Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Nerd Year: 2012

As we move into the new year, we're often bombarded with vain nostalgia for the past year and cacophonous pledges to accomplish this or that in the coming annum. In the interest of actually posting a somewhat timely topical article, I wanted to post something about the coming year. But, rather than add to the din of New Year wishes, here's a tribute to Nerd Year 2012--a preview of movies, games, and other nerd bread-and-butter coming up in the next dozen months.

Movies of 2012
John Carter of Mars
Coming out March 9, 2012
This is a classic piece of pulp-era nerdery, based on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is a sci-fantasy epic about a Civil War veteran who finds himself transported to a brutal, dying Mars--dubbed Barsoom by the Martians. Once there, John Carter finds that he's imbued with terrific strength on this other world, and he quickly becomes a sensational hero to the disparate tribes of Martians. Despite being set on Mars and featuring a few pieces of shiny that the uninitiated might mistake for technology, the Barsoom series is a fantasy series of eleven books that spans a couple generations of characters in a romantic, flesh-baring vision of Mars as a paradise slipping into a desert. The film adaptation is supposed to be based on A Princess of Mars, and--while a few changes have obviously been made--the previews so far look very promising for this to be a faithful translation to screen. The cast features some strong, seasoned actors in key roles to anchor the film--Dominic West, James Purefoy, and Willem Dafoe--while some standout young actors play the leads. If nothing else, John Carter of Mars will be a completely unique action-adventure experience, with spectacle and glitter amongst hard pulp-era muscle and excitement.

Coming out May 18, 2012
This film, if you can take the fickle opinions of internet personalities seriously (which you can't), signals the downfall and low-point of western culture. Forget about Mamma Mia, the Clue movie, or the whole debacle that is the SyFy channel: basing an action special effects movie on the Battleship board game is the death knell of western culture. 2012, indeed.

Or, you know what, I could admit that I'm excited to see this movie. It'll probably be bad, predictable, and justifiably panned as a franchise-exploitation flick. But you know what? Battleship can use some cross-market franchising--Hasbro basically tanked the awesome Battleship Galaxies board game before it was even released, and that was the first notable product in this line for years. So who cares if there's a rushed crappy video game based on the movie, or lunch boxes, or plastic alien masks that croak "you sunk my battleship"? The movie will be starring Liam Neeson, feature yet another set of aliens in giant spaceships covered with oil refinery greebles, and the latest trailers show boarding actions and alien power armor. That's cool. It also looks like it wants to be a US Navy promotion vehicle, with a lot of first act glamor shots and steel-jawed squids making Nelsonian calls. This, too, I'm thrilled about. And, if more people can be a little less concerned about the negative hype the movie's getting, I bet the theaters will be populated by entertained popcorn-munchers.

The Hobbit
Coming out December 14, 2012
This is the big one: true nerd bread. Seriously. After a little period of production limbo, The Hobbit is nearly out, and with Peter Jackson directing once more. With a full-length trailer out, you can get a glimpse of everything any real nerd needs to get fully pumped: all of the original actors reprising their roles, with the marvelous Martin Freeman playing the young Bilbo Baggins; thrilling visuals; the combination of humor and dark adventure particular to The Hobbit; singing. That's right, the singing excites a real fan of Tolkien's premier work. A central narrative and immersive element of Middle Earth, songs are a colorful cultural thread of ancient sensibility throughout the books--especially The Hobbit. The latest trailer shows the dwarves singing about the Lonely Mountain and seems to show clips of what can only be the "Crack the dishes and chip the plates" song, too. Provided they include the warg-riding goblins singing "Fifteen birds in five fir trees" I will be over the moon. Singing orcs are just plain cool. On the one level, it's important to illustrate that orcs have a culture and social independence of their own--they're not just mindless antagonists, they have an oral history and social joy of their own. On the second level, you know you're in trouble when orcs start to sing about killing you.

Between the fidelity apparent in the previews, the return of the established masters of The Lord of the Rings, and the elegant shift in tone to a story that starts out much lighter and transitions into dark foreshadowing, The Hobbit is going to be the perfect way to end 2012.

Games of 2012
Mass Effect 3
Coming out March 6, 2012
I've already touched upon my enthusiasm for the Mass Effect series in previous posts, so you should know by now that I'm waiting with bated breath for the concluding chapter in Shepard's struggle to save the galaxy. Bioware has already announced that Mass Effect 3 is going to have multiplayer content, melee abilities, and vertical level design. That's great news, and I can't wait to hear more, but I really want to see if they include any of my hit list for Mass Effect 3.

Aliens: Colonial Marines
Coming out spring 2012
Over the past 26 years, James Cameron's movie Aliens has maintained its status as the best and most popular of the Alien tetralogy. This is probably at least partly owing to the pubescent bad-ass bliss embodied by the Colonial Marines in the action flick. Hudson, Hicks, Apone and the rest of them may fold like a deck of cards when the space-carnivores start tearing into their squad, but the look, the feel, the tech, and the swagger of these space marines are still some of the highlights of the whole setting for a lot of fans. Who cares if they're just a facile vehicle to set up a poorly justified anti-Vietnam symbol with absolutely no logistical probability whatsoever, right? Well, with Aliens: Colonial Marines, fans of the movie are finally getting the game they've wanted for the past quarter century. An immediate sequel to James Cameron's film, Aliens: Colonial Marines puts players inside the head of troopers investigating the fate of Hadley's Hope on LV-426. Unlike any franchise game before this, however, this game strives to capture the small-scale tactics and gadget-fun that has thus far eluded gamers. If the much-vaunted 'Alamo moments' of the game are done well, I know what game I'll be playing on a regular basis every time I watch the sci-fi classic.

Coming out March 6, 2012
In the early 90s, a computer game series strove to give gamers a complete tactical and strategic experience as they defended the planet against mass UFO invasion. It was called X-COM and had five installments from 1993 to 2001. Players controlled individual squads in small-scale conflicts, fighting aliens in house-to-house combat, and then, between missions, spent their time coordinating research and investigation into the alien threat on a global scale. It offered a tremendous amount of variability and choice to players, delivering a stylish combination of gameplay experiences that is lacking in the contemporary gaming landscape. The imminent remake, simply titled XCOM, is going to revive the spirit of the game while still tweaking the core formula: players will assume the role of a 1950s-style man-in-black investigating early extraterrestrial incursions, all from a first-person perspective. The developers promise that investigation, team tactics, and research will still be major factors involving gameplay, so hopefully developer 2K Marin will be able to bring fire to sci-fi tactical gaming after an 11 year absence for the series.

Blog posts of 2012
There's a few Dumbasscience posts stewing in the Nerdery's to-do pot. I've got several old issues of Popular Science magazine to harvest for great examples of bad ideas getting good money. There's the whole Pluto planet re-definition debacle to rave about--it shouldn't be a surprise that I've got a lot to say about that one. There's even a film to go along with the Pluto post. There's another movie that will be reviewed in concert with a Dumbasscience post: Fathead. And since 2012 will doubtless have plenty of new bad ideas being proposed, there will be even more developments in this category later on.

Nerd Bread and Butter
There's still a good number of nerd cornerstones to be covered with Nerd Bread articles--the fantasy and science fiction genres, for two to start. Analyses of the three game media are also going to get articles: board, video, and miniatures games. After that, there's a whole world of Nerd Butter to go through while I'm at it--including a rant about The Lord of the Rings at some point, a selection of exemplary comics, and a few for requisite pieces of modern science fiction, too.

And more...
Rants on the nature of nerdery, superheroes, and more GURPS action are all going to get served up by the handfuls. I'll be posting a few RPG freebies that should be of general use, some more Nerd pics, and maybe I'll finish the GURPS Centurion thread sometime in the coming months. I'm sure there a few idiots waiting to explode in the new year, so expect a "Don't be that Guy" article or two in 2012, too.

So that's a preview of Nerd Year 2012 for you. Enjoy, and keep following. Filmatleven

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