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This is a type of racism.

10. Trek/LOTR: The False Empire

Personally I have nothing against hardcore fans of Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings because I don’t know any. But when I say the word, “Fan Convention,” you probably picture what you’ve seen on TV, the very stereotyped image of fat guys dressed up like Klingons, with the forehead and everything, or cute chicks in elf costumes (booth babes) paid to solicit sex appeal. Let’s focus on the fat guy though.

Thing about fans of Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings is they are what we think of when we think “uncool nerd.” Nerds today are cool, for whatever reason, but these guys are the traditionalists. They got heart. But they’re parody-magnets, and reflexively self-deprecating.

9. The Internet

This one would be #1 but it’s too broad. Let me specify. These are the guys who both attempt to get very high ratings on YouTube comments, and cannot stand it when people attempt to get very high ratings on their YouTube comments. These can be the most spiteful, bigoted individuals who form a mass collective of the faceless, shrouded and shielded in the armor of anonymity. It’s an old criticism, but these people have yet to stop.

8. Non-Conformists

This relates to #2 on this list. When there’s a big popular thing out, where right now it’s The Hunger Games and Twilight, there are people who will love them, and people who will refuse to touch them. The camps are set, and historically it’s always been this way. There’s a certain phobia people have about popular things, about maybe ‘selling out’ or ‘if you can’t beat em, join em!’ as if this was some sort of competition.

7. Ex-Star Wars

Being more of an Indiana Jones guy myself, I could recognize but not empathize with the Tragedy of Darth Vader, that is, the downfall of the Star Wars trilogy duology. Especially since the last live-action Star Wars film to be released (not re-released) is easily my favorite. 1999 was a crazy year for Star Wars fans, who bought tickets for Wing Commander just to see the trailer for The Phantom Menace, and then leave before Wing Commander started. But then, you know what happened. I think Spaced put the post-Phantom Menace angst the best (“Jar-Jar makes the Ewoks look like fucking Shaft!”) and it touched on that very real nerve in pop culture.

But it’s been so long that they’ve re-released Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, in 3D, yet in that time the fire has only grown, as Lucas has continued to make bad decision after bad decision and care only about technology and the Clone Wars, but I think I’ve personally had enough. Extreme hatred is of course a measure of passion, and Star Wars has elicited great passion over its many years in existence, but I don’t know. Lucas is a businessman first, having long since given up on being an art film director, and focusing on moving the franchise sideways, infinitely sideways. We won’t see any proper sequels, we won’t see that live-action TV series. Not in his lifetime, unfortunately.

6. Arcade Fire

I’ve never heard Arcade Fire’s music, but I know that fans of alternative indie-rock all seem to like Arcade Fire. But at this point, they probably diss on Arcade Fire because it’s old. That’s the beef I got with fans of that type of music. I’ve found that these guys are really sensitive about their fandom (like all fans), with the whole “I liked that band before they were cool” thing. Ownership of what’s fanned over (fawned over, equally applicable) is always uncomfortable, because no one person can stake a claim to what they’re into. This isn’t just something that reccurs within fans of this obscure type of music, who probably resent the movies Drive and Scott Pilgrim for opening up all sorts of weird genres to a broader audience, but in movies too, where for me it’s the most troubling.

Some people, and I’ve been guilty of this, don’t seem to get that more people experiencing what you like is good — unless #9 on this list plays into it. I would love to discuss all things Alien Quadrilogy with a fellow nerdlet, but then again, I would probably go seething if some fool rolled up on me and was like “I’m a huge fan of science-fiction… because of David Lynch’s Dune…”

5. Cinephiles

I don’t want to hear your crap about whatever obscure movie from the mid-60s in France (the only time/place good movies came out of) or theories or movements because it’s all garbage and get out. I think the real problem I have with movie superiority is trashing on ‘lesser’ films, which typically are those directed by Michael Bay. I’m not too keen on Transformers, but Michael Bay has a solid eye for visuals and action. He doesn’t subscribe to auteur theory, because that theory is actually horseshit.

The thing about people who delve into the obscure is that they do just that. In an Age of the Internet anybody can know anything at anytime. In a week I can learn a whole lot about… this insect. But I can’t waddle up to you the next day and be like, “The dung beetle is … and that’s fascinating because … significance,” because you could just as easily sling trivia about… this car.

4. Whedonites

What’s worse, people who love Joss Whedon, or people who hate Joss Whedon? I cannot decide. I’m a fan of Firefly, and I greatly enjoyed Dr. Horrible, but I’m not a real reader of comics, and I’ve only seen a few episodes of Buffy, so while I like Joss Whedon, I also tire of his quirks. But I’m talking about the people who don’t tire of his quirks, and specifically I’ve had two college professors profess their love for Buffy — one going so far as to say that it’s the most important TV show in its time — which to me is crazy. Does it piss me off? Of course not, but I’m aware that high passions for things generate all sorts of heat. This is Whedon’s year too — we’ll see what happens for the dude.

3. Video-Gamers

There’s so many layers to this one; how do we approach it? Most recently there was the Mass Effect 3 kerfuffle that spawned an irritating meme, throughout time (since mid-2000s) we’ve had ‘those 12 year old kids on XBL,’ and the persistent image of the gamer as an immature loser ‘livejournaling from his mom’s basement.’ Video-games have definitely gotten cooler and sexier and all that, but children do make up a majority of the audience — just walk down any video-game aisle of your local Bestbuy or Circuit City (?) and take a gander at all the blood-soaked, assault-rifle toting heroes of war, standing over the conquered Arabs or Aliens plastered on box after box.

Games like Heavy Rain and BioShock do attempt to legitimize the medium, but as long as vdeo-gamers will be predominantly kids… they’ll stay at #3. I hate kids.

2. Trenders

I guess another term for these would be like, “Mainstream Fans,” which might sound bitchy on my part, but hear me out. There are passionate fans of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, no doubt, but these things are so popular that you’ll get two types of non-fans: those who read or watch to join in on the conversation and keep up, and those who really get into it and then decide it’s uncool when everybody else has. They’re the real killers of these franchises (remember Eragon? Artemis Fowl?) although I’m sure quality of product plays a part.

When I was younger I always felt that Metallica would never die because while it was popular, it was never really like the biggest thing. That was always for like N Sync and Lady Gaga, so they could have their corner and keep it. In time of course I’d come to understand to some degree the complexities of the music industry, but I think the principle applies here. The Hunger Games unfortunately will fall hard, because it flies high right now. If I picked up The Da Vinci Code today, or hell, possibly even The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, I’d probably get laughed at for being behind on the times.

I’ll stick with my Philip K. Dick, although he’s starting to get really popular. That makes me so mad (#6).

1. Otakus

Well here we have the big one, the great godfathers of all fans and nerds. To explain, the ‘otaku’ is the term Americans use to describe American fans of Japanese anime & manga first and foremost, but also of Japanese culture. Otakudom is a scary thing, often synonymous with ideas such as the notorious and nefarious ‘furries,’ who often believe they are fantasy monsters born in the incorrect, human bodies.

This is only one example of why anime fans are so reviled by fans of anime and people who have tertiary knowledge of this culture — there’s also the anime/manga itself, which are mediums rife with tentacle porn, little girl porn, demon porn, alien porn — you get the picture. It’s weird stuff, the stuff that makes Akira look downright western. I’d recommend podcasts like Anime World Order or Fast Karate for the Gentleman for more information on the weirdness of anime. They’re fans, but also normal people, so they can comment on all the weirdness with a relatable voice.

The Otaku culture is one that’s maybe misunderstood, I don’t know. I do know that I would never, ever want to visit an Otakon or anything like that because… furries, man. I think American culture is a little hard on flamboyance, and I can understand that to an extent. I don’t appreciate the stereotypical ‘flamboyant gays’ when I see them because they, you know, perpetuate a dangerous stereotype, but these are just kids having fun. They do, frequently, take that fun too far, but fandom is a celebration of the things you like with people who share that interest. The Internet’s made that easier, and even if it’s caused a whole hell of a lot of hell, we got something good out of it. They did, at least.

Editing is the unsung hero of film. It’s also the unsung hero of selling film, and I figured to honor that fact by listing off what I feel are the most effective, manipulative, or just downright cool scifi trailers to come along. Sometimes it’s the music, the dialogue over certain images, the action editing, or maybe that it’s just a good movie, as in District 9‘s case–I love these trailers, and I love trailers in general. That’s half the reason why I go to see movies nowadays. Except, they had a trailer for something really weird in front of The Thing (not a movie I went to see for the trailers, just so we’re clear, that movie kicks ass), some teenage comedy…


5. District 9 – Badass

D9 was considered to be a sleeper hit, and word-of-mouth plays a big part of that, which is a good thing. Movies should be rewarded on their standalone merits, rather than merely the merits of their marketing. Of course, this had pretty good marketing, too. I never saw any of the physical stuff, the signs and shit, but I also live nowhere, so never mind. I did however see the trailer, and I’m not one who goes on and just sits there watching trailers (if I did, I’d be lost to the Internet in the lamest cyber-addiction yet), so when I did for this one I was skeptical at best. You better be good…

Boy-O, man. This trailer is good mostly because they had an excellent source to draw from. I bet that all the D9 trailers are good. What a great flick…

4. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Cinematic Trailer

This one gives us a taste of the game’s requisite cyberpunk philosophical tendencies, and segues quick into a tour of the world complete with robot spiders and arms that turn into guns–draws us in, and we haven’t even seen a lick of gameplay. We won’t, and that’s fine because they had my money when they announced this damn game. That’s irrelevant. This trailer, and the Gears of War trailer and the one for Bioshock are analogous to the greater video-game industry’s push toward the big and the cinematic. The movie-like Uncharted 3 just came out and BLEW EVERYBODY’S FUCKING MINDS. I’ll never play it; Uncharted 2 wasn’t my speed, but I think this is a good and bad thing. Who knows if I’ll cook up an excuse here to talk about video-games further–time will tell.

For now, let’s say this. This trailer is really good stuff. Cheesy voice acting and somewhat histrionic lines, “the body will heal, but the mind is not so resilient,” works in tandem, and works quite well for some odd reason. I love the guy who’s like “They cannot stop us. They cannot stop the future.” Since when was “can’t” not good enough? Doesn’t matter–sounds cool.

3. Star Trek – Fan Trailer

Something about this one that I really dig. It echoes the romantic vision of space adventures (but with that modern spice) of the 2009 movie, and has the great sweeping camera moves and energy that make Star Trek stand out from every single one of its predecessors. In particular, I really like that shot of John Cho ready to fight, the way it flows with shots of other characters and you get that big music overlaying the whole thing (Freedom Fighters, by Two Steps from Hell) and dialogue from the gang and Romulan Villain Nero.

2. Avatar: The Aliens Trailer

They played this exact trailer (there are other TV spots like it) during some football game, which my dad was watching on a big, projected screen. I just about wet myself when I saw this trailer, because I, like everyone else, wasn’t 100% sold on the first few trailers for Avatar. This showed a movie that’s exactly what I want to see: Aliens. Not only Aliens, but like, Mega-Aliens. The marines are all OOH-RAH and they’re shooting their future guns and riding their robot suits and it all looks so pretty and violent and all about the space military…

God bless and also screw you to the editor who compiled this. God bless because it’s a great 30-second piece of entertainment, but screw you because you sold me the wrong movie. I would’ve seen Avatar anyway, but this got my hopes up to levels totally unecessary. Somehow, in the context of the movie, the lines, “We got movement out there,” and all that aren’t as exciting.

1. Blade Runner: The Final Cut – The Fountain?

The song, Tree of Life, I believe, is really awesome, very intense, and there’s no better movie to compliment it (aside from, you know, The Fountain) than Blade Runner. If only The Final Cut wasn’t a poop version of The Director’s Cut, this trailer would be perfect, but as it stands, we got all the Blade Runner trappings, snippets of classic dialogue like: More human than human is our motto, and I want more life sprinkly this ominous and foreboding little ad. They somehow made one of the boringest movies on record seem exciting, and for that, I give you five stars.

This was super easy to compile, I’ll do this again.

Science-fiction in particular is heartily impacted by the scourge of the film adaptation. I guess that’s just one of the reasons why I didn’t hate Battle: Los Angeles as much as I should have: it was an original story, albeit a poorly told one, and essentially the Marine version of Independence Day. Sounds good, right? Save your money. But anyways, film adaptations really piss me off because it makes the medium of film just a vessel for stories we’ve already experienced. It’s a storytelling recycler, and that’s not cool. With science-fiction in the modern times, we have the superhero comic adaptations. This year will see the release of Thor and Captain America. I prefer a movie like Battle: LA because both types of movies use ridiculous amounts of money, but Battle: LA shows me something cooler and bigger. Instead of a superhero and a supervillain fighting in New York (Toronto), we get soldiers fighting aliens in the mid-apocalypse. Chaos – we see very clearly where the money went.

But I don’t want to generalize with adaptations. Indeed Blade Runner, the greatest science-fiction film of all time, is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, though rather loosely. So today I’m not gonna go on an anti-adaptation rant – that’ll come later – rather, I’m going to celebrate the approach to storytelling with some of the better ones, and the various methods filmmakers undertook.

Case 1. Star Trek (2009)

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the screenwriters behind J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the second biggest franchise in science-fiction, wrote basically a better version of an earlier script: Transformers from 2007. Transformers has a great script with awful dialogue. It accomplishes so much: pleased old fans while introducing the world to new ones, combining old mythos with new story elements, introducing a new, human, character, and set up solid set pieces, letting the infamous director run wild with spectacle. It didn’t accomplish the most basic aspect of the screenplay in my opinion, but that’s just where Star Trek one-ups it. The script for Star Trek was funny, dramatic, and even poigniant, while also doing most of what Transformers did.

As a movie, Star Trek is great for its visuals, its story, and the casting: Karl Urban is totally the man and gets overused as the stereotypical macho man. Simon Pegg was great as usual, and Zoe Saldana never once said “You will never be one of the People.” I also really dug the villain, even if his motivations were the only true weak part of the movie. I think he worked not because he was sympathetic or hardcore, but because he set the events in motion and perfectly brought together the characters, which was the point of the origin story.

Relative to the series and movies, Star Trek is an excellent adaptation, easily the best Trek flick I’ve thus far seen (Wrath of Khan and Star Trek 2009). It’s classic pulp adventure but strikingly modern without taking the Battlestar Galactica approach and making everybody sulk around. Science-fiction and space here offers us some interesting ideas, and no, Roger Ebert, this movie wasn’t about Roddenbery science, but it had just enough genre tropes to keep the hardcore fans satisfied without boring the mainstream. Pleasing everybody was clearly Star Trek‘s goal, because Star Trek is damn good at doing what it does.

Case 2. A Scanner Darkly (2006) [Spoiler Alert]

There are portions in the book that are lifted scene for scene on the silver screen in Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, himself already a decicated fan of Philip K. Dick as demonstrated in his earlier A Waking Life. My favorite would have to be the conversation in the truck where Barris reveals he’s set up a surprise for any intruders, which is hugely paranoid in the book and sends our hero Arctor reeling mentally, playing over scenarios and hypotheses, but in the movie, it’s just a funny scene. The adaptation here was both incredibly faithful, and completely smart.

Scenes were translated, but more importantly the main ideas were. The narrative in A Scanner Darkly the book is diluted by side stories and reminiscings – the movie is more direct and the story comes across clearly over an arc that’s more consice. The end is paced rather quickly, where Arctor is finally broken down by the revelation that yes, he is Arctor, and the preceding movie, which is more spread out and slow, builds up the pyschological decline.

The exploration into the deadly world of drugs is enhanced by a dreary vision of the future, and both stories underscore darkness and literary genius with humor. Both the novel and the movie are very funny, and this makes the tragedy of the various characters’ ends that much greater. The visuals of course have to be mentioned – take a look at a single frame of the movie. Indeed that is how the entire movie looks all the way through; it’s a labor of extended effort from a film crew, under the supervision of a passionate filmmaker in love with great material.

Case 3. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

This is the story of a great film coming from an okay source material. Masamune Shirow is big on cool ideas, but also big on making things ‘funny.’ Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell is the most humorless movie I could think of, well, except for Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2. So it drops the comedic elements and goofy characters but retains the story and the philosophical elements. Themes of technological invasion reaching even into our bodies and minds are heightened by the film, brought to new levels of horror. The visuals in Ghost in the Shell the movie are also beautiful and helped out by motion and sound. Spider tanks, exploding women, market shootouts, rainy subtext ladled montages are all vibrant and contribute to the movie’s status as groundbreaking in the medium of anime.

Case 4. Blade Runner (1982) [Spoiler Alert]

Another Philip K. Dick movie, which is strange for an author of such hallucinatory and wacked out material. Blade Runner is a great adaptation because all the positives of the original novel are intact, but more good stuff is piled on in addition to an already solid base, thanks to a final script by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is about nazis. At least, that’s what it was inspired by, thanks Philip K. Dick was interested by how inhuman nazies were in their various historical activities, and wrote a story about dehumanization and paranoia starring a world populated by androids and those who hunt androids.

Those who hunt androids, who I believe are just policemen, have a character named Rick Deckard in their number. He’s got a new job that he took to pay for a real animal, not an artificial one. The job gets complicated when he tangles with romance and then questions of humanity and reality. It’s a good story, but from what I recall, it was the filmed version that introduced the theme of life and death that I fell in love with.

Roy Batty, the leader of the Replicants in Blade Runner, seeks out Tyrell on Earth (where he is in danger) in order to live longer. There’s nothing more sympathetic than that, and yet he’s the villain. His character arc offers a tragedy that highlights the end of the film, where his eventual acceptance of death sees the rescue of our dehumanizing hero. It’s now up to Rick Deckard to turn his life around, and in the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut, might just do that with a future romance with Rachel.

Case 5. Apocalypse Now (1979) [Spoiler Alert]

And finally we reach the only non-science-fiction film on the list, though if you weren’t too up on your history, you might mistake it as fantasy. Apocalypse Now is, from what I’ve seen, the best film adaptation ever made, and certainly one of the best movies ever made. Pure, powerful filmmaking at its finest, a magnum opus to be reckoned with. But it’s a great adaptation because the story, Heart of Darkness, was perfectly translated onto film and was enhanced by the Vietnam War.

This movie edges out Blade Runner because of its brilliance in conception. Blade Runner became brilliant over time, a long ass time to be sure. Francis Ford Coppolla’s pairing of the Vietnam War to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was a stroke of genius, indicting the conflict while positing ideas on the human condition. I have not read the Conrad novella, but I am familiar with the story – it’s a classic, one of those that you hear about before reading the book, like The Count of Monte Cristo and Romeo and Juliet. Basically what you have is an exploration in madness, and what better way to do this than through the Vietnam War, a conflict of confusion and chaos, a war fought about the biggest nothing in history, as one character remarks.

The end of the movie sees Col. Kurtz talking about how the horrors of war drove him to do terrible things in the name of victory, which is so important to the American mentality, as previously established by Kilgore. It’s the actual factual American politics that back the idea that war is fucked up, and this is embodies wholly by the Conradian elements of insanity and the darkness in the hearts of men.

A book is not very visual, no matter what images it evokes in your brain. Apocalypse Now embraces the visual medium of film with passion – the beauty and horror of the beach invasion set to the Valkyries music makes for an intense experience that both shocks you into blankmindedness, but leaves you with so much to think about. The faces moving in and out of shadow recreate the themes of the movie in a cleverly visual way, and the war scenes are staggering without being documentary-styled, which has defined how one shoots war in a post-Saving Private Ryan world.

Honorable Mentions: The Thing (1982), They Live, Serenity, The Dead Zone

The Bad Adaptations: Memoirs of a Geisha, Dune


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