Year in Review: Staff Picks

Year in Review: Staff Picks

Here's some of the work the io9 team is proud to have brought you.

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Howard Ashman, Stephanie Hsu, Harley Quinn, Ryan Reynolds,
Screenshot: Disney/A24/WB/Universal

There have been so many words written about the expanse of genre here at io9, and 2022 was a big one. Sure, big tentpole theatrical from Marvel and shows like House of The Dragon dominated but big swings were taken from unexpected releases like Everything Everywhere All at Once and RRR. Our team is very fortunate to report on big news, bring you exclusive looks or just spin a yarn about our sections of expertise. So without further ado, here are our favorite staff picks for stories we’re particularly proud of.

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2 / 16

On Being Trans and Watching Everything Everywhere All at Once

On Being Trans and Watching Everything Everywhere All at Once

Jobu Tupaki in Elvis Jumpsuit
Screenshot: A24

By Linda Codega

“Wait,” Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Jobu Tupaki (an interdimensional being of unrivaled cosmic power and chaos, covered in blood and glitter, having just killed three men) says to her mother. “In this universe, you’re still hung up on the fact that I like girls?”

This was the moment that struck me like a spear through my chest. I sat up straighter. My eyes widened and immediately welled up. How could I have prepared for this moment, when a young woman demands her mother see her as something other than just queer?

[Read more]

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3 / 16

Free Guy Is Really About the Game Industry Unionizing

Free Guy Is Really About the Game Industry Unionizing

Free Guy in video game world
Screenshot: 20th Century Studios

By Linda Codega

There’s a misunderstanding in many entertainment industries that because your company produces something cool, you must love to do it. Well, “misunderstanding” might be a stretch, because a lot of folks who work in high-visibility, high-demand industries like video games, publishing, and filmmaking actually do love their products. But that shouldn’t mean the companies they work for can exploit them.

Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy and released in late 2021, was a commercial and critical success, a solid blockbuster action film that stuck to its premise. Ryan Reynolds leads the cast as Guy, an artificially intelligent NPC in the video game Free City. Jodie Comer co-stars as Millie (while playing the game, she’s MolotovGirl), who is suing Free City’s studio, Soonami, for stealing her work. Joe Keery plays Millie’s former design partner, Walter “Keys” McKey, while Taika Waititi plays Soonami’s coin-brained CEO, Antwan.

[Read more]

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4 / 16

Thanks, Cartoon Network, for 30 Years of Being You

Thanks, Cartoon Network, for 30 Years of Being You

CN art for 30th anniversary
Screenshot: Cartoon Network

By Justin Carter

We here at io9 have talked at length about cartoons, whether it’s cartoons from our childhoods that we’ve loved, or more recent ones that deserve a wider spotlight. And when it comes to western animation, you can’t talk about it without talking about one channel in particular.

Cartoon Network launched on October 1, 1992. A year prior, the American media conglomerate Turner Broadcasting System (or as it would eventually come to be known, TBS) purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera and decided to launch a network that would serve as a library for cartoons. First known as “The Cartoon Network,” it’d come to be known as the first 24-hour single-genre cable channel focused on animation, and its debut cartoon was the Looney Toons short, “Rhapsody Rabbit.”

[Read more]

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5 / 16

Mass Effect 3's Ending Changed Fandom Forever

Mass Effect 3's Ending Changed Fandom Forever

Mass Effect promo art
Screenshot: EA/BioWare

By Justin Carter

When BioWare’s Mass Effect franchise first released in 2007, it quickly gained momentum and a passionate fanbase that not many new IPs today have really managed to achieve. At the time, the sci-fi RPG’s claim to fame was giving players choices that would matter, either in the immediate moment as it related to their companions, or in the future as Commander Shepard did their best to gain allies and prepare for the Reaper threat against organics in the Milky Way. When Mass Effect 2 ended with the sight of the Reapers leaving dark space, excitement for the final installment of the trilogy was high, and everyone had their own ideas on how the Commander’s story would come to a close.

In a different timeline, Mass Effect 3—which released 10 years ago this past weekend—may have been simply received as a satisfying, if bittersweet ending to a blockbuster space opera with pesky Marauder Shields and a hokey epilogue. But in reality, the reactions surrounding the conclusion were significantly harsher. While the game was regarded as pretty good overall, its three endings for Commander Shepard—a choice between destroying the Reapers and all synthetic life, controlling and converting them into a galactic peacekeeping force, or merging synthetic and organic beings together, each at the cost of Shepard’s life—were widely despised for weeks on end. But there’s no point in asking how the ending has aged a full decade later, nor is it worth wondering if it would’ve been better for BioWare to tell fans to simply accept the ending as it was. Either you still hate it now as you did back in 2012 or, upon returning to Shepard’s trilogy via last year’s Legendary Edition, at this point you’ve decided to swallow that bitter pill and accept it for what it is.

[Read more]

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6 / 16

Jurassic World Dominion Is Colossally Terrible

Jurassic World Dominion Is Colossally Terrible

Jurassic World Cast looking at a dino off screen
Screenshot: Universal Pictures

By Germain Lussier

Jurassic World Dominion is being billed as the “Conclusion of the Jurassic Era” and that will undoubtedly be the case. Mostly because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this once-beloved franchise should become extinct.

Let’s run it down. The first Jurassic Park is about a theme park on an island. Its sequel, The Lost World, is about characters going back to an island. The third one, Jurassic Park III, is also about going back to an island. The franchise then rebooted with 2015's Jurassic World which was, you guessed it, about a theme park on an island. The sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was, at least partially, about going back to the island—and now we have Dominion. The good news is, no one goes back to an island in this one. Instead, all the characters end up in a secluded Italian mountain range. A mountain range filled with dinosaurs, invisible borders, and scientists carefully monitoring it all. Eventually, something goes wrong, and... wait a minute, it’s just the damned island again!

[Read more]

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7 / 16

Rogue One’s Gary Whitta Is Trying to Crack the Code of Original IP

Rogue One’s Gary Whitta Is Trying to Crack the Code of Original IP

concept art Gundog
Screenshot: Owen Freeman/Gary Whitta

By Germain Lussier

This fall, from the writer of Rogue One, The Book of Eli, and After Earth, a brand new sci-fi adventure is on the way. Set in a future where Earth has been conquered by giant alien mechs, a young woman finds a map that might hold the key to saving humanity. Sounds cool, right? Well, it’s called Gundog but you can’t see it in theaters. In fact, you can’t “see” it, period, which is very much by design.

“At the beginning of my career, like almost 20 years ago, I would have written Gundog as a spec screenplay,” writer Gary Whitta told io9 over video chat. “In the naïve sense, I didn’t really understand at that point that big expensive original science fiction from not particularly well-established writers [are] a nonstarter...Even as established as I am in my career now, and I’ve got Star Wars on my resume and all this cool stuff, if I wrote that as a spec screenplay, I know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s going to go to every studio, maybe 15 or 20 different people are going to read it across the studios. They’re all going to pass. ‘Too expensive. It’s original.’ And six months of my life basically is wasted so 20 people can read a script and put it on a shelf. It’s heartbreaking. If I’m going to that amount of work into something. I want to know that it’s going to find an audience.”

[Read more]

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8 / 16

Star Wars’ Diego Luna on How Andor Helped Him Realize a Childhood Dream

Star Wars’ Diego Luna on How Andor Helped Him Realize a Childhood Dream

Cassian Andor
Screenshot: Disney+

By Sabina Graves

When I was growing up, the cultural impact of Star Wars as a global phenomenon is something that felt like it was just a regular part of life. The first movies I was exposed to were the original Star Wars films—my father, who immigrated from Mexico City with my mother in 1989, used them as a tool to learn English through a story he already knew and loved, having seen the movies in Spanish when they had their theatrical run in Mexico.

So Star Wars movies were a constant throughout my childhood, and coincidentally, so was a young Diego Luna when he was a part of various Mexican telenovelas that would air on Spanish networks my family would watch. As I got older, Luna starred in movies that were formative to my cinematic tastes like Y Tu Mamá También, Book of Life, and yes, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. So to interview him for Andor, the prequel spin-off of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was a momentous, full-circle moment for me.

[Read more]

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9 / 16

Disney’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Stance Disrespects One of Its Most Instrumental Figures

Disney’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Stance Disrespects One of Its Most Instrumental Figures

Howard Ashman and creative team Alan Menken
Screenshot: Disney+

By Sabina Graves

Florida’s controversial anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” bill has passed the state senate, heading to the desk of governor Ron DeSantis, all but guaranteeing its entry into state law—and one of the state’s biggest businesses, the Walt Disney Company, has largely chosen to stay silent.

Instead of turning its attention toward supporting LGBTQ youth and their families, Disney focused its efforts on a different situation making headlines in Florida: its latest luxury vacation venture aboard the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. Yesterday, however, Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally addressed the issue. Sort of.

In Chapek’s refusal to outright denounce the Florida bill as part of an email sent to Disney staff, a particular part of his statement (you can read the full memo at the Hollywood Reporter) has made waves: his belief that Disney is doing what it can to promote tolerance and equality through its content. “Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, [and] Love, Victor,” the statement listed as influential, diverse works from the company.These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements—and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort.” But for all its dancing around the power of content rather than Disney’s actual vast capital power, power that it has used to financially support backers of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, probably the most insulting thing about Chapek’s stance is his failure to consider the impact one legendary gay figure in particular has had on Disney: Howard Ashman, who, like the legions of queer employees at Disney since his time, is left ignored by Chapek’s cowardice.

[Read more]

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10 / 16

Harley Quinn Miraculously Retells Batman’s Origin Story in a Fresh Way

Harley Quinn Miraculously Retells Batman’s Origin Story in a Fresh Way

Harley Quinn is defending Bruce, Thomas and Martha Wayne from mugger
Screenshot: HBO Max

By Rob Bricken

HBO Max’s Harley Quinn series is popular enough to not only survive the streaming service’s recent bloodbath, but manage to score a fourth season. If you watched the recent episode where the reformed family man Joker runs for Gotham’s mayor, you likely know why. But as good as Harley Quinn has been, I was shocked to discover the series could tell Batman’s origin story in a genuinely fresh way.

[Read more]

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11 / 16

It Turns Out the Walking Dead Was Me All Along

It Turns Out the Walking Dead Was Me All Along

Bloody Rick Grimes
Screenshot: AMC

By Rob Bricken

When io9 co-founders Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders hired me as a Senior Editor back in 2012, I never expected to still be at the site a decade later. I certainly never expected to recap The Walking Dead the entire time, and now that the show is over, I have no idea how to feel about it. But I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

And when I say a decade, I mean 10 years almost exactly. Annalee and CJ made it very clear that one of my tasks upon being hired would be taking on recaps of the then-incredibly popular zombie series. So on my very first day at io9, November 19, 2012, I wrote about the previous night’s installment, “Hounded,” the sixth episode of season three and the 25th episode of The Walking Dead overall. If you remember it, and I know you don’t, you can read my ancient recap here or take my word it’s the one where ghosts keep calling an increasingly unstable Rick on the phone. It was a pretty good episode!

Sunday night, November 20, one day after my 10th io9 anniversary, the final episode of The Walking Dead aired, titled “Rest in Peace.” AMC didn’t send out a screener until Monday, but I got sick so I wrote it Tuesday. The show ended on 177, which means 153 Walking Dead episodes have aired since I started here, and I’ve written about almost all of them, minus a few Germain Lussier had to cover when I was sick or on vacation. I feel confident I’ve recapped 148 of them over the course of a decade and three days.

[Read more]

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12 / 16

The Creators of Brian and Charles on Bringing Their Quirky Sci-Fi Comedy to the Big Screen

The Creators of Brian and Charles on Bringing Their Quirky Sci-Fi Comedy to the Big Screen

Brian (a man) and Charles (a robot) sit together.
Screenshot: Focus Features

By Cheryl Eddy

The world can be a dark and awful place. But as Brian and Charles so delightfully explores, the power of friendship can perform miracles, even when that friendship gets stormy at times—and even when that friendship is between a lonely inventor and the awkwardly bulky robot he crafts from random parts.

io9 has been a fan of these characters dating back to 2017, when we first posted director Jim Archer’s short film of the same name. Earlier this year, the feature adapted from that short debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. (Read io9's review here.) This week, Brian and Charles is making its theatrical debut, and we got a chance to speak over video chat with Archer as well as scriptwriters David Earl (who plays Brian) and Chris Hayward (who plays Charles) ahead of its release. The trio became acquainted through what Archer describes as “the comedy TV world in the UK, it’s all very kind of close knit,” with Earl actually developing the Brian character on stage and on an internet radio show—where the character of Charles first appeared—well before the short film came to be.

[Read more]

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13 / 16

Speak No Evil’s Director Explains Why He Made Such a Shocking Movie

Speak No Evil’s Director Explains Why He Made Such a Shocking Movie

man watches woman in shower
Screenshot: Shudder/IFC Midnight

By Cheryl Eddy

Danish import Speak No Evil was one of the standouts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—anyone who saw it then is likely still traumatized by it. Elegant filmmaking propels its story of two families who meet on vacation, hit it off, and decide to visit again... with decidedly less pleasant results. With Speak No Evil arriving in theaters and on Shudder this month, io9 got a chance to speak with director Christian Tafdrup about his excellent but uniquely agonizing movie.

Note: this interview was conducted over video chat and has been slightly edited for clarity. (There’s also a spoiler warning near the end just before the film’s last act is discussed.)

[Read more]

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14 / 16

Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor and Lord of the Rings Star, Dead at... Hoo Boy

Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor and Lord of the Rings Star, Dead at... Hoo Boy

sauron
Photo: Warner Bros.

By James Whitbrook

Sauron, the fallen Maia, former Lieutenant of the Dark Lord Morgoth, and previous wielder of the One Ring of Power, has passed away after a brief several thousands of years of being a non-corporeal spirit bound to the tower of Barad-dûr. He was... very, very old.

Reports that on this day as recounted in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingMarch 25 in the year TA 3019—have confirmed that Sauron, aka Annatar, aka Gorthaur, aka Mairon, perished amid a skirmish between the Orcs of Mordor and the Army of the West, hosted by the newly revealed successor to the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, Aragorn II. Whether or not Sauron was directly defeated due to the conflict or because of something else entirely unrelated, thanks to the work of two halflings spotted on the scene, has yet to be determined.

[Read more]

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15 / 16

A Jedi, Like His Father Before Him

A Jedi, Like His Father Before Him

Luke Skywalker versus Palpatine
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

By James Whitbrook

As one of, if not often the, primary protagonists of Star Wars, the saga at large has often existed in various forms to ask one single question, with a thousand answers: who is Luke Skywalker? Farm boy, pilot, Jedi, teacher, learner, master, legend, Luke has been so many things across his life, in so many stories, that it’s rare to see a role unsuited to him. His latest tale might have found one though.

[Read more]


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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