Monday, November 19, 2012

Random Top Ten: Best Geek Franchises

Across all media (film, television, books, comic books, video games, you-name-it), these are the franchises that keep geeks coming back for more. Am I right or wrong? Leave you comments below...

1. Star Wars
Created by George Lucas; debuted in 1977. The ultimate sci-fi fantasy space opera, Star Wars changed the cinematic landscape, became the defining moment of an entire generation or two, and is practically a religion among geeks - even those who profess to hate it can quote the entire first trilogy verbatim.

2. Batman
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; debuted in 1939. The world's foremost superhero, despite the fact he has no actual superpowers. Instead, he's just a brilliant detective and martial artist, loaded with cool gadgets, and scary as hell: they don't call him the Dark Knight for nothing!

3. Star Trek
Created by Gene Roddenberry; debuted in 1966. No vision of the future has proven as compelling - nor as uncannily prescient - as Roddenberry's. But what really made it develop such a cult following was its humanity: compelling characters and timeless questions of morality.

4. Doctor Who
Created by Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson and C. E. Webber; debuted 1963. This British television series may not be the most widely known in America, but it has a huge cult following worldwide, and deservedly so. Following the exploits of The Doctor, a Time Lord who travels through time and space with his human companions, it is full of delightfully unexpected twists and turns, and every episode unravels like a exciting puzzle.

5. Middle Earth
Created by J.R.R. Tolkien; debuted in 1937. The granddaddy of all fantasy worlds, Middle Earth has recently experienced a revitalization thanks to Peter Jackson's two film trilogies: The Lord of the Rings and now The Hobbit. But even before that, shades of Tolkien could be found in nearly every subsequent fantasy author's work, as his blend of mythology and epic adventure has always been hard to resist.

6. Spider-Man
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; debuted in 1962. I wanted to be Spider-Man when I was a little kid. So did every little kid. He was a kid like all of us, a pipsqueak who was powerless and misunderstood, and just happened to get bit by a radioactive spider. Could happen.

7. Superman
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; debuted in 1938. The very first superhero and still one of the best. I'm praying that we finally get a movie worthy of his legacy when Man of Steel comes out next year.

8. Godzilla
Created by Tomoyuki Tanaka; debuted in 1954. It may not have been the first, but Godzilla defined the giant monster movie genre, and the franchise and its many spin-offs are still going strong today.

9. The Universal Monsters
Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein was first published in 1818, and Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897. Universal Studios would make films of both novels in 1931, sparking a long and successful run of monster movies that would also include favorites like the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Many of these monsters existed in a "shared universe," crossing over into each other's films throughout the years. These classic monsters remain popular to this day, and their movies are still occasionally revived by the studio.

10.  James Bond
Created by Ian Fleming; debuted in 1953. The ultimate superspy, at his best 007 will leave you feeling shaken and stirred. And as his latest film Skyfall shows, he's still got a lot of mileage left in him, looking as timeless today with Daniel Craig in the role as he did when Sean Connery first uttered the famous line: "Bond. James Bond."

Honorable mention: Harry Potter
Created by J.K. Rowling; debuted in 1997. This is a relatively new entry, but it already has a rabid fan base. If the franchise is kept alive, it may some day rival the others on this list. The main hero's story always felt a bit underwhelming to me in the series, but the world itself it wonderfully detailed and rich for further exploration.

Honorable mention: Indiana Jones
Created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg; debuted in 1981. Indiana is one of the most loved characters in all of geekdom, but his body of work is pretty thin. Raiders, of course, is incomparable, and Last Crusade is awesome. If everything beyond that was half as good, we'd have a contender.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ding-dong, the Emperor is dead!

As it turns out, that six-film series George Lucas made called Star Wars was semi-autobiographical. It wasn't immediately obvious, because the beginning of George's real-life arc syncs up with prequels that began decades later, but here at the end it all makes sense.

In George's tale, he shows how a young, hot-shot director (young hot-shot Jedi Knight) does things no one else has ever done before and promises to create the greatest movie franchise in the history of Hollywood (bring balance to the Force) only to suddenly sell out (turn to the Dark Side) and mass-murder the childhood memories of fanboys everywhere (mass-murder youngling Jedi everywhere). In the service of his dark master (money), he creates his own company (Death Star) and exerts iron-fisted control over his financial (Galactic) empire, crushing all hope with his ass-clown excuses for storylines (evil Sith powers) and ridiculously CGI-happy animation team (ridiculously incompetent stormtrooper army).

This week, after he was too old and tired to have any fun with it anymore, he finally looked at us with his own, human eyes, saw the error of his ways and repented, saving his own soul in the process, overthrowing the evil empire he helped bring to power and restoring hope to fanboys (Galactic citizens) everywhere.
Yes, like all of you, I naturally harbor a lot of resentment towards the guy, even if, to extend the analogy (uncomfortably at this point), he is the father of all my hopes and dream. But I have been studying the Star Wars franchise ever since my dad (some “crazy old wizard”) first handed me a movie ticket and a bucket of popcorn (a lightsaber and a blindfold) in 1977. And I always believed there was still some good in him. After all, this is the man who invented (befriended) Wookiees. The man who put Princess Leia in a metal bikini when I was 12 (wooed Princess Amidala when he was 12). So he couldn’t be all bad, he just couldn’t.

And this week he proved it. So where does Star Wars go from here? Well, the spirit of Lucas (Vader) will continue to loom large over the franchise (Galaxy) going forward, but there will be new people charting its path now, and hopefully the fans' voices will be heard. They may make some mistakes along the way, but this is definitely what we’ve waited for all these years. Right now fanboys everywhere (the Rebellion) are in disarray, divided over what direction to continue and how to clean up the mess. But at last the fight is over. He has given us the chance to begin again. Let’s not let his sacrifice be in vain.

Long live the Republic!