Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
CC2K's Tony Lazlo sizes up one of the best years for geeky movies ever.
This year boasts a remarkable number of uber-geek movies in an era where every damn year has a bunch of geeky movies. This is a result of Hollywood's acknowledgment of the power of the geek and Tinseltown's newfound willingness to entrust some of its hottest properties to truly talented and passionate people. This year includes four such titles, as well as the return of two huge, beloved franchises.
I also want to start hyping a new miniseries from HBO about the American Revolution that looks spectacular.
Star Trek (Dec. 25). We’ve been covering this movie incessantly through its development, and I remain excited for its release because the entire Star Trek universe has always had the potential to be truly great – I’m talking Joss Whedon great – and despite some outstanding moments and episodes over the years, it’s always been frustrating to watch because it’s almost always mired in the same rut of boring, declarative dialogue, clichéd storylines and a wrong-headed perspective on sexuality that sours the entire series.
But the infusion of J.J. Abrams might change all that.
Abrams belongs to an elite bunch of Hollywood creative types who have sparked the golden age of TV we currrently enjoy. Others in this league include its overlord, Joss Whedon, as well as Peter Berg, David Chase, Brian Fuller and many others. Abrams deserves special mention because of his Spielbergian commitment to geeky subject matter, including his desert-island X-Files, Lost.
To be sure, Star Trek is a tired old franchise, and in the wake of such challenging science-fiction as Battlestar Galactica, it might seems unwise to revisit the original characters from Trek. Yeah, you could argue that BSG rejuvenated a hokey old TV series, but BSG was a full reimagining – Abrams will undoubtedly have to hew closely to the original Trek mythology to satisfy the fans.
But here's hoping he doesn't. I once spoke with a longtime Star Trek crew member, and he said that Star Trek fans don't really know what they want until the studio puts something good in front of them. For example, when fans first met a bald starship captain, they grumbled, but in the end, they came to embrace him. Nicholas Meyer was a Trek newbie when he took the helm of Wrath of Khan, and his fresh perspective helped to set the standard for what Trek can be.
Star Trek has a lot of embarrassing moments in its canon, but its potential – seen in classic episodes like "Below Decks," "Family" and "The Best of Both Worlds" – remains, and I hope Abrams can exploit it.
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 22). Here's another huge geek franchise making another dubious return. Why am I dubious? Well, even though Steven Spielberg's direction will undoubtedly be compelling, this project stinks of a post-Star Wars prequels George Lucas, whose obnoxious involvement with this movie has already included the infamous rejection of a well-regarded Frank Darabont script.
But let's not forget that the formula for the Indy movies has always allowed for Lucas' involvement. He held the chief story credit for the other three movies but delegated screenwriting duties to someone else.
In the case of the fourth Indy outing, those duties went to writer David Koepp, a hired gun who has cranked out some of my favorite scripts over the years, including Spider-Man, Panic Room and The Paper.
That said, though, here's what I'm hoping for this new Indy adventure:
I don't care about the treasure he finds. I don't care about the action sequences. I don't even care about Shia LeBeouf and his unspellable last name.
I do know this: Karen Allen is returning as Marion Ravenwood and John Hurt has been cast as Abner Ravenwood. If you remember from the Nepalese saloon scene in Raiders, Indy alienated both Marion (his onetime lover) and Abner (his mentor in college). If Indy's quest for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lets him right those old wrongs, we just might have a fucking classic on our hands.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Nov. 21). Loyal readers of this site will know of my dislike for the final Potter novel, Deathly Hallows, but I enjoyed the hell out of Half-Blood Prince, which stands as the Animal House of the series – rowdy, randy and even more episodic than usual.
Order of the Phoenix director David Yates is back behind the camera, which bodes well for an adaptataion of this leisurely, character-driven Potter book. Yates proved himself adept at handling the burgeoning-adulthood themes in OOTP while also boiling the novel down to the one of the shortest (and second-best) of the Potter films.
But in HBP, gone is the headlong narrative seen (well, mostly seen) in Goblet of Fire and OOTP. By contrast, HBP lingers on Harry's wacky, rough-and-tumble life at Hogwarts, with extensive storylines that follow love triangles and school politics. Harry even pulls a bit of magical confidence-gaming on the book's guest star, Potions Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).
Granted, upon retrospect this book is a lazy misstep in the larger Potter narrative, but when taken by itself, it's a charming portrait of secondary school life topped off with the best climax in the Potter series.
The X-Files 2 (July 25). There are three types of X-Files episodes:
• Stand-alone adventures.
• Mythology episodes.
There are precious few X-Files episodes that start out like stand-alone adventures but wind up having implications for the alien-invasion storyline that hangs over the series' larger narrative.
All of the advance press for Chris Carter's upcoming X-Files movie sequel has said that the new movie will be a stand-alone adventure. I hope to hell that the movie starts out as a stand-alone story that winds up delving deeper into the show's larger mythology and sets up another sequel that's entirely a mythology story.
The last we saw, Mulder had discovered that the alien colonization would commence in 2012. That's still in the future. Maybe they'll get a chance to fight it.
Iron Man (May 2). I've never read an Iron Man comic, but as a geek, I like to stay up on the basic tenets of most major titles. For example, going into the release of the first X-Men movie, I brushed up on the general backgrounds of the main characters, so I knew that Professor X and Magneto were old friends and that there was a love triangle involving Cyclops, Wolverine and Jean Grey.
To that end, I've always admired the Tony Stark character – a brilliant, egotistical inventor who's a raging drunk with a bum ticker. I like Jon Favreau's movie Made, and he really strikes me as a true-blue geek who will honor the material.
And what a cast. Getting Robert Downey Jr. to play Stark ensures a great performance at this movie's center, and the rest of the supporting cast looks stellar, too.
My hopes for this are as high as they were for Batman Begins. I know I'm setting myself up for disappointment, but even if Iron Man tanks, a couple months later we'll get …
The Dark Knight (July 18). Over the course of the first four Batman movies, fans complained about how the filmmakers kept including too many villains, and indeed – after Tim Burton’s original 1989 Batman, each movie featured two main villains from the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery.
So kudos to Christopher Nolan for getting stuck with the same formula and still making the best Batman movie to date. He managed to take one of the stupider villains (the Scarecrow) and one of the most boring (Ra’s al-Ghul) and fold them into a superhero movie that includes the best origin sequence ever – better than the Smallville scenes in the original Superman, for my money.
That said, how exciting is it that Nolan now gets to tackle the king of the Batman villains, the Joker, with the same great cast and production team he had before?
James Bond 22 (Nov. 7). Casino Royale is the best James Bond movie to date, despite a lax third act, and its success is even more extraordinary when you consider that the same creative team that brought us dozens of tired Bond sequels recognized the tacit challenge from the Bourne movies and delivered a Bond movie that refreshed the entire franchise even while going back to its literary roots.
That said, will Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction) be able to keep aloft the standard hoisted by Martin Campbell and the Casino Royale team? Forster has two heady prestige projects on his recent resume, and does anyone here remember Nell direcor Michael Apted’s The World Is Not Enough? Me neither.
John Adams (March). Lastly, I want to hype the hell out of HBO’s upcoming miniseries John Adams, based on the historical account by David McCullough.
I’m reading another American history book right now, A Magnificent Catastrophe, by Edward J. Larson, and even though I had always found American Revolutionary history interesting, it’s an even more fascinating story than I knew. The HBO miniseries chronicles the first 50 years of the USA, while Larson’s book concentrates on the presidential election of 1800.
Adams has emerged from my (admittedly meager) reading as a fascinating figure – pugnacious, sensitive to insult and slow to forgive. During the revolutionary years, he and Thomas Jefferson were close friends, only to see their friendship dissolve as the nation grew and their differing politics pitted them against each other in the contentious election of 1800 – the nation’s first true presidential contest, according to Larson – which Jefferson won.
I’m counting on HBO to produce another stellar historical epic on the order of Band of Brothers, and while I’m not familiar with the work of director Tom Hooper (I haven’t seen Longford), get a load of this cast:
John Adams: Paul Giamatti
Laura Linney: Abigail Adams
Tom Wilkinson: Ben Franklin
Rufus Sewell: Alexander Hamilton
David Morse: George Washington
Stephen Dillane: Thomas Jefferson
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.