The Geekpocalypse Is Here, And It’s (Thankfully) Only The Beginning

patton-oswalt-star-warsA few years ago, as 2015’s tentpole schedule came into focus, there was an odd panic/excitement going around the film community. Badass Digest, for example, started adding “2015 Deathwatch” to the title of any story about blockbuster release dates, and the phrase “geek apocalypse” began to pop up regularly. The concern was that the sheer tonnage of major geek-friendly releases slated for this year would be too much, and that many movies would fail just because there wouldn’t be enough audience to go around. And on some level, they’re probably right. This year brings us Star Wars, Mad Max, Jurassic World, Avengers, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four, James Bond, two Pixars, Fast & Furious, Terminator, Hunger Games and I’m out of breath now. So yeah, there’s a lot of geek-friendly material out there, or at the very least a lot of marquee brands out there, and I for one am absurdly excited, because this is just the beginning of what seems like Hollywood’s total obsession with trying to make me personally happy.

These trends have been building for the last few years, but 2015 is clearly the epitome of this geek-centric mindset. While some of these franchise revivals certainly seem to be motivated more by cheap corporate logic than any sort of personal passion (ahem, Terminator: Genisys), there are way more that are coming from a place of great enthusiasm. Of course, having committed fans of these franchises taking the reins won’t always work out, but it’s certainly better than treating them like disposable assets. I’ve previously established my returning enthusiasm for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, and of course both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man are on my must-see list. Additionally, Spectre (the new Bond), Inside Out, and Mad Max: Fury Road all sound/look incredible. However, it’s probably worth noting that there are less-noticeable (and potentially more original) films scattered across this year’s calendar as well, and I figure that those are worth pointing out.

kingsman-secret-service-trailer-breakdown-19First there’s the sudden spy movie revival, which is bringing us the likes of Kingsman, Spy, Grimsby, Man from UNCLE, and Steven Spielberg’s Cold War Thriller. Before we get to the new James Bond movie in November, we get all of these different takes on the spy film first. Kingsman and (presumably) Grimsby will be the most direct riffs on the Bond formula, though it will be interesting to see what Guy Ritchie does with UNCLE, given that it was also originally created by Ian Fleming. Spy is the latest Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy joint which will probably be more in line with The Heat than 007, though with Jude Law and Jason Statham onboard I assume we will get some sort of humor at Bond’s expense. Spielberg’s film (which I thought might be called St James Place but I only saw that tidbit once) is probably the furthest departure, being a historical drama from Steven Spielberg, but telling a real-world ’60s spy story just before the latest adventure of the ultimate ’60s spy is a fun contrast all it’s own. It is a bizarre calendarial coincidence for the whole genre, and while I hope Spectre doesn’t end up worse for wear after all this deconstruction (after Skyfall, I doubt it) I’m very glad to see so many alternative takes on the concept. Kingsman in particular seems like a great throwback to classic, cartoonish Bond, with some modern style and an interesting mentor/student dynamic mixed in. I’m very excited for it, and I’m sure at least some of these other films will be winners as well.

3038064-poster-p-1-meet-chappieOn the other side of things we have a major scifi revival, with Jupiter Ascending, Chappie, Ex Machina, Tomorrowland, The Martian, and Midnight Special all coming out. It’s a great-looking collection of original scifi, most of them coming from skilled past contributors to the genre. This year will have movies from the people that made The Matrix, District 9, 28 Days Later, The Iron Giant, and Alien (yeah I don’t trust Ridley Scott anymore either, but Drew Goddard wrote this one, so I’ll stay optimistic). The biggest question mark comes from Jeff Nichols and Midnight Special. Nichols has never done anything like this, and the idea of his down-to-earth characterization and thematic work being applied to a low-key genre concept is fascinating to me. Unlike the spy movie trend this year, the scifi resurgence is much more varied in terms of approach, with numerous subgenres coming into play. The one real overlap is with Chappie and Ex Machina, both of which deal with potential sentience in artificial intelligence; they each are taking very different paths to get there but the thematic ground is similar. Aside from that we have a wild-looking space opera, a survival story set on Mars, a John Carpenter-esque superpowered road movie, and an interdimensional retro-style science adventure. So yeah, a pretty varied collection of scifi premises coming from an equally varied collection of filmmakers, which is basically heaven for me.

I think it’s important to keep these more original, less recognizable titles in mind as this smorgasbord of geek movies plows ahead. While I’m sure to enjoy Star Wars and Avengers as much as anyone, it’s always good to have a variety of new ideas out there as well. This year is being particularly generous to us in this regard, and we should respond in kind. That is the one danger of such a geek-friendly tentpole landscape: the industry will try so hard to pander to our preexisting interests that both sides will forget or ignore the fresh meat. But in 20-30 years, the Wachowkis’ Jupiter trilogy could be the same pop culture titan that Star Wars is now, and Ex Machina or Chappie could be the next Blade Runner. Enjoying the old favorites is great, but making room for some new favorites is paramount.

And this is only the beginning: 2016 is going to be even bigger for geek films. Besides 5 currently-scheduled Marvel-based projects (from Marvel Studios, Fox and Sony), there’s also the next big step in the DC Movieverse with Batman vs Superman, and David Ayer’s bonkers-sounding Suicide Squad. Not to mention the likes of Warcraft, Tarzan, Star Trek 3, The Conjuring 2, Uncharted, Finding Dory, new Planet of the Apes, a Harry Potter spinoff, King Arthur, Independence Day 2, another new Star Wars and the beginning of a shared-universe for the Universal movie monsters. But just like this year, there will be plenty of new ideas out there too, and we shouldn’t forget them. If this is a geek world, then geeks should take the opportunity to stand up for original ideas and try and help at least some of them reach the same heights as Star Wars and the Avengers. There are plenty of new worlds being brought to us this year, and next; let’s go claim them for ourselves and future geeks.

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