With the critical and financial failure of Watchmen this weekend, director Zack Snyder joins the (sadly) growing ranks of a particularly ignominious fraternity: The Traitors to Geek Cinema. As geeks we are quite used to the notion that Hollywood doesn't "get" us, and is thus ready, willing, and able to stuff reams of idiotic sci-fi tropes down our throats. But every now and then, a filmmaker or TV producer will rise above the mindless fray of Tinseltown and give us geek cinema worthy of adoration. We fall for these creators, hoping beyond hope that they can give us a steady stream of great geek cinema for years to come.
And then they betray us, either by failing to deliver greatness that nonetheless succeeds financially, or by giving us geek-beloved works that fail financially. Either outcome convinces Hollywood that geeks are not an audience worth seriously, respectfully courting. These traitors poison the well, making it that much harder for worthy geek films to get made by the great Hollywood machine. Let's count down the roster of great geek cinema Benedict Arnolds, shall we?George Lucas - The start of any geek-traitor list, certainly, goes to the man who gave us both the greatness of Han Solo and the abomination of Greedo shooting first. A man who invented Darth Vader and then revealed the Dark Lord of the Sith is nothing more than a whiny, abusive teenager. A man who helped create Indiana Jones and then brained us with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A man who didn't stop with the mild transgression of ewoks, but came back for more with the hate-crime that was Jar Jar Binks. A man who tried to explain the magic, and came up with midichlorians. Oh, and just to prove that he is really all about the money, George is going to release Star Wars yet again — only in 3D. Tim Kring - He gave us The Misfits of Science, a 1980s quasi-superhero show so bad it's now considered campily good. And then he created Heroes, which quickly became the darling of NBC's TV lineup and proved to some extent that you could make a geek show that regular folks would watch. And then Kring made the second season of Heroes, which was so bad he issued a public apology for its inadequacy — after he blamed the fans for the ratings decline — and it's gotten worse from there. Now folks are publicly wondering whether sci-fi and primetime can still coexist. Thanks for the bait-and-switch, pal. Rick Berman / Brannon Braga - Remember when Star Trek was actually...um...good? If you're under the age of 21, the answer is probably no, because until J.J. Abrams recently assumed control, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga took a beloved franchise and spent 20 years running it straight into the ground. To his "credit," Braga has sort of recently apologized for making Enterprise basically lame. Berman? Not so much. Oh, and Braga is indirectly responsible for the Obama presidency, whatever you think of it. I guess he's better at creating a true multicultural present than a fictional multicultural future. Joss Whedon - I love Joss Whedon, but he hurts me. He gave us Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel. Both lasted at least five seasons and were great television — in the minor leagues of UPN and the CW/WB. They now live on as highly successful comic books. But when Joss was called up to the majors with Firefly on FOX, he couldn't make it work (the network had something to do with that, true). So then Joss makes a movie version called Serenity, and it does...okay. So okay that Universal won't make another one, even though the entire cast is so awesome they've all since found regular work, some of them as headliners. And now we get another big-network show, Dollhouse, which appears dead on arrival. Joss's major success since Buffy? Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog. Joss is the guy who just can't make it to the big time, and thus is the poster-boy for big studios thinking his brand of quality geekdom isn't viable. It's just agonizing. Zach Snyder - He took the most beloved graphic novel of all time and made it about giant, glowing CGI genitalia. Seriously. The one comic book movie that could have been a true statement about the genre and the world is now a punchline. This, after his version of 300 was so surprisingly watchable. Rorschach should drop you down an elevator shaft. Joel Schumacher - Batman & Robin. Oh, and that followed up Batman Forever. He was so awful at the helm of the Batfilms, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm took shots at him in an episode of Batman, The Animated Series. Not even directing The Lost Boys can make me forgive him for that.
So, who amongst this motley crew is most worthy of our disdain? Express your vote in the poll below, and explain it the comments section — especially those of you who vote for the mysterious Other.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.