I’m loath to praise any magazine that doesn’t employ me, but the new issue of Empire is really good. The snarkiness of the last year seems to have gone (for a while the mag’s responses to readers’ letters were smug and annoying. I’m convinced the letters page, and particularly the mag responses to the letters, sets the tone for the rest of a magazine), the writers seem to have rediscovered their senses of humour, and the whole thing sings with an obvious love of movies.
It’s as if the team have recaptured the things that made the mag so good when it first launched (I’m pretty sure David Hepworth, now of Word, was behind the original launch). I suspect the success of Future’s Total Film has rattled them, too: in the last few years Empire seemed determined to vanish up its own backside, while TF did a great job of reminding the world that movie magazines could be as entertaining as the films they covered (and in many cases, more entertaining than the films). I’ll no doubt blog about TF later, when the new issue comes out.
The other thing Empire’s got right is its internet malarkey. The site is excellent, and there’s a nifty bit where you can preview the features listed on the mag cover. There’s the usual interactive gubbins, but what really interests me is the way in which the Web stuff is used in the printed magazine. Film previews now come in “they say / you say / we say” format, where you get the press blurb, the reader opinion and the mag opinion, and reader comments are sprinkled through the “decades deathmatch” feature.
I’d pretty much given up on Empire, but the new issue’s a real return to form. I might even subscribe :)