The Problem With Geek Culture Taking Over Hollywood
I know we’ve just talked about Hollywood appealing to the COD crowd, and while I wanted to talk about this particular subject as well, I felt that it was a separate issue and thus, best left to its own article. Thank Gordon Freeman for Fridays, hey?
Once again, last weekend I went to a local cinema to watch Man of Steel. Prior to that, I watched Man of Steel at a different cinema. Do you know how, when you go in a little early — presumably to get comfortable, although I’ve seen couples snatch a few minutes of snogging time in there — and they’re just playing cheesy jazz music, while the lights are still on? Then the lights go off and they start showing trailers, before the movie proper starts. Well, on both these occasions, the following movie trailers were shown: The Wolverine, and Pacific Rim. Nothing whatsoever about the upcoming Great Expectations of Charles Dickens adaptation, or the movie I most want to watch this year, This Is The End. So to put that into perspective, I went to watch a movie for geeks, in which two trailers were shown, also for geeks.
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Geeks are winning. Geeks have taken over. Geek culture reigns supreme.
And yet, that terrifies me…
When the first X-Men movie, which by all accounts is now a shamefully badly done example of comic-book movies, released, it did so in a time when being a geek was still a social faux pas, when reading comic books was a guilty pleasure rather than a widely accepted pastime, when the local comic book store was fill of your stereotypical nerdy males who wore glasses and had a constant forty-five-degree angle of inclination on their necks, which forced them to see only their feet and nothing else. The first X-Men was a risk. A big one. That paid off nicely. As was the first Spider-Man movie featuring Toby Maguire as a rather weird-looking Peter Parker. Not my first choice but hey, I love Spider-Man and I love movies, so I’ll have that. You might look at this triumphant rise in comic book adaptations and geekdom as a whole, in movies, and consider The Avengers to be the climax, the magnum opus, the pinnacle of achievement for all things geek. It was an ambitious project and it was pulled off. It happened. After some eighty years of geeks with comics, finally we saw something we never thought we would.
And now we walk into a movie for geeks and are greeted with more trailers for geeks. Other movies not getting nearly as big of a budget nor enjoying nearly as much marketing hype. Comic-Con is now one of the biggest conventions in the world, to the point that some are sneakily trying to clone it in an attempt to extort money out of unknowing individuals, or, faux-geeks.
I do so hate faux-geeks.
But I digress. The point that I am trying to make here is that right now, a lot of money is going into a culture that most of Hollywood doesn’t understand. Thus, a lot of the risks that were once taken because of something new and unfamiliar, are now going to be forgone in favour of playing it safe, lest a movie pull a Green Lantern or Spider-Man 3 and crash and burn so hard that the name is forever tarnished, but not so badly as The Fantastic Four, seriously WTF were they thinking with those movies…
What this then means is quite simple: Less risks means more playing it safe. More playing it safe means less attempts to try new things and be different, and more ‘splosions and other checklist-type inclusions. So, does the movie have an acceptable origin point? Check. Is there at least one highly sexualised but badass female character? Check. Is there a love interest to play the damsel trope? Check. Is there government or bureaucratic opposition of some sort, forcing the hero to make some tough choices? Check. Is there a frenetic action scene with little regard for the lives of those around the battling characters? Check. Will it last for the entirety of the final act? Check. Does it end in a way that leaves the door wide open to future sequels? Check.
And so on.
Geek culture might have taken over Hollywood right now, and Man of Steel’s box office revenue is proof of that, surely, but is it really worth it if in a few years the amount of safe-playing and lack of risk-taking leads to an implosion, a crash in sales spurred on by the lack of willing fan participation? Or will we forever have to live with some bastardised adaptations of our favourite heroes, all in the interest of ensuring that a movie is not a failure, and rakes in as much money as is possible, because geeks are so easily hyped and will show faith in practically anything you dangle in front of them?
We need to be better than that, I think.
I mean, we’ve had some spectacular movies that took huge risks, movies along the lines of Watchmen, The Punisher, even Scott Pilgrim Versus The World was done well. Are future movies along these lines going to now miss out in case Hollywood produces yet another Ghost Rider, or Hell Boy? It seems very likely. I feel bad for any upcoming movies about the Lanterns, or Aquaman, or Green Arrow. I really do. Even for the Deadpool movie we all know is coming.
What do you think about this rise in geek culture? Sure it feels great to go around telling people that I read Deadpool comics and have tattoos of things from games, but if the end result is having every game I play, or movie I watch, try so very hard to not lose any of that big budget by basically check-listing a whole bunch of things they ‘think’ will ensure success, then really, I have no time for either industry any more. I’d rather stick to the original because at least that’s not a cheap imitation… except for Deadpool, who is in fact, a cheap imitation of Deathstroke. But he’s funnier and has both eyes so who cares. Share your thoughts in the comments, geeks.