‘Reel Geeks Rule’

Although I don’t really consider Matrix fans to be geeks, it appears we are clumped together anyways. Here is an article about the current trend in film. It is an interesting read on how the BIG movies coming out are Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book based. Oh will, here ya go:

The geeks may not inherit the earth, but they could be on their way to taking over Hollywood.

It may sound funny, but it’s no joke.

“Ten or 15 years ago the movie-studio executives of today were coming out of the comics (community) into film school or business school,” said Avi Arad, 53-year-old president of Marvel Studios, the division of Marvel Enterprises dedicated to film and TV projects for the company’s comic-book characters.

“And they’re entrenched now in the studios. These people over the years got the experience, the notoriety and the clout to go in and say, ‘I want to do this movie.’ ”

The result is a spate of current and projected movie blockbusters steeped in themes traditionally most appreciated by science-fiction fans, fantasy enthusiasts and comic-book fanboys.

You know … the geeks.

“Finally, every studio has their resident geek department, if you will, that really understands the box-office value of our properties,” Arad said.

Once marginalized as B-movies, fantasy projects of every description have become A-list material for Hollywood filmmakers.

Not even counting the obligatory scary-dino sequel “Jurassic Park III,” the trend can be seen in such recent releases as the computer-animated fairy tale “Shrek,” the video-game-inspired “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” the photo-realistic outer-space cartoon “Final Fantasy” and the mega-hit rethinking of “Planet of the Apes.”

In the next six months to a year Hollywood will unleash:

The first installment of “The Lord of the Rings,” the long-awaited adaptation of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful Middle-Earth trilogy.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” based on the beloved children’s book by J.K. Rowling.

A remake of “The Time Machine,” taken from the classic sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells.

“Star Wars: Episode II” (‘Nuff said).

And “Spider-Man,” directed by lifelong Spidey fan Sam Raimi (“A Simple Plan,” producer of “Xena: Warrior Princess”).

Set to follow at the end of 2002 are “The Matrix Reloaded,” an “X-Men” sequel and the second “Lord of the Rings” film. Sometime after that we’re promised an Ang Lee-directed “The Incredible Hulk,” a new Batman film directed by Darren Aronofsky (“Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream”), and films based on Iron Man, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four comic book characters.

Seeing all these superheroes and fantasy characters come to life on the screen as brand names is nearly enough to make a grown geek cry. For many different reasons.

“It may be a great time to be a geek, but I think it’s also very disappointing,” said Mitch Brian, a Kansas City-based screenwriter and co-creator of TV’s “Batman: The Animated Series. “I personally have been far more excited about the idea of these movies than the actual movies themselves.”

A key element to modern Hollywood’s new attraction to big-budget fantasy films is advancing digital technology that allows for mind-blowing special effects.

“With computer-generated special effects, it makes it much easier to visualize movies on this kind of scale,” Brian said. ” ‘The Lord of the Rings’ couldn’t have been done 15 years ago with the scale and realism that it’s probably going to have in terms of capturing Middle-Earth.

“But, in the end, these things have got to really capture the imagination either through character or through metaphor. I’m not saying these movies have to preach or be driven by any huge idea, but at least let me believe what makes these characters tick.”

One geek – er, fan – keeping the fantasy-fueled faith is Jason Stephens, a 26-year-old graphic artist who lives in Overland Park. He’s especially looking forward to “Spider-Man” as interpreted by Raimi.

“I trust Sam Raimi,” Stephens said. “He’s promised that we’ll be able to see the wild camera angles and feel what it’s like to swing with Spider-Man at 70 miles an hour 30 stories up.

“And that’s obvious from seeing the (theatrical) trailer. It was a perfect balance of treating it seriously and still giving Spider-Man a little of the humor that we know he has, but without going to the campy extreme that Joel Schumaker did on his Batman movies (‘Batman Forever,’ ‘Batman and Robin’).”

Stan Lee, 78, the co-creator of Spider-Man for Marvel Comics nearly 40 years ago, says the movies, like the comics, need to dazzle but have to have heart.

“These movies need to look great,” Lee said. “But they need to be well-written. And if the characters are created so that they seem to be flesh and blood and they’re empathetic and they stay in character, it’s possible to make fantasy believable.”

(Thanks to ‘Squirk’ and ‘Scooby’)

Reel Geeks Rule
BRIAN McTAVISH- The Kansas City Star