I grew up in the ‘80s. Back then, nerds were not cool. They were nerds. If you read comic books, you were not cool. If you could explain at length, and did explain at length, whether or not anyone asked you to, why Star Trek II was the best Star Trek movie ever, you were not cool. If you knew who Rick Baker was, and why he mattered, you were not cool. If you loved weird science fiction and horror movies, you were not cool. Nerds were nerds. The ignored. The hated. The underdogs. Movies like Meatballs and Revenge of The Nerds worked because that’s who you root for in movies: the underdogs.
Nerds are not the underdogs anymore.
All those ‘80s kids have grown up. For the past decade, they have been rising higher and higher in the movie world. And now? Now they run it. They make the movies, they review the movies, they decide what’s good, they decide what gets made. And what gets made? Nerd movies. Nerds have gone mainstream, and their movies are killing the industry.
What do we have to look forward to in the realm of big summer movies this year? Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2 (or more accurately 12), Superman (the 6th), Wolverine (the 2nd? 5th? I don’t even know how to count these), and Pacific Rim. Nerd movies. Which are, respectively, a third sequel of a comic book character, a second sequel of a third reboot of a TV show, the first movie of a third reboot of a TV show based on a comic book, the first movie of a reboot of a spin-off of a thrice sequelized series once re-booted based on a comic book, and the first movie made from a series of Japanese comics (which features the holy-nerd-grail of both giant robots and giant monsters doing battle). It’s hard to keep track of how many times we’ve seen these movies, so quickly are they made, sequelized, rebooted, reconfabulated, de-re-contextualitized, and otherwise vermiciously zarniwooped.
Every single big budget picture nowadays has its roots in either ‘80s nerd movies, when all of these filmmakers were kids, or comic books. And unlike in the ‘80s, we’re supposed to take these movies seriously, or so insist the nerds who review the movies at the nerd movie websites. We’re supposed to call Shane Black an auteur, when what we’re watching is corporate movie-making at its most advanced and refined, the new corporate, run by the one-time nerds all grown up into the reigning elite, they who both spend and make more money than anyone who came before.
Marvel and Universal have superhero movies planned well into the teens. If you’re not up on this stuff, The Avengers isn’t just another blockbuster superhero movie, it’s the start of “Phase Two” of the Marvel on-screen universe. As for DC, they seem to be suffering from indecision and ineptitude, but not for lack of trying. Man Of Steel is here, Spiderman Again Part 2 is on its way, and the Batman reboot can’t be far behind. And those are just the major superheroes. There are another, oh, million or so in the wings–Biscuit Man, The Amazing Spatula, She-Narwhal, The Flying Insole, Mr. Cricket, to name but a few–itching for their shot at the big-time. As for Disney? They bought Star Wars. Coming soon, a new Star Wars movie once a year, every year, for so long as we all shall live.
I suppose it’s inevitable. Like the ‘60s hippies who grew up and ushered in the era of ‘80s greed and blockbusters in the first place, now the nerds are done with cult films, and done with being the little guys. Comic-Con is the new mainstream. There are hordes of people on-line, haunting movie sites, who will defend to the death everything from Tron: Legacy to The Watchmen, two movies so mainstream your little sister and frat-boy brother count them among their favorites. Which is the other irony. These nerd movies, though made by nerds and beloved by nerds, are designed for audiences at large. How many of the 90 billion people who saw The Avengers had ever read an Avengers comic? Precious few. What’s important is that nerds are now the tastemakers. If they want Avengers, that’s what they get. That’s what we get.
Aw, hell and goddammit! I don’t know what I’m driving at, my brain is jetlagged, I don’t know what time it is, or where I am, or whether the world-famous monument I’m supposed to visit tomorrow is about to be blown up by Zod or The Demonic Fish Lord (who I hope to see in the movies soon). I think I have a point in here somewhere, and the point is that nerds aren’t nerds anymore, which has left me with a bit of a personality quandary, having once been that weird ‘80s kid who had a ranked list of favorite directors by age 12 that included David Cronenberg. Hurm.
Wait now, who am I again? I’m not a movie-nerd, because movie-nerds aren’t nerds, they’re not-nerds, while the actual nerds are the popular kids running the show. And they’re running it into the ground! Yeah, that’s my point! Is there no room left for an original bloated-budget movie? Are we really reduced to having only Christopher Nolan and James Cameron to cite? How did we get here? Where are you driving us, nerds? To a world with nothing but superheroes blowing shit up? Is that really where you always wanted to be? Wouldn’t you rather create a world where studios funded and promoted smaller movies too, like Upstream Color and John Dies At The End? Wouldn’t you rather a world that took ‘80s movies like Repo Man, Videodrome, and The Hidden as its inspiration? And fer chrissakes, not as remake fodder to prey on our nostalgia! Spare us your RoboCop, Evil Dead, and Clash of The Titans remakes! Why not encourage new talent to make weird new movies? Ya know, nerdy movies?
I know. Weird movies are out there, creeping around the margins, same is it ever was. Thank heavens. It’s just a shame that the one-time weirdos from the ‘80s have forgotten their weirdo roots and have instead used their new-found powers to merely intensify the size, scope, and reach of the mega-blockbusters begun in their youth. Look upon thy works, ye nerdy, and despair…