The true geek is a fussy creature, for he/she is rarely sated. During the 2000s, and decades prior, attempts by mainstream filmmakers to base films on beloved fictional properties pertaining to niche markets and fan-bases were often derided for their lack of interest or care. It was felt there was less interest in creating artistically successful adaptations and appropriations of the source material in question, as opposed to making a quick, easy buck from title recognition alone.
From the most favoured of adaptations amongst geek property of the period, exemplified perhaps with such superhero fare as Donner’s Superman or Raimi’s Spiderman, along with the derided, such as the (unfortunately) action-oriented Star Trek: The Next Generation films, geek fictional property was notable for Hollywood’s indifference to strict adherence to fan wants as opposed to a marriage between brand appropriation and marketing targets.
In the 2010’s however, a miracle occurred. Not only are more Hollywood studios targeting geeky properties for the sake of box office gold-mining, but they are seemingly paying attention, or at least the specific filmmakers they have chosen are, to pleasing fans of the property or genre whilst creating filmsthat are successful both critically and commercially.
Behold, ten films of the 2010’s that have stunned byshowing a surprising consideration toward their whiny, ungrateful, often-stereotyped and heavily mocked, believed-to-be asocial, followers.
10. John Wick (David Lietch / Chad Stahelski, 2014)
If you suffered the misfortune of being a 14-year-old male for a long year of adolescence, then John Wick is that movie you wanted to star in and live in, whether you knew it or not.
Many a contemporary mainstream action film has, usually inaccurately, prided itself on carrying out a return to the ‘Golden Age’ of the genre’s history, the 1980s presumably, or at least decreeing itself an escape from CGI explosions, robots and an irritating adherence to grey seriousness and a lack of ‘fun.’ But, truly, is The Expendables trilogy that satisfying return to ‘movie machismo’ supposedly demanded by the genre’s many devoted junkies, or is it merely a reminder of the ‘good old days’ rather than a genuine, proper return?
If that simplistic, bloody, cinematic excess found a return in this decade, it was brought on by none other than Keanu Reeves himself, made iconic through genre classics such as Point Break, Speed, and, most notably, The Matrix.
A noted enthusiast of martial arts, and the cinema associated with it, an enthusiast who painstakingly learnt all he could in the filming of The Matrix, Keanu Reeves starred in 2014’s John Wick, a film directed by two noted Hollywood fight and stunt choreographers. Wick was a box office success, a hit amongst critics, but most of all, hailed by action junkies as a return to the gloriously simplistic, satisfying and sadistic action cinema of the past, with some visual loving devoted to the showcasing of intricate hand-to-hand violence to appease those with a taste for Kung Fu films (as Reeves himself is).
9. Big Hero 6 (Don Hall / Chris Williams, 2014)
No one ever accused Walt Disney Studios, especially in their , celebrated recent return to animation (after many a year of Pixar overshadowing their once-marvellous reputation) of making pictures that appealed solely to tasteless and simplistic youthful target audiences.
Whether that is through the genuine heart and drama evident in classics like Beauty and the Beast, the fairy tale-set gender-mocking satire that Tangled was so duly celebrated as being, or, most recently, their rendition of the current comic-book hero craze dominating the blockbuster market in Big Hero 6, they have always found a means by which as many audiences could enjoy (and purchase tickets to) their films as possible.
Mr. Eisner, the company’s CEO, perhaps to some shock from the naïve, stated bluntly, and perhaps reasonably, in 2005: “We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make a statement.” That may be true, but that hasn’t prevented his tireless workers, animators, artists and writers from working to produce work of genuine quality , as well as critic/fan-pleasing material.
But what made last year’s Big Hero 6 stand out, or at least what makes it relevant for placement on this listing/ranking here, was not just its adherence to source material of a geek variety. Indeed it is based on a Marvel Comics imprint, but more importantly than the dazzling, super-powered abilities of its characters, or the groovy technology-ridden San Francisco of its setting, that might recall in one a hypothetical child-appropriate creation of the likes of Akira (sans disgusting gore-beasts and telekinetic mass murder).
Big Hero 6 prides itself on celebrating those with an interest in topics normally labeled ‘geek,’ Hero, upon realizing that gathering a quantity of (in his words, no less) “nerds” within a room can produce scientific progress and an apparent indication of artistic fulfilment, deduces that it would be delightful to join the jock-ridiculed subculture.
Amongst other, likely more important, themes, Big Hero 6 dignifies an adoration toward those who like to indulge in the fantastical, the pretend-turned-reality, the hypothetical: the means with which the (currently) non-existent can empower one’s reality, which, at the end of the day, is arguably the basis for one devoting their life to geek-dom.
8. Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011)
Horror fans are among the most notable of all subcategories of cinephiles, and within the 21st century many of their lot have pined for the genre’s return to greatness and consistency in a market filled to the brim with found footage and jump scares.
Luckily, in the independent scene, filmmakers and craftsman like Ben Wheatley have been instrumental in gifting horror fans a fix of tribute and homage toward cult horror classics of yesteryear, particularly in the area of 1970s British genre entries, with major inspiration arising from the likes of The Wicker Man and Straw Dogs, as well as heavy love indicated regarding the Hammer titles of the 1960s.
No more was this trait of adoration present than in his 2011 picture Kill List, arguably his finest work to date, and one of the crowning horror titles of both the decade and the century so far.
Now, to delve heavily into the plot of Kill List, and the elements that define its horror status, would be to ruin what could absolutely be an extremely memorable viewing experience, so out of consideration I will refrain from doing so. If one enjoys the inspirations Wheatley is purported to celebrate, one owes it to oneself to indulge in this and his other works.
Most of Wheatley’s films exist without enough original elements to gain him a place in contemporary horror cinema. He isn’t doing anything particularly new so much as he is utilising new techniques to tackle classic content. Wheatley isn’t going to inspire any new movements or. At best, he’ll inspire a return to the old way of doing things, which is commendable, but no change or upheaval whatsoever. But likely as not, this is the man’s intention: to act as a living, breathing factory of cult classics, and so far in his career he has fulfilled this extraordinarily well.
7. The Hobbit Trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2012-2014)
Now, believe it or not, not all of these fabled ‘love-letters’ have found widespread success among fans of the original source material. Sometimes, attempts at shoving in as much fan service and assorted, gimmicky, exploitative usage of recognisable mythological imagery has wound up in excessive, extensive exercises in what some have considered an inappropriate and imbalanced handling of what was once a modest fairy tale extraordinaire.
Of course, this might not be the first issue someone might claim set back Peter Jackson’s second foray into Middle-Earth, but it’s one that is often cited during numerous discussions, debates and rants that the recent trilogy instigated. The inclusion of other Tolkien characters, from books other than The Hobbit, such as Radagast the Brown and Legolas, stirred controversy amongst the die-hard fans.
The filmmaker’s desire to connect the two cinematic trilogies both narratively and technically, has also been seen as a fruitless attempt to appease adorers of the Ring trilogy. This was in apparent ignorance of the majority who would have favoured something fresh, new, and tonally/stylistically distinct, reflecting the source literature, for the Hobbit adaptations.
Manipulating The Hobbit into a violent, fantasy epic with an emphasis on straight seriousness and constant reminders toward the dire stakes of its narrative was likely a successful soft kiss blown toward those who had experienced only the Jackson renditions of the Lord of the Rings, relishing in violence and physical combat rather than fantastical storytelling and adventure.
Attempting to balance this with blatant attempts at fan service toward the polar opposite of this audience, the Tolkien crowd, through shoehorning iconic and beloved (to this set of fans) imagery resulted in a trilogy that, in spite of the segments being shot back to back, seemed to change in intended audience for each film: the Tolkien nerds on the one hand, and the average popcorn audiences on the other..
That being said, time will likely come to regard this new trilogy in a finer, brighter light. Always trapped in the vast shadow of its predecessor no one can deny its face-value entertainment, spots of genuine charm and honest snippets of the movie magic Jackson has been long renowned for, whether the audience came from those devoted to Tolkien’s mythology, or are simply first-timers to Jackson’s Middle-Section-of-the-Novel-Must-Be-Extended-to-the-end-of-the-Earth.
6. Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
Now behold, another attempt at appeasing devotees and long-time fans of a fictional universe., Beset with a heavily mixed reaction, exaggerated claims of its criminal atrocity spread far and wide across a polarised internet community.
If one were to ever define an objective value present in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, it would be the world he has crafted. Of course, Scott has become notable as one of the world-building maestros of cinema, so naturally his return to Sci-Fi/Horror would, at the very least, be immensely appealing. The film’s sense of discovery and of the is so precisely realized it results in one of the most immersive cinematic experiences of the 2010’s, provided the dialogue is cut out and left to the viewer’s imagination.
On paper, Prometheus’ narrative and characters are narrow, lazily handled, and ultimately mostly forgettable. Overshadowed and overwhelmed through astonishing visuals, haunting alien ecosystems, technobabble, effective horror set pieces and nightmarish sounds, it becomes relatively tolerable.
Some have insistented that Prometheus’ supposed apparent connection to the Alien franchise, which was responsible for much of its initial hype and infectious buzz, was deliberately calculated to ensure viewers for an otherwise unmemorable concept and premise. Based on seeing the film and reading the screenplay this isn’t an unreasonable claim.