The Hobbit is coming in hot this weekend, showing on half of the screens at the now-in-3D Village 8 Cinemas.
Fifty per cent of the screens! That's more than enough to win an election... The geeks have taken over the earth.
Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Judge Dredd, Hobbits, Orcs, dragons... the same stuff that used to get kids picked on in junior high is suddenly the new gold standard of popular culture. The D&D geeks just got last laugh. (At least the ones getting paid did.)
So as Swords-and-Sorcery and four-colour comic book heroes from my youth continue killing it at the movies these days (alongside new teen-lit fantasy tales like The Hunger Games) the question I have is: was I really that tapped into the future at age 14? Or is the world getting collectively dumber and more juvenile?
Probably it's a mix of both, but regardless, The Hobbit is here and the geeks are psyched. Lord of the Rings kind of came out of nowhere, surprising everyone with its popularity and quality, a literary world (sometimes) perfectly rendered.
This time around director Peter Jackson has many expectations plus a studio that wants to milk the source material for all it can. It's an uphill battle, but even if it slips The Hobbit will still rule to all of us who used to pass around each other's comic books and Dragonlance novels the same way other kids traded hockey cards. These are fantastical times for the dreamers and the loners and the kids who would stay up late reading incredible tales of adventure and danger. So let's check out some of top geek flicks that got us here:
Excalibur (1981) It's the legend of King Arthur, directed by John Boorman (Deliverance). The teenage-boy "wow" factor is really stepped up because it features a knight nailing a chick while still wearing his armor, but Excalibur also contains some pretty primal sword fighting and an all-English cast that sells the period piece aspect perfectly. This was one of the first fantasy-fiction style movies that didn't come across as a bit of a joke (see The Sword and the Sorcerer).
Willow (1988) Beside the fact that it's one of Val Kilmer's greatest roles ever, Willow also turned Warwick Davis into a household name (in some circles). With a story by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, this one features a birth-marked child and a wizard-to-be (a.k.a. some real Harry Potter-type shit) but instead of going to some creepy private school Willow and crew hit the open road and shows us how much size matters.
Conan the Barbarian (1982) Besides proving that adapting literary franchises is not a new Hollywood trick, Conan stands out mostly because it introduced the mainstream to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but John Milius's stripped-down screenplay about the legendary Cimmerian also truly set the standard for fantasy and Sword-and-Sorcery-type flicks. James Earl Jones lays it down pretty badass and the witch sex scene is no joke either.
Legend deserves a mention, so does The Dark Crystal as genius Muppeteer Jim Henson brought the story to life. Labyrinth is another Henson gem, and not just because it had Bowie and Jennifer Connolly (who's been smoking hot since forever). DragonSlayer and Krull can be considered must-watches. The guy who made DragonSlayer later went on to make another high school classic — The Legend of Billie Jean. Go rent that and call me in the morning. You don't even have to watch it, just take the video box cover home for the night.
Billie Jean is also notable because Christian Slater is in it — who would later help the geek kids grow up cool with Pump Up the Volume and Heathers.