Posts Tagged ‘geeks’

A Love Letter to Fanboys

Fanboy: noun-  A geek; a fan of science fiction, comic books, or some specific element there-of.

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I’m tempted to begin with a joke about Fanboys being made a long time ago, in a land far, far away.  Because sometimes it feels that way.

The story of getting the film Fanboys on to the movie screen is nearly as epic as the journey contained within.

Fanboys is the story of 5 high school friends who travel across America to steal a copy of Star Wars: the Phantom Menace before it is released; fulfilling the last wish of Linus who is dying of cancer.   Despite the heavy subject matter, Fanboys is a comedy which was prepared to celebrate the joys of geekdom and the reality of being a fanboy.  The film was originally set to be released in August of 2007.   The trailer had debuted months earlier, leaving geeks across America salivating at the thought of a film of their own.   Sadly the movie was pushed back for nearly a year.  And then even further.  And further.   And of course their were cuts and recuts of the film.  It seemed like the film would never  be released.  And when it was, the studios gave it so little advertising and so limited a release, it came and went like a phantom.  … I swear that wasn’t an Episode One pun.

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It took me 2 and a half years to see Fanboys, oddly paralleling the wait that the characters– and indeed, all of us— felt for the coming of the newest Star Wars movies.   So was it worth it?

Yes, and no.    The film suffers from a lack of clear direction.  It doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be.   Is it a story of  best friends who reconnect before its too late?  Is it a road movie?   Pop culture comedy?  Geek-umentary?    The identity crisis can be distracting at times, as each scene feels fundamentally different from the next, making the quality of the movie a bit uneven.

I suspect that fact is due in large part to studio interference.   harvey Weinstein famously attempted to cut the story of Linus’ illness just before it’s final release, leading to fan protest and threats of boycotting Weinstein Company films.   I agree that scenes and elements of it needed to be cut, but that isn’t among them.  Linus’ story is the driving force (swear these aren’t puns) for the story.  And many of the scenes that address the illness are among the finest in the piece.    Rather than bring the story down, it brings a touch of humanity to it.   A comedy is a great thing, but if there is no heart in it, then it ultimately becomes irrelevent as soon as it leaves theatres (or DVD, I suppose).

I hate to say it, but what needed to be cut were the extraneous nerd elements and unnecessary cameos.  For instance, there was a scene which introduced Seth Rogen as the villainous Trekkie leader.  Now, I’m sure many a Star Wars fan has dreamed of roughing up some Trekkies (“That is a derogatory term.  The proper word is Trekker.”)— but the truth is the Trek/ Wars battle just feels cheap and amateur.  And while I dig Rogen, he wasn’t even mildly funny in any of his scenes.

Similarly the Harry Knowles scene feels weird. Harry Knowles is the creator of Ain’t It Cool News, and something of an web-media demigogue. He’s also notoriously over-weight and Hobbit like.  Here, he’s played by Ethan Suplee, who is a fantastic addition to any film, but appears much tougher than Knowles could ever hope to be.  Was Harry trained to fight at the Jean Claude Van Damme school of fake fighting?  The scene just doesn’t work.  Instead it feels like the filmmakers are kissing Harry’s rear in an attempt to get a favorable review.  Instead they make him violent and even more Hobbit-looking than ever.  These scenes could easily have been cut and abridged and it would have been better for it.

However, some of the cameos are great and not nearly as distracting.  The Star Wars cameos lend a bit of geek cred here, and even feel fitting.  Also, icons like Kevin Smith and even the SHAT himself feel a more natural fit.

And lastly, I take umbrage to the PG-13 rating.  This is another element that clearly is the result of studio interference.  When you strip away the cancer and the Fanboy dressing, it’s a road trip movie.  This is a genre that begs to be rated R.  And as you watch the movie, there are moments that were clearly intended to feature the gratuitous nudity that we all know and love.   By teasing the nudity and then neutering the shot, they’ve merely disappointed their audience.  I understand a desire to make a movie more available to a broader audience, but this is a movie set in 1998 and glorrifying scifi and comic book geeks— it’s target audience is clearly not the Jonas Brothers fan club.  And considering they basically tanked the film in advertising anyway, I don’t see the point.

Okay, so those are my —and I stress this— minor complaints.  So what did I like?  The casting for one.

Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Chris Marquette and Sam Huntington embody every brilliant facet of geekdom.  They never once made me ashamed to be a Fanboy.  And as I mentioned, many of the cameos were great, and hilarious.   But the real gem of this film was only in it for about half of the running time.    The movie is at its best when Kristen Bell is on screen.

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Bell is, in my mind, the new Geek Goddess.  She’s Veronica Mars.  And there is no movie that cannot be made better by her presence.  I’ll even go a bit further. When George Lucas eventually remakes the original Star Wars trilogy — and don’t kid yourself, IT’S COMING— I think Bell should be the new Leia.   It’s not just that she wears the Slave Leia outfit better than anyone since Carrie Fisher.   There’s a scene wear she leans over in front of R2-D2 and says those famous words:

“Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

And just for a second, I felt like I could have been back watching A New Hope.   Additionally, she gets some of the best lines and scenes in the movie.

The script was a bit of a mixed bag, but when it works, it really works.  The jokes are hit or miss, but that is to be expected.   But most of the elements are there for greatness.  And thats the real tragedy.  It could have been great.  It could have been a big hit.  All Fanboys needed was a little more attention, a little less interference and a lot more faith.  “{Don’t}tell me the odds.”

But it wasn’t perfect.  Even so, it was a love letter to Fanboys.  It’s the sort of praise that we deserve.  Sure, they made fun of Trekkers, but — look at those people.  It’s okay to be a nerd, or a geek or a Fanboy.  It doesn’t matter if you spend 2 years debating whether Luke had the unholy hots for his twin sister, which is sort of like being gay for yourself.  (He totally did, by the way.)  Maybe you’ve mapped out the Summers/ Grey family tree or know every episode of Doctor Who and which version of the Doctor starred in it.  You might even be obsessed with Kristen Bell.   It’s okay.   Fanboys is a film about living life on your terms, and not letting society tell you who to be.

It’s a good message.  And a film worth seeing.

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The Geek Strain

There’s all kinds of us in the world today. We’re everywhere, having infiltrated every facet of society from High Schools to Congress to Hollywood. We live among you. One of us may share your bed each night, whether you know it or not.

We’re geeks. And sometimes we have to hide who we are because the rest of the world fears and hates us. Okay… I was being a little melodramatic there for the sake of congruence. But it’s more or less true. You know we exist yet you deny us fervently.

There’s a whole Baskin Robbins worth of geek flavors and mixes. Film geeks, music geeks, art geeks, Star Wars and Star Trek geeks (and never the twain shall meet), D&D and WoW (which is the most fun to say) geeks… and of course my lot… Comic Book Geeks. We’re a special breed, unfathomable and unmatched in knowledge of our love (save for the Klingon-speaking Trekkies.. those people just have issues).

We live in bizarre times, as the mainstream has taken to embracing comics (or graphic novels, as the elitist PC world prefers to call them).  It seems these days everyone is a comic book fan… of a sort.   Strange then that we who love them so are still rejected.  I have a friend who loves comic book based films and sees them as soon as they come out, but considers anyone who touches actual comics to be “nerds”.   He isn’t alone.  Go through random myspace pages.  You’ll see an enormous amount of people with Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, Sin City, 300, Iron Man and X-Men under their FAVORITES; however, they’re all put under film favorites.   On average, most fans of movies such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, From Hell, Road to Perdition and History of Violence aren’t even aware that they were based on comics.

Yet Hollywood and the world at large proclaim themselves to be unabashed fans.  Another close friend once told me “I’m a Batman fan.  I’ve seen all the movies!  No, I’ve never read any of the comics, but that doesn’t make you a bigger fan than me.”  Yes, it does.  And for the record, he’s never seen Mask of the Phantasm. And suddenly it’s cool to say you’re a Brian K Vaughn fan, because once he got a job on Lost, Entertainment Weekly picked up on his Y the Last Man series.  It’s cool to love Y now, because unlike Spider-man, knowing about the Vertigo series makes you hip and “indie”.  Yes, we have sunk that low.

We, the fans… the ones who made these films viable properties because of their built-in audience… are not respected in the least.   Both Yancy Butler (star of the television version of Witchblade) and Jennifer Connelly (female lead of the first Hulk film) have gone on record as saying that their projects weren’t going to be “comic book-y”.   I find it somewhat satisfying that both projects faired poorly, with Marvel going so far as to ignore the first Hulk film completely in the far superior Incredible Hulk.

On the one hand, it’s a fun time to be a comics fan.   Our favorite properties are finally receiving the attention they deserve.  On the other hand, as Hollywood and the mainstream slowly consume all we hold dear, what is shat out isn’t always what we might expect.  For every Batman Begins, there is a Catwoman.  For every Sin City, there is a V for Vendetta.

So we’re still outcasts.   Branded with the geek strain, that special bit of DNA that causes to get pissed because Jean killed Scott and Xavier in the last X-Men film.  And makes us jump for joy when we find out that David Goyer or our beloved Joss is writing a new script, because they “get it”.   They have the geek strain too.   Yeah, we’re still mutants.   And most of the time I wouldn’t have it any other way.