Things that Made Geeks Happy in 2017
The past 20 years have been increasingly good to geeks and nerds. We’ve become the target of major marketing and consumer campaigns, meaning that everyone is trying to make stuff we love. Plus the booming indie market gives us beautiful passion projects that experiment and explore new ideas.
Here’s a couple of stand-out moments for 2017!
SUPERHERO MOVIES ARE STILL AWESOME
Some commentators would claim that the meagre box-office of Justice League suggests an audience fatigue with the sub-genre, but it’s more likely a fatigue with sub-par movies. Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnorak and Wonder Woman all did just fine and were plenty of fun to watch. We also got films that pushed the genres into new and deconstructive directions, both in very different ways, in the forms of Logan and The Lego Batman Movie. The wider public audience is getting a real taste of why we love comics so much.
WOMEN IN HERO ROLES
Whilst we are making progress here the current expectation for media makers and audiences is that male is the default lead character and female is the niche alternative. 2017 saw a small number of significant female hero characters at the forefront. We have Offred in The Handmaids Tale, Rey returns in The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman destroyed the box office in her solo adventure and The Doctor, one of the longest running and endearing characters in science-fiction, underwent a gender switch.
HORROR MOVIES WON BIG
Horror isn’t to everyone’s taste, but we know they’re popular among geek culture. This year saw a number of expected and unexpected hits to tingle our spines. The new version of It demolished the box office and proved a critical hit, whilst comedian Jordan Peele’s foray into the genre with Get Out has made a number of ‘Top 10’ lists and is one of the best movies about race relations…ever. It Comes At Night was a great slow burn, Happy Death Day was a hoot, Mother! was…a thing.
What’s most impressive is that all these hits were original stories, whilst the sequels and reboots – Rings, Jigsaw, Leatherface, Cult of Chucky, Jeepers Creepers 3 – all fell flat. Perhaps we’re see more cool originals in the near future.
The small screen has, for a number of years, been some of the best content available to audiences. The overall quality of TV and streaming programs has been on the rise for years and 2017 saw some strange new sources being tapped for inspiration. In addition to the aforementioned The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel. Neil Gaiman’s surreal and dark modern religious fable American Gods was brought to life in a suitably twisted manner. Marvel’s mutants made two jaunts into our living rooms, firstly with The Gifted, a dystopian tale set between X-Men and Logan which improved with every episode. More impressive was the psychedelic and surreal Legion, based on the classic X-Men character.
Oh, and we also have…
BLACK MIRROR SEASON 4
When Black Mirror ended its run with six episodes and a Christmas Special it was a sore loss. Charlie Brooker’s bleak version of The Twilight Zone spun out disturbing, addictive and unsettling believable stories about where our current technological trends could well end up. What makes it disturbing is how often it proves to be right on the money with multiple far-fetched scenarios having come to be reflected in real life.
Fortunately Netflix stepped in to give the show a second life in 2016 giving us six new episodes. Now, as the new year dawns, we get six more twisted tales to trigger an existential crisis. If you haven’t indulged yet, you should. It’s one of the best things happening right now.
There wasn’t much to set the world of gaming on fire this past year. There were good games, that’s true, but nothing to redefine the landscape or become an instant classic. Cuphead, on the other hand, is well worth your time. It’s a work of art, not just because it was hand-animated and painted in watercolours. A pair of Canadian brothers (and one collaborator) have perfectly recreated the animation style of the 1930s for this brutally difficult game. If you have any inkling of interest in retro-animation or enjoy a challenge then this is worth a look.
STAR WARS CHALLENGES AUDIENCES
A big problem I’ve had with the Star Wars franchise is that it panders to the audience. In the past they’ve happily turned out garbage in the knowledge that it will sell. Not only that, the fans will actively defend it from criticism. From The Phantom Menace to The Force Unleashed any half-finished, tacky nonsense would bring in the money.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to its goliath franchise many cried foul, assuming that Disney would ruin it. Disney have been a huge boon for the brand because they understand that making good movies is a better long term strategy than marketing toys toys. Not only that but The Last Jedi is actively challenging the audiences rather than retreading old ground, and while some cranky fans have spat the dummy it only proves that the film-makers have some passion for their ideas.
I HATE IT BUT I LOVE IT
There’s a number of podcasts we make sure to check out every week, such as Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men and Hello Internet. This year saw a new kid on the block, a goofy, funny and heartfelt offering called I Hate It But I Love It. Each week on IHIBILI Jocelyn and Kat chat about a film or show that they hate and love simultaneously such as Now You See Me or Supernatural. They’re very, very funny and can take the piss like the best of them. We suggest checking out the Patreon for their additional podcast Dispatches From Fuckville Island.
Ah, boardgames…the hobby we wish we had more time for. I took up playing D&D this year so I’ve had less time for them than usual. Even then, there’s a couple of gems worth checking out. Secret Hitler has become publicly available and is an excellent take on the ‘Werewolf/Mafia’ format of party game. For miniature fans, copies of Mythic Battles: Pantheon, from the guys who made Conan, have been arriving on doorsteps (living in the furthest corner of the globe mine is still in the post, but reviews have been excellent). If you missed their Kickstarer, don’t panic…they’ve got a Batman game lined up for 2018.
THE LEGEND OF KORRA RETURNS
Avatar: The Last Airbender lived on through a comic series that explored the world under new leadership, conflicts arising among the main characters and an explanation of what happens to Zuko’s mother. These tales were on par with the original series and bridged the gap between Aang and Korra’s eras. Turf Wars: Part One arrived mid-2017 to continue the story of Korra, picking up immediately after her departure with Asami, and we can’t wait to see where this story will take us in January of the new year.
LOST IN ADAPTATION
This online series wasn’t new in 2017, but it did hit its stride this past year. Throughout 2016 YouTube viewer numbers spiked and it seemed as though the best way to garner popularity was to be the offspring of a failed marketing executive and howling monkey. While Pewdepie and The Fine Brothers still rank among the most successful in terms of subscriber numbers there are less ‘prank’ channels and more genuinely good content (and we’re not talking about YouTube Red, obviously).
Among our personal favourites are ScreenPrism, which does deep analytical dives into popular shows and movies, and Lost in Adaptation. The latter sees Dom Smith comparing movies to the books they’re based on, complete with a dry wit and an impressive level of nit-picking. If you want to know if the book/movie version of a favourite story is worth checking out or you want to know exactly what got changed in every Harry Potter adaptation, then this is the show.
Now to get drunk and wait to see what 2018 has for us.