part of this review contains no major spoilers for Raya and the Last Dragon. The second part does, however, and the end of the spoiler-free section is clearly marked.

Raya and the Last Dragon is an expensive film right now, available only via Disney’s “premiere access” feature on Disney+ for Β£20 in the UK or $30 in the United States. My review of the film has to be seen through that lens, because it’s not simply a title you can watch as part of your regular Disney+ subscription – though it will surely become available on Disney+ in the coming months. If Raya and the Last Dragon follows the same path as last year’s Mulan, it may be available to stream as part of Disney+ in the summer.

So the big question is this: can I recommend it for Β£20? Or is Raya and the Last Dragon a title that you’re better off waiting for?

I’m kind of an impatient person! And because Raya and the Last Dragon was one of the titles I was most looking forward to this year, for me it was unquestionably worth it. Raya and the Last Dragon is a great animated film that easily hits the highs of other recent Disney projects. I don’t mind paying a little extra for that under the circumstances – it’s about the price of two or three cinema tickets, so if you consider it from that point of view, it doesn’t seem too bad.

But there’s no getting away from this price discussion, and I want to briefly add my two cents. On the one hand, it can seem unreasonable for Disney to insist on an additional Β£20 on top of the monthly fee for Disney+. If it were an either/or case it would perhaps sit better with folks, but being asked to either pay Β£20 on top of your Β£8 a month, or to have to sign up at Β£8 on top of the Β£20 to see Raya and the Last Dragon certainly feels anti-consumer, and I get why folks feel that way.

Raya and the Last Dragon was originally supposed to get a theatrical release.

I’m sick to the back teeth of companies using the pandemic as an excuse for everything, and there’s no denying that Disney could simply have waited and released Raya and the Last Dragon in cinemas either later this year or next year if needs be. That’s the approach taken by Eon and MGM for the upcoming James Bond film No Time To Die, which has been delayed for well over a year. However, despite all of that, I like this method of distribution, and I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a shift away from theatrical releases in favour of streaming.

My health and disability means that I can no longer go to the cinema, so from my selfish perspective I love the idea of bringing more titles straight to streaming platforms, and on an occasional basis for a big release that I’m very keen to see, paying a little extra to watch it is no big deal. As television screens get better (and bigger) the so-called “cinema experience” offers less and less value anyway, and being able to watch a film on one’s own schedule, with the ability to pause, rewind, take breaks, etc. is so much nicer than going to the cinema in many ways. So in my opinion, bringing Raya and the Last Dragon to Disney+ for a fee is acceptable. Would I have preferred it to be included in the price? Of course. But these projects are hugely expensive, and recouping some of that money is going to be necessary for Disney, so I understand why they’ve done it this way. It feels like a compromise – not one that everyone will love, but one I find acceptable.

Young Raya during the film’s opening moments.

Before we get into the main section of the review, here are my spoiler-free thoughts.

I would describe the animation as competent. Nothing blew me away with how amazingly detailed it was – like the snow in Frozen or the oceans in Moana did – but there was nothing wrong with it and it was in line with other modern Disney films from the last decade or so. Considering a significant portion of the work on Raya and the Last Dragon was done remotely, that’s pretty good in my opinion.

The story was surprisingly heavy and emotional for a kids’ film, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. In the first few minutes it was perhaps a little fast-paced for my liking, dropping quite a few characters, locations, and themes all at once. But after that fast beginning it settled in, and followed Raya on her quest at a reasonable pace that wasn’t overwhelming. There were light-hearted and comedic moments, plenty of different environments for Raya and her friends to explore that were all based on different parts of southeast Asia, and the vocal performances were outstanding. Aside from the credits there weren’t any musical numbers, and that was something I wasn’t expecting. The score was great, and had an Asian-inspired theme to it, but after the likes of Moana and Frozen in recent years saw huge success with their songs, I was expecting at least a couple.

So that’s my non-spoiler summary.

This is the end of the spoiler-free section of the review. Expect spoilers from here on out!

Raya and the Last Dragon began with an immediate dump of exposition, explaining the backstory of the broken land of Kumandra – based loosely on southeast Asia. As indicated above, this opening section of the film was quite fast-paced, almost rushed, and introduced characters, themes, magic, locations, and backstory all at once. As I sat through those opening minutes I was hoping that the rest of the film would slow down, and luckily it did after a few minutes. That makes the opening, unfortunately, the weakest part of the film overall.

Raya and the Last Dragon follows the titular Raya as she seeks to save the fractured world of Kumandra, whose people have split up into five competing, squabbling, and warring lands in the aftermath of the disappearance of the dragons. But saving the world is just a side-quest for Raya, whose real objective for much of the film is to save her “ba” – her father, and the chief of her people. Yes, that makes Raya a Disney Princess!

Chief Benja, Raya’s father.

The story takes Raya to all five of the different lands, and each was based on a different area of southeast Asia. We spent just enough time in each land to take in the setting, but I think that taking a few minutes more to really get a feel for each – or perhaps the film including one fewer land – might’ve improved things. This is really the only point of criticism, because each of the lands was unique and richly detailed. At first I wasn’t sold on using English names for these places: Fang, Heart, Spine, Tail, and Talon. However, the metaphor made the ultimate payoff to the film’s story more easily understood, especially for younger viewers. The point of these names was to hammer home, at every opportunity, that the people of Kumandra were artificially divided; that the resolution to their problems would be in learning to trust one another and come together. Like the parts of an animal can’t function independently, neither can the peoples of Kumandra. Each land, represented by a piece of the dragon, brings something that the others lack, and working together is the only way.

This theme carried over into the film’s climactic final battle, as each of the friends Raya had made along the way – each from a different land – stood together and used the last of the dragon gem’s magic to help the people of Fang. This metaphor was certainly omnipresent, but didn’t feel laboured. The film knew, from the very beginning when Chief Benja introduced us to the idea of reunifying the fractured land, that this was the direction of the story. The names of the lands fed into that, as did the way Raya assembled her motley crew from different places.

Raya’s friends work together to help the people of Fang.

At time of writing, there’s a renewed focus on anti-Asian hate and hate crimes in the United States. I’m not an American, but I’d like to offer my perspective on how a film like Raya and the Last Dragon fits at this moment. We often hear criticism of Disney for taking legends and stories and twisting them, “Disney-fying” them to sanitise them for a western audience. And you know what? Raya and the Last Dragon, just like other Disney films based on folklore and legend, is Disney-fied. But there’s incredible value in representation, even in this simplified style, and with Disney’s unique reach that extends across borders, cultures, and ages, Raya and the Last Dragon offers representation to an under-represented group of people in cinema, animation, and the cultural mainstream.

We could devote an entire essay to debunking the argument that “representation and diversity for their own sakes are negative things,” but in the context of this film, coming at this particular moment, let me just say that positive representation is important. It’s important that people of all backgrounds feel included, and being depicted positively in mainstream entertainment – particularly in something as significant as a Disney animated film – is an historic moment. Raya and the Last Dragon draws on the mythology and folklore of southeast Asia in the same way as Moana drew on Polynesian legend, and it’s a net positive for people of Asian heritage to see such representation.

Raya and the Last Dragon presents a positive depiction of Asia and Asian people at an important moment.

Kelly Marie Tran is also uniquely positioned at this moment. Tran suffered horrible racist and sexist abuse online in late 2017 through 2018, and I’m so pleased to see her back in such an inspiring role. Raya and the Last Dragon is a story about bringing people together, learning to trust and overcome hatred, and as someone who has, sadly, experienced hatred firsthand, there’s something even more powerful in knowing who it is bringing Raya to life through an outstanding voice performance.

I don’t like to get “political,” but the release of Raya and the Last Dragon happened to coincide with a significant moment for people of Asian heritage in the United States, and I felt it important to at least acknowledge that.

Kelly Marie Tran voices the character of Raya.
Picture Credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live via YouTube.

In the west, we usually associate dragons with fire. Fire-breathing dragons are both a part of European folklore and have gone on to become a trope in fantasy fiction, so it was very interesting – and more than a little unusual – to see a water dragon as the main focus in a dragon-themed film. This is, of course, a reflection of the film’s Asian-inspired story, as was the design of Sisu herself.

Continuing the theme of breaking with common western depictions of dragons, Sisu is presented in an Asian style – a long body, no wings, and covered in fur. Sisu’s design is a Disney take on that concept, blunting its sharp edges and making it child-friendly. And it worked. I daresay Sisu toys and teddies will become a major part of Disney’s merchandise this year and beyond!

Sisu had a great design, inspired by Asian folklore but with a Disney twist.

The other character with a cute design was Tuk Tuk, and right from the opening moments of the film it was clear he’d been designed to be the cute animal sidekick that so many Disney protagonists have. Tuk Tuk worked best in the film’s prologue, after which he’d grown large and basically served as a form of transportation for Raya and Sisu, though the design remained largely the same.

With Tuk Tuk I think we can point to one of the few examples of Raya and the Last Dragon stumbling, at least somewhat. Aside from having a cute (and merchandisable) design, Tuk Tuk was clearly set up for some light-heartedness; some comic relief. Yet the introduction of Noi (the baby) and her three monkeys largely switches the comic relief focus away from him. It’s not a case of “too many characters,” but rather that the film didn’t really know what to do with two sets of comic relief characters. There was less for Tuk Tuk to do as a result.

Raya and Tuk Tuk near the beginning of the film.

The only other point of criticism I have comes at one of the film’s climactic moments. Raya and her friend-turned-nemesis Namaari are involved in a standoff. Namaari planned to take Sisu and the dragon gem pieces back to Fang on her mother’s orders, and Raya drew her sword to stop her. As Namaari points her crossbow at Sisu, Sisu asks Raya to trust that she knows what she’s doing – but Raya doesn’t, and the result is that Namaari’s crossbow fires, killing Sisu.

This moment was meant to show that Raya is the one who bears most responsibility for Sisu’s death; that if she had trusted Sisu, as Sisu asked her to, Namaari was about to stand down. But it simply wasn’t clear that that was the case, and it would be easy for a casual viewer – or a child, and this is a children’s film, after all – to simply see this moment as Namaari shooting Sisu.

Who was really responsible for pulling the trigger?

For such an important moment, I think it needed to be clearer that Raya is the one to blame. This is her character arc across the film’s final act: learning to trust, and being willing to make the first step to establish trust. If we as the audience see this moment as the culmination of Raya’s failings – an unwillingness to trust either Sisu or Namaari – then the rest of her actions and her arc make sense. If we miss that crucial context and simply see this moment as Namaari the betrayer shooting Sisu, what Raya does later on – giving up her pieces of the dragon gem to signify her willingness to trust – doesn’t make as much sense in context.

Namaari’s words to Raya during their epic final fight also ring hollow when the film is seen in this way. Instead of a heartbroken Namaari laying a harsh truth on Raya, it could be interpreted as another attempt by a liar and trickster to get under Raya’s skin. The moment with the crossbow was set up perfectly, but it was too easy to miss that it was Raya, not Namaari, who was really to blame for what happened, and as the rest of the plot turned on this moment I think that should have been much clearer.

Raya chose to trust Namaari at the film’s climax.

We could also talk about how easy it seems to be to slay a dragon in this film’s lore! It seems like an unimportant point, and perhaps I’m the only one who cares or feels this way, but the way the film treated dragons across the first hour or more made it seem as though they’re magical, almost god-like creatures. The way the film’s human characters worship Sisu – and the other dragons – represents this well. Yet all it took to kill Sisu was a single crossbow shot, and I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t seem to gel. On the one hand we have the film establishing dragons as magical creatures that provided for humans, bringing water and literally giving life to the world, being worshipped and deified centuries after the last of them were wiped out. Yet on the other hand, they’re no different from any other animal and a single crossbow bolt can kill them.

Perhaps this is my western perspective, thinking about dragons not in the context of Asia but in the context of JRR Tolkien and other works of high fantasy. In western dragon lore going all the way back to the legends of Saint George and King Arthur, slaying a dragon is considered an incredibly difficult task worthy of song and celebration. In the world of Raya and the Last Dragon it seems to be something any competent soldier could do. Who knows, maybe that’s why the other dragons went extinct!

Namaari the dragon-slayer!

Raya and the Last Dragon features a cast whose major characters are all female, with male characters in secondary supporting roles. This is something new to Disney, as even past female-led films like Moana, Frozen, or Mulan have included major male characters. The creative choice to have both the main hero and villain both be female actually works really well, and Raya manages to have a closer relationship with Namaari as a result.

Namaari being a redeemable villain – and the film essentially having no overall “big bad” who has to be killed to be stopped – was also a great choice, one that fit perfectly with the theme of overcoming hate and coming together. The whole story of Raya and the Last Dragon was about learning to trust one another, setting aside differences in order to work together for the common good. This theme would have been completely undermined if the final act required Raya to kill Namaari or even her mother, so making both characters redeemable was essential to the story.

Namaari needed to be a redeemable villain for the story to work as intended.

The real villains of the piece were the non-human Druun, depicted as a non-sentient force of nature rather than a character or faction. The design of the Druun managed to strike a balance between being intimidating but not scary and offputting for young children, and I would think that all but the most sensitive children would be able to watch Raya and the Last Dragon without feeling frightened by these crackling clouds of dark purple energy.

More could have been made of the Druun’s relationship with humans. At one point it was suggested by Sisu that the Druun are an embodiment of the arguments and lack of trust between humans, yet this wasn’t really developed further. It’s not clear whether humans directly caused the Druun to appear, whether they came from someplace else to feed on this mistrust and hatred, or what their precise origins are. If the world of 500+ years ago was populated by humans and dragons and was united, with no mistrust and no hatred, how the Druun even arrived in Kumandra is not clear. Perhaps that’s something a future title will explore in more detail, because I think it’s potentially interesting to say that humanity is responsible for giving strength to this powerful foe.

The Druun were the main adversary for Raya and her friends to overcome.

So I think that’s about all I have to say. Raya and the Last Dragon was a thoroughly enjoyable film and a worthy successor to the likes of Frozen and Moana. Disney has been on a roll for almost a decade now, since the release of Frozen in 2013, and the hits keep coming. In the very short term I doubt that Raya and the Last Dragon will catch fire in the way Frozen did, largely because of the cost of accessing it on Disney+ via the “premiere access” feature. However, once the film becomes generally available that should change. In a few months’ time, when it arrives for all Disney+ subscribers, it should see a significant boost.

Unlike Frozen and Moana, the choice not to include musical numbers means that there can’t be a breakout song. Let It Go and, to a lesser extent, You’re Welcome and Shiny went on to not only define the films in which they featured, but arguably bring in more viewers. By “going viral” in a sense, the songs drew more attention to their respective films, and this is something Raya and the Last Dragon won’t have.

The main characters at the end of the film.

I had a great time with Raya and the Last Dragon. I can’t tell you whether you’ll get Β£20 or $30 worth of entertainment and enjoyment from the film, because such things depend on your budget and your perception of value. But this time, as a one-off and as something I won’t repeat for the rest of the year, I didn’t mind spending the extra money. I didn’t spend money on last year’s Mulan remake, and having seen the film subsequently I think that was the right call. But this time, for the latest Disney animated film, I think it was worth it. Raya and the Last Dragon was funny, emotional, and clever, and told a story about people coming together that is timeless. Its Asian roots shone through, and though some will surely argue that it was a dumbed-down version of Asian traditions, that’s Disney’s trademark style.

If you enjoyed previous Disney animated films, especially recent ones, I daresay you’ll have a good time with Raya and the Last Dragon.

Raya and the Last Dragon is available to stream now on Disney+ via the “premiere access” feature for an additional fee. Raya and the Last Dragon is the copyright of Disney Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

What might we watch and play in 2021?

Happy New Year! As we put the calamitous 2020 behind us, let’s look ahead to some of the entertainment experiences we might enjoy between now and Christmas. There’s only 51 weeks till the big day, you know. Better start your Christmas shopping!

The effects of 2020’s disruption are still being felt, and while we should hopefully see a return to normalcy slowly building over the next few months, there will undoubtedly be changes to come. From my point of view as a Trekkie, the big question is this: how much Star Trek will we get this year? After 2020 saw the release of three different Star Trek projects, it’s not inconceivable that the only episode we’ll see in 2021 will be next week’s finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3!

We do know, at least, that some big projects still intend to release this year. Let’s look at a few – in no particular order.

Cinema

The pandemic has not magically gone away with the arrival of the new year, and many cinemas look set to remain closed in the weeks ahead. The distribution of vaccines will be key to their re-opening, and thus to the release of at least some big films. However, there have been plans announced to bring some of 2021’s big releases to streaming platforms – either instead of or in addition to a theatrical release. How well this will work, and whether many of these plans go ahead if the pandemic is brought under control is up in the air right now – but it remains a possibility.

Number 1:
Dune

The latest adaptation of Dune is the first part of a duology, and was originally supposed to be released in 2020. Of course that couldn’t happen, and Dune is now set for a December release, and will supposedly come to HBO Max at the same time. Though the story has been notoriously difficult to adapt, this version has a huge budget, a stellar cast, and what look like wonderful visual effects based on the trailer. It feels like a film with great potential, and I’m eagerly awaiting its release.

Number 2:
No Time To Die

The latest Bond film – which is set to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 – has been delayed by over a year. It was originally scheduled for an April 2020 release, but that has been pushed back to April 2021. There are no current plans to bring the film to streaming, and as it’s supposedly the most expensive Bond film of all time, perhaps that makes sense. April feels optimistic, but we’ll see how things go! Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed the Bond franchise, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens as this chapter of the 007 cinematic saga draws to a close.

Number 3:
Jungle Cruise

I love Disney World and the other Disney theme parks! When I heard that the House of Mouse was planning to make a film based on their Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the early 2000s I thought it sounded like a terrible idea – yet Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an incredibly fun film with heart. Jungle Cruise is likewise based on a Disney World/Disneyland ride, one which, if memory serves, is cute and action-packed! The film adaptation will have to try hard to retain at least some elements of what makes the ride enjoyable, but if it can succeed it could grow to become an ongoing series like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Number 4:
The Matrix 4

As I said last time, I really don’t know where The Matrix 4 could possibly take the story of the series. However, I’m still fascinated to find out! This will be our first time back in this setting since 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, and I’m sure a lot of fans are excited and nervous in equal measure. The idea of the world being artificial was somewhat of a novelty for the big screen when The Matrix did it in 1999, but we’ve since seen other takes on the concept. Will it stick to the late-90s/early-00s aesthetic for scenes set in the simulated world? Will there even be a simulated world if humanity broke free? We’ll soon find out.

Number 5:
Raya and the Last Dragon

After Disney saw success with the Polynesian-themed Moana, they have turned to Southeast Asia for inspiration for Raya and the Last Dragon. Kelly Marie Tran will voice the titular Raya, and Disney animated films have always been worth watching so I’m expecting an enjoyable film. Disney appears to be going through somewhat of a second renaissance in the aftermath of Frozen’s huge success in 2013, and hopefully this will be a continuation of that. I’m also rooting for Kelly Marie Tran after the awful treatment she had to endure at the hands of some so-called “fans” of Star Wars. Raya and the Last Dragon will take the approach pioneered by Mulan and be released on Disney+ for a fee.

Number 6:
The Suicide Squad

2016’s Suicide Squad won an Academy Award. Just in case you forgot! Was it an outstanding cinematic triumph that I’m happy to rewatch time and again? Not exactly, but it was a decent action-packed blockbuster that was an okay way to kill a couple of hours. And that’s what I expect from this direct sequel – nothing groundbreaking, but a solid film with some cute comic book elements.

Number 7:
The King’s Man

Kingsman was a surprisingly fun film when it was released in 2014, and the third entry in the series is a prequel. The King’s Man looks set to examine the outlandish spy organisation’s past and possibly its origins, as well as throw together another action-comedy that takes inspiration from the likes of James Bond. I think that sounds like fun! The King’s Man will feature some pretty big names, including Ralph Finnes, Charles Dance, and Rhys Ifans.

Number 8:
Uncharted

Films based on video games have not often performed well. Though some have become cult classics in their own right, most films adapted from video games have not been successful. Will Uncharted be any different? The project has been in development for a long time and seen many behind-the-scenes changes, but having settled on a script and director, Tom Holland was cast in the role of Nathan Drake. At the very least there’s potential for a summer popcorn flick; a blockbuster adventure film. Whether it will succeed at becoming “the new Indiana Jones” is up for debate – but maybe!

Number 9:
Death on the Nile

2017’s Murder on the Orient Express was great fun, and Death on the Nile is a sequel of sorts. Adapted from a 1937 novel by famed murder-mystery author Agatha Christie, Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars in the picture as detective Hercule Poirot. The cast list reads like a who’s who of British and international stars, including Jennifer Saunders, Rose Leslie, Russell Brand, and Gal Gadot. If you’re familiar with the book or one of the two earlier adaptations the ending will no doubt be known – but that doesn’t mean the journey there won’t be mysterious and thrilling!

Number 10:
Free Guy

Free Guy is about a non-player character in an open world video game who becomes sentient and tries to escape the game. And he’s played by Ryan Reynolds. Are you sold yet? Because that premise (and casting choice) was all it took to hook me in and decide that Free Guy would be worth a look! It sounds like fun, and Reynolds has great comedic timing as we’ve seen with titles like Deadpool. At the very least it’s a unique premise for a film, and one that seems like it could be really funny.

Gaming

With two new consoles barely a month old, both Sony and Microsoft will surely make moves to shore up their player bases this year. There are some titles on the schedule that look absolutely fantastic, and while the release of many of these on what is now last generation’s hardware will mean we won’t see the full power of the next-gen machines just yet, we should begin to see some improvements in what games are capable of. I better get on with upgrading my PC!

Number 1:
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

Rumours swirled for much of last year of an impending Mass Effect trilogy remaster, and the project was finally announced a few weeks ago. Despite its controversial ending, the three games tell a deep and engaging story in a unique sci-fi setting, and were great fun during the Xbox 360 era. Has enough time passed to make updating the trilogy worthwhile? Mass Effect 3 was only released eight years ago, after all. And will the remaster do everything needed to bring these games up-to-date? With Mass Effect 4 on the distant horizon, it will have to! I’m cautiously interested in this one – it could be wonderful to replay these games, but as we’ve seen with some recent remasters, not every company manages to hit a home run when it comes to updating a beloved title.

Number 2:
Hogwarts Legacy

I wrote about this game when it was first announced, but suffice to say I’m truly interested to see what Hogwarts Legacy delivers. It promises to be an “action role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the 1800s,” meaning it’s set decades before any of the Harry Potter books. That basic premise worked well for games like Knights of the Old Republic over in the Star Wars franchise, and should allow Hogwarts Legacy to tell a standalone story. The only games set in Harry Potter’s world so far have been straight adaptations of the films, so this is something genuinely different. Hopefully it can tell a fun story!

Number 3:
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Though I didn’t have time to review it before Christmas, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special was great fun over on Disney+. I had hoped to see Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga last year, but it got pushed back and is currently due for release in “early 2021” – whatever that may mean! The first couple of Lego Star Wars games, which were released in the mid-2000s, were really great fun, and I’ve been looking forward to the latest bricky reimagining of the Star Wars saga since it was announced. Lego games have never tried to take themselves seriously, and the end result has always been titles which are just a lot of fun.

Number 4:
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

What could a game starring Gollum possibly bring to the table? I have absolutely no idea! But games – and stories in general – focusing on an antihero can be wonderful, so I’m very curious to find out. It’s also great to see another big single-player title given the glut of live services and always-online multiplayer games. I’m a fan of Middle-earth and the world Tolkien built, so hopefully this game will be a fun return to that setting. Taking on the role of Gollum will offer a different look at Middle-earth, and whether it focuses on the main story from the books or not, has the potential to be fascinating.

Number 5:
Skull & Bones

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag demonstrated that there’s still a lot of appeal in pirate-themed titles. Skull & Bones wasn’t something I was especially interested in at first, but upon learning it will feature a single-player campaign I was happy to add it to the list. It seems to be a game that will deal with the naval combat side of things, and as long as it can really nail ship-to-ship combat within its game engine it should at least be a solid title. Naval games are relatively rare in the combat/strategy/action genres, so perhaps Skull & Bones will offer something a little different.

Number 6:
Outriders

Outriders was one of the first next-gen games that reviewers really had a chance to get to grips with before the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The consensus was that it seems like a fun third-person shooter, even if it wasn’t quite as “next-gen feeling” as some had hoped. Regardless, Outriders has continued its development and will be released this year. The basic premise feels like a mix of sci-fi and superhero comics, and at the very least it’s a brand-new setting at a time when a lot of studios are focused on sequels and franchises.

Number 7:
GhostWire: Tokyo

I honestly don’t know what to expect from GhostWire: Tokyo. It’s a game shrouded in mystery! One thing we know for sure is that it will feature a supernatural storyline, and that alone sounds like it has potential. A teaser trailer released last year didn’t show much, but we know that the game will draw on Japanese mythology and will be a first-person action-adventure game with some supernatural horror elements. It might be wonderful… or it might not be my thing! We’ll have to wait and see.

Number 8:
Diablo IV

After disappointing fans with Diablo Immortal, and then messing up with the controversy around their decision to censor a professional player who supported the protests in Hong Kong, it’s not unfair to say that there’s a lot riding on Diablo IV for Blizzard’s reputation. Early indications are that the dungeon-crawler looks good, and could be a return to form. Diablo III had issues at launch, so this is very much one to take a “wait-and-see” approach with, but if the studio can recreate the magic of older titles then Diablo IV should offer a fun experience.

Number 9:
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

My most recent foray into Mario’s 3D adventures was underwhelming, as Super Mario 3D All-Stars was not actually all that great. However, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury might be! The base game was released on the Wii U, but Bowser’s Fury is something altogether new. How substantial it will be remains to be seen, but taken as a whole the package seems to offer good value. I love the cat suits introduced in Super Mario 3D World, they’re cute and add a different element to Mario and the gang’s 3D adventures.

Number 10:
Humankind

Humankind initially attracted me because of how similar it looks to Civilization VI – one of my most-played games of the 2010s. But there’s more to it than that, and the concept of creating a unique civilisation by combining different historical empires and cultures is, at the very least, innovative. I love a good strategy game, and Humankind could be a big time-sink for me this year – if it can deliver on some pretty big ambitions!

Television

After 2020 saw major disruption to cinema, 2021 could be television’s turn. Though shielded from the brunt of the pandemic, a number of television shows planned for 2021 have seen major delays to production. Despite that, there are still plenty of options on the horizon, including some that look absolutely phenomenal.

Number 1:
Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I can’t actually remember if Justice League is one of the DC films I’ve seen or not. If you’re a regular around here, you’ll know I’m not a big comic book fan generally speaking. And it’s not unfair to say that DC is the lesser of the two comic book powerhouses right now! I honestly did not expect the so-called “Snyder cut” of Justice League to ever see the light of day, but after a campaign by fans the film will be released – as a four-part miniseries on HBO Max. I’m at least somewhat interested to see what all the fuss is about!

Number 2:
Star Trek: Prodigy

After Lower Decks took the Star Trek franchise in a different – and very funny – direction in 2020, I’m curious to see what Prodigy will bring to the table. Some shows made for kids can actually tell very meaningful and interesting stories, and it’s my hope that Prodigy will manage to offer at least something to Trekkies beyond its target audience. The addition of Kate Mulgrew to the cast – reprising her role as Captain/Admiral Janeway – is tantalising too, and although that’s about all we know at this stage, the series aims to have a 2021 release. That could be pushed back, but fingers crossed we’ll see Prodigy some time soon.

Number 3:
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series

Despite not having so much as a title, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series has been targeting a 2021 release. It seems certain that, if this is to happen, it will have to be later in the year; filming is still ongoing at time of writing. However, a return to the land of Middle-earth is truly an exciting prospect, as is a look at the setting away from most of the characters we remember. The series will take place thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so there’s the potential to tell some very different fantasy stories in Tolkien’s world.

Number 4:
Station Eleven

Based on a 2014 novel of the same name, Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic drama set after the world has been devastated by a pandemic. Timely, right? Though filming began in early 2020 the series is still being worked on, but could finally see the light of day on HBO Max at some point this year. It feels like a project that, simply due to bad timing, may be controversial – but that could simply increase its appeal! Regardless, I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

Number 5:
Foundation

Isaac Asimov is one of the grandfathers of science fiction. Whether his work will translate well from page to screen is an open question… but one I’m very curious to see answered. This adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series will star Jared Harris, an absolutely incredible actor you might recall from 2019’s Chernobyl. It’s being produced for Apple TV+ as one of their first big-budget productions – or at least, the first one I’ve come to care about. 2021 looks set to be a big year for some of these second-tier streaming services!

Number 6:
Star Trek: Lower Decks

Lower Decks has finally secured an international broadcast agreement, more than five months after its first season premiered for viewers in North America. That’s good news, because a second season is already in development and will be able to be shared by fans around the world when it’s ready. Season 1 ended with some surprising twists for an animated comedy, and it remains to be seen what the end result of those storylines will be for our young ensigns aboard the USS Cerritos. Lower Decks took a few episodes to really hit its stride – and there were some missteps along the way – but for my money it’s up there with the best animated comedies of recent years, and I hope that the combination of its international debut and second season will see the show get the admiration it warrants.

Number 7:
The Expanse

I haven’t yet sat down to watch Season 5 of The Expanse, which premiered last month on Amazon Prime Video. However, the first four seasons were outstanding, and Season 6 is set to be the show’s last. Hopefully it will go out on a high! The Expanse is a wonderful science fiction series, one which has tried to take a more realistic look at the dangers of space travel and alien life. Many sci-fi stories treat these elements almost as mundane, yet The Expanse approached them with wide-eyed wonder, making things like accelerating a spacecraft integral parts of its story. It’s a wonderful series, and its final season should be explosive, entertaining, and ever so slightly sad as we bid it a fond farewell.

Number 8:
The Witcher

I half-expected to see the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher last year, but for whatever reason the streaming powerhouse is taking its time. Henry Cavill was great in the title role in Season 1, and hopefully the second season will keep up the high quality. I always appreciate a new fantasy series, and while the show owes its existence to the popular video games, it’s distinct from them at the same time, drawing more on the original book series for inspiration. Its return to our screens – which may not be until later in the year – is highly anticipated!

Number 9:
Star Wars: Andor

I wasn’t exactly wild about the recent announcements of upcoming Star Wars projects. As I wrote at the time: “spin-offs to spin-offs and the increasingly minor characters given starring roles is indicative of a franchise out of ideas.” Part of that criticism was aimed at Andor, the series which will focus on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. However, on its own merit the show – which bills itself as a “spy thriller” – may very well be decent, and I’m cautiously interested to see what Disney and Lucasfilm bring to the table. Rogue One was certainly one of the better offerings since Disney began producing Star Wars projects, so maybe Andor will surprise me and tell some genuinely different stories in the Star Wars galaxy.

Number 10:
Clarice

Alex Kurtzman’s latest project for ViacomCBS will focus on Clarice Starling – the FBI agent introduced in Silence of the Lambs. How well will a show about Clarice work without Hannibal Lecter? Well that’s an open question, quite frankly, because as far as we know, complicated licensing and rights agreements mean Dr Lecter can’t appear. The show is being pitched as horror, though, following Agent Starling as she investigates sexual crimes in the aftermath of the events of Silence of the Lambs. It certainly has potential!

So that’s it.

You may have noticed some exclusions – notably Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. While all three are in pre-production for their upcoming seasons, none have been confirmed for 2021 at this juncture. Given the state of the world and how badly production has been impacted, while I remain hopeful that at least one live-action Star Trek show will make it to air, it’s entirely plausible that none will. That’s why they didn’t feature on the list.

If all goes well, 2021 should be a good year for entertainment. I see a lot of projects in film, gaming, and television that have the potential to tell wonderful, engaging stories. If lockdowns and quarantines remain in place – where I live in the UK restrictions just got a lot tougher – then we’ll need all the distractions we can get!

Mark your diary for some upcoming releases!

The year ahead is unpredictable, and it’s possible that some of the projects I’m excited for won’t make it to release – or will end up being less enjoyable than expected. But on the flip side, there are undoubtedly films, games, and television shows waiting in the wings to surprise me; titles that didn’t make this list that I will come to greatly enjoy as the year rolls on. There were several wonderful surprises in 2020 that, had you asked me in January of last year, were not even on my radar. The same will perhaps happen this year too!

With everything going on in the world, having something to look forward to is important. Even if all you can think of that excites or interests you is a television show or video game, that’s okay. It gives you something to hang on to; light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you a very Happy New Year, and all the best for 2021.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective company, studio, developer, publisher, broadcaster, distributor, etc. Some promotional artwork and images courtesy of IGDB. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.