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2007 – The Year in Geekdom (part 4)

31

Dec

Posted by Steve

While the debates raged, DC Continued it’s much bemoaned Countdown.  The Hulk continued to wage his War in New York City.  At the end of the Summer though, everyone stopped fussing and debating, and turned with great anticipation toward San Diego.  It was ComiCon time.

Everyone expected the Dark Knight to cast his shadow over the Con, but the Joker merely painted everyone’s face.    However, where Bruce Wayne decided to stay away, another successful playboy type made his mark.   Jon Favreau wowed the crowd with his reel of clips from Iron Man.   Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg made an appearance….sort of.  Along with a look at the Hulk and some cartoon stuff, geeks everywhere started to forget the debates of 2007 and look to the future.

As Fall and Winter rolled in, The Summer debates faded like the leaves on a tree and we, the geek nation sat back with full geek bellies anticipating the upcoming events.

We were pleased with the Bourne Ultimatum.  We gave a collective “It was OK”  to the Pirates at World’s End.  I was, hoever,  much more happy with it than I was the second installment of the Pirates trilogy.  The Consensus on John McClane’s vie to Live Free or Die Hard?  Should have gone for the “R” rating.  Again, I find myself at odds with the consensus.  I thought the action was as big as it could have been, the only thing we didn’t get was all of the “dirty words” of the previous three installments.  

As the hype of the Summer wore down and Rob Zombie remade HALLOWEEN, the geek eye began to strain to see into 2008.   However, right in the way of 2008 stood Will Smith, a German Shepherd, an empty New York City, and a whole bunch of vampire-like creatures that were the result of the cure for cancer. 

Apparently, I AM LEGEND was one of those projects that had been in the works for a long time.  In fact, The Governator was attatched to the project in it’s earliest stages.  Thank God he decided to go into politics and this thing didn’t get made until Will Smith could be involved.   Will Smith did an outstanding job of having nothing on screen but a few maniquins and a dog to play off of.  It was fascinating to watch the daily life of a man who had been totally isolated for three years.  It was fascinating to watch Will Smith bring the character of Robert Neville to life. 

The biggest problem I’ve heard that people have with I AM LEGEND is the digitalness of the Dark Seekers.  Frankly, those people must have an eye trained to be able to tell a good digital character from a poor one.  While the Dark Seekers were no Yoda from Episode 3, they weren’t so unrealistic as to be distracting.   The story though, and I can’t say it enough, is Will Smith.  His performance is the reason that 2007 has been able to end – for geeks – on a high note. 

Now, we look to 2008.  A monster will ravage New York, Rambo will kill again, Indy will strap on the whip, Stark will don the armor, The Hulk will smash, The Dark Knight will return, and we cannot wait.  Yes, 2008 promises to be a banner year for geeks and geekdom.  Truthfully, though, even before we see Iron Man take to the big screen, we will be talking about a sequel.  Before Batman beats the Joker, we will be anticipating his battle with Two Face.  Before Indiana finds the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull we will be speculating as to whether or not he’ll ever be back.  For it is the nature of the geek to ever look forward.  It is the nature of the geek to devour trailers, pictures, spy reports, and spoilers. It is the nature of the geek to pre-order comics, write their own ending, and endlessly e-mail their favorite creators.  We look ahead with the anticipation of a kid at Christmas because a geek is merely someone who hasn’t completely let go of the kid inside of them, and as we look forward, we hold on to that little boy or girl saving the world from the confines of the back yard.  We look forward as we look for a place that is safe to sit back and discuss all that we enjoy about geekdom.  And that brings me to the biggest geek event for me in 2007:

THE LAUNCHING OF GEEK OUT ONLINE.

Thank you to everyone who has, in the past few months not only checked the site out, but subscribed to the feed and podcast as well.  I’m looking forward to 2008 and all the fun we’ll have not only at the comic shops, DVD racks, and Movie theatres, but also the fun we’ll have here discussing our experiencing and immersing ourselves in total geekdom.  Happy New Year, may 2008 fulfill all of our geek wishes.

2007 – The Year in Geekdom (Part 3)

22

Dec

Posted by Steve

After the final stand of the 300, everything fell into debate among geeks.  In typical geek fashion, there was very little middle ground.   Geeks either loved or hated, and in typical geek fashion, the reasons were varied.  For some geeks, flames on a paint job were enough to hate a project, for others, character development of a villain was no good.  The legacy of 2007 geekdom, though, will always be the debates that raged after the Summer blockbusters were released.

The first of those blockbusters was Sam Raimi’s trilogy ending Spider-Man 3.   To do what no writer should do and remove all suspense, I will go ahead and say that I liked Spider-Man 3.  My biggest problem with the movie was that there was no swinging scene at the end.  Having said that, I recognize and understand most of the problems that fans had with the film. 

Ultimately, I think Spider-Man 3 was a testament to the great film maker that is Sam Raimi.  I didn’t realize until after the fact all that Raimi was up against in making this film.   Originally, because of his love for all things Silver Age about Spider-Man he was going to use the Vulture as one of the villains.  However, due to pressure from the studio (in response to pressure from fans) he went the route of Venom instead.   Not only was there that pressure, there was the pressure of the corner that the filmmakers had been backed into by the Harry/Peter plotline.   So, you’ve got Sandman, Venom, Harry v. Peter, and Peter v. the black suit and it has to be done in a reasonable amount of time with all the action, effect, and fun we expect.  

What did we get?  One of the most amazing scenes in film with the “birth” of the Sandman, some really good pathos when it comes to the relationships in Peter’s life, and a great end fight sequence that has been sorely lacking in Super hero movies since Superman 2.  Seriously, as good as Batman Begins was, the real awesomeness as far as an action sequence goes was in the Batmobile chase, Spider-Man’s final fight was good, but still not an action packed battle of epic proportions, it was mostly him holding on to the cable car while getting hit by the Goblin, after the awesome train fight in Spidey 2, Spidey and Doc Ock versus a big ball of fusion energy just didn’t have that oomph, Superman lifted an island, The Fantastic Four tried, but ultimately things happened a little too fast, Daredevil had a good fight, but again, not action packed blow  your mind kind of stuff.   Superman 2 went straight from Metropolis to the Fortress and the end.  Come to think of it, because the Fortress stuff in Superman 2 wasn’t all that action packed, Spider-Man 3 has given us one of the truly great final battles of a super-hero movie.  

Was Venom used properly?  Probably not, but as someone who got super tired of Venom in the comics, that didn’t bother me all that much.   The dance scene?  I never heard anyone complain about the “Raindrops” sequence or the Mary Jane running to the Wedding March in Spider-Man 2, and those moments were cheesier by far.  For me, Spider-Man 3 was fun, and it was a fitting end to the trilogy.  I just wish we’d gotten a swinging scene at the end.

After Spider-Man fought to keep his pride from devouring himself, Reed Richards and his team had to contend with the Devourer of Worlds and his herald the Silver Surfer.   I was excited for this movie because I used to collect the Fantastic Four comic with a passion.   I enjoyed Tim Story’s first outing the Foursome.  I thought the movie caught the spirit of the comic.  No, I wasn’t a big fan of Doom’s origin, but they kinda fixed that in the sequel didn’t they? 

I don’t think anyone walked away from the movie disappointed with the look or characterization of the Silver Surfer.  I know I didn’t.   I enjoyed this movie more than I enjoyed the first, and I appreciated that we got to see that, while Johnny was still fun, he didn’t overshadow the rest of the cast as he did in the first movie.   In fact, this time out the actors seemed to have a better feel as to how to play off of one another.   Everyone seemed a little more comfortable in their roles.   Except Jessica Alba’s makeup person.  (A little heavy on the blue eyeliner folks.)

The big debate that came out of FF2 was Galactus.   He was there folks, and he wasn’t a storm.  Check the shadow on Saturn, and watch when the Surfer goes to face him down.  He’s there in full Kirby get up.  It’s just that due to his size and the the debris kicked up around him when he has a meal (eats a planet) he has become engulfed in this huge cosmic storm. 

For me, FF2 was a good time.  The promise of a Silver Surfer movie is given at the end,  hopefully we can now look forward to a romp in the negative zone, or a battle with Skrulls, and Dr. Doom can come back.  All he did was sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Maybe he’ll bump into Megatron. 

Which brings us to the next great geek debate of Summer ’07.  Transformers. 

I loved Transformers as a kid.  I grew up at just the right time I think.  As a kid the most anime I was exposed to was Voltron.  We had Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, Star Wars. Just the diversity in those toy lines alone was enough to make those of us geeks who are products of the eighties well rounded enough to line studios pockets when they give Spielberg and Bay the greenlight to get something like this done all the while waiting in line to see the next big super-hero movie, and still understanding big war movie epics.  Yes, the eighties geek is a thing to behold.  I digress, however.

I loved the Transformers as a kid.  I watched the cartoon with great devotion and when the seasons were released on DVD I got as much as I could.  I own two versions of the movie from the eighties, and the hardest thing I ever had to do was sell my Transformers collection to help get my finances on track. 

I sat in the theatre with all of the arguments and negativism leading up to the movie’s release swirling around in my head.  I had one thing that it seemed very few others on message boards and talk backs had though, I had hope.  I had hope that this movie would be awesome.  At the first mention of the name Whitwicky, I felt something rising up inside of me.  Then, as Bumblebee sent out the signal and the other Autobots landed, I began to disappear.   Jazz broke dance (break danced) when he transformed, and Peter Cullen said, “I am Optimus Prime.” 

A 30 year old man bought my ticket and sat down in the seat I was in, but he was gone.  In his place was a chubby 8 year old kid who believed that as far as evil was concerned you didn’t get worse than the Decepticons, and as far as good was concerned, God himself had created Optimus Prime to show us all the way.   I confess openly, I cheered every transformation, I thrilled at every punch, I got a lump in my throat as Optimus explained, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings,” and then I almost wet my pants when Optimus said, “Megatron, today one shall stand, one shall fall.” 

Flames on a paint job didn’t matter.  The humor in the film didn’t matter.  This was the Transformers.  There are more out there.  There’s no way Megatron is really done for.  I know the rules.  He’ll be back. 

Yeah, I apparently liked or loved everything that apparently most geeks hated.  However, what I’ve found through many is that those who didn’t like these projects just happen to be louder than those of us who did. 

2007 was a little more than halfway over.  Jack Sparrow still needed to be rescued from the Other Side, Bourne had an Ultimatum to deliver, and John McClane had some cyber terrorists to stop.  In the end, Robert Downey Jr.  would be the man in an iron mask, ComiCon would thrill us, Wizard World would shock us, and Robert Neville would make his stand against a virus that wiped out all of humanity.  2007 still had a way to go, Geeks were debating and, as ever, looking ahead.

2007 – The Year In Geekdome (Part 2)

11

Dec

Posted by Steve

With 2006 behind us having given us a 14 disc Superman collector’s DVD set, Pirates of the Carribean 2, Superman Returns, and Peter Parker outing himself to the world, 2007 kind of started off with a whimper offering us THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN in a straight to DVD release.  Things were looking bleak. 

Fortunately, in the straight to DVD market, we weren’t left floundering about.   Marvel’s next release of the year came several months later in the form of DR. STRANGE.  

I was never a big fan of Dr. Strange in the comic books.  That is not to say that I didn’t like the character, just that I only knew him from guest appearances here and there.  In fact, the most exposure I ever had to Strange was in the short lived Defenders reboot in the late nineties.   In the title, he, The Silver Surfer, Namor, and the Hulk were bound by a curse to not be able to break up the team.   In the end, they brought out the darkest side of themselves and set up rule on the Earth to ultimately defeat the being that was behind the curse.  (I think that’s why they did that.)

Having little knowledge of the Dr. Strange mythology, I sat down to watch the DVD with little or no expectations and as the credits came up on my television screen, I was glad that I had picked up the DVD.   DR. STRANGE gave us a true hero’s journey complete with a great final confrontation and room for a sequel.  Things were looking up in the straight to DVD market and DC was getting ready to throw their hat into the ring with SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY.

You can read my complete review of SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY here.  Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it.   While Doomsday wasn’t really the centerpiece of the story, the movie itself was good.   It was a smart move on the part of the promotional team to use the words “inspired by” rather than “based on” the best selling graphic novel of all time.  For, while the Death and Return of Superman took place, very little else resembled the story from the comics.  However, it was a Superman movie, and it was good enough (to me) to watch more than once.

In the theatres, things went a little better than they did on the DVD shelf.  Not at first, but they got there.

The first comic book adaptation of the year was GHOST RIDER.  Ghost Rider is another character I was never really into.  Unlike Dr. Strange, though, I really never liked the character.  Visually he’s interesting and he makes a good guest appearance, but I never thought he was strong enough to carry his own book.  To carry his own film, he was gonna need more than Nicolas Cage.  A lot of work went into the Ghost Rider film.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes when something falls flat.  However, if you dig on the net a little, or watch the special features on the DVD, you’ll learn that the effects guys worked hard to make fire effects that wouldn’t look fake, stunt people worked hard and dangerously to accomplish some great stunts, and the heart of the director was in the right place.

Sadly, Ghost Rider couldn’t do what Blade accomplished so well in his first outing on the big screen.   I saw this movie in a packed theatre.  If nothing else, the promotion machine for the film did it’s job.  People bought into the visuals and funny bits from the trailers that flooded movie theatres and televisions. 

Honestly, Nic Cage wasn’t bad in the movie.  I don’t generally like him in much, but I enjoyed his role in this film and it gave me the great moment of “You’re walking all over Karen.”  The problem came down to trying to make Ghost Rider too funny.  There didn’t seem to be enough trust in the character as he’s written in comics, and anytime a movie maker chooses not to do that, the movie itself suffers.

I left the theatre not feeling like I’d wasted money on the movie, but disappointed that it wasn’t what I knew it could have been…the surprise hit of the year.  However, my disappointment wouldn’t last long.

While on television, Heroes was rushing to learn to stop an exploding man and Smallville was (again, in my opinion) stumbling it’s way toward one of the best season finales the show has ever had, Leonidas and his 300 were defending Greece against an onslaught of Persians.  I had never read 300.  In fact, (I’m a bit embarassed to admit) I didn’t know that Frank Miller’s graphic novel was a fantastic interpretation of an actual historical event.  

What I did know, though, was that Frank Miller’s unique stylized art was wonderfully reproduced in moving picture form.  That alone was enough to bring me to theatre to see this film.  When the movie was over, I walked out of the theatre hoping someone would oppress me just so I could KICK THEIR…ahem…so I could rise up and defeat them. 

Everything about 300 was amazing.  I wasn’t bothered at all by the slow motion to quick motion fight scenes.  I reveled in David Wenham’s portrayal of Dilios and his ability to tell the story of 300 and make us feel like he was truly standing before 10,000 Greeks getting them pumped for the battle ahead.  In fact, I was totally caught up in all of the characters.  I hated who I was supposed to hate, loved who I was supposed to love, and found myself profoundly sad for and proud of the men who gave their lives in the name of stopping tyrrany in it’s tracks.  Suddenly, as far as movies went, 2007 was looking up. 

However, we still had a long way to go.  People were buzzing over Venom, preparing for The Surfer’s rise, arguing over flames on Optimus, bemoaning the fact that John McClane was going to be PG-13, anticipating Harry’s induction into the Order of the Phoenix, and awaiting the return of Jack Sparrow.   Yes, 2007 was a long way from over.