Quarterly Review

08-Aug-07 2:45 PM by
Filed under Films, Star Trek; 3 comments.

The June/July issue of Geek Monthly has a cover story on what a great year 1982 was for geeks. We may not have noticed it at the time, but it is astonishing what a plethora of great sci-fi films came out all in that one year. Unfortunately, some of these films I did not see upon their initial release, and some are not as great today as they were 25 years ago. Nonetheless, here in brief is my rundown of their list:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Considered "the zenith of the Trek feature films", I agree this film began the even-numbered successes that persisted until Nemesis. The tie-in to the original series, Ricardo Montalban as the villain, and the ending were all fantastic facets… but for all that, I still think I prefer the more lighthearted The Voyage Home.

Blade Runner
I confess that the one time I tried watching this was a decade ago and I just couldn't get into it; I turned it off probably before it got interesting. (Confession #2: I was bored by Tolkien's books, too.) Without lambasting me, could someone tell me what I'm missing?

What more can I say about this film, other than my previous recollections and my own 25th anniversary commemoration? Though I do wish I could combine this film with one of my favorite geek shows:

In 2004, I was witness to a theatrical screening of TRON as Chris Hanel (occasionally of TheForce.net and The Truly Dangerous Company; now of Geekza) and his cronies performed a live MST3K lampoon. I've been wanting to get my hands on that script ever since. Considering his podcast recently interviewed Mike Nelson of RiffTrax, I'd think some sort of collaborative MP3 should be possible.

The Dark Crystal
I haven't seen this film since my age could be counted without taking off my shoes. My parents thought this Muppet movie perfectly palatable to a young, impressionable mind (similar to their misinformed opinion on Watership Down: "Oh, a cartoon about talking bunnies!"). In hindsight, The Dark Crystal may've been one of the films that engendered my preference for dark, edgy stories. It's a wonder my mother didn't worry when her third-grade son brought home from the library every book he could find on vampires and werewolves; nowadays, that'd be grounds to see the school counselor. (Course, in my day, schools didn't have counselors…)

Look for a sequel next year.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Another movie not seen in a score of years — though anything scored by local-boy-done-good John Williams is okay by me. Funny that Drew Barrymore went on to become a household name (and one of my co-stars); whereas Elliott did not. Who even knows the actor's name? (Psst — it's Henry Thomas.) Too bad — he's still quite a prolific actor.

Conan the Barbarian
I've not read Robert E. Howard's original pulp series, nor the Marvel comic books, both of which this Arnold Schwarzenegger film is based on. But I'll be in the minority of preferring the film's sequel, Conan the Destroyer, to the original; I found the follow-up to be a more classic Dungeons & Dragons romp.

Either way, the film's success warranted slapping its name on an otherwise unrelated gaming property. Conan: Hall of Volta supplied many happy hours of Apple II gaming.

Also featured in Geek Monthly but which I've never seen:

  • Poltergeist
  • Cat People
  • The Thing
  • The Road Warrior

And other anniversaries this year:

What films or occasions are you observing this year?

3 Responses to “Quarterly Review”

  1. GeneD adds:

    Ken, I agree that 1982 was a watershed year for genre film fans of our generation (I was a freshman in high school that year). I've seen and enjoyed all of the movies you mentioned, and Wrath of Khan, The Dark Crystal, and Conan the Barbarian remain staples of my video collection.

    As for Blade Runner, it was one of the first cyberpunk movies to show a gritty dystopian future buried under the accretion of a postindustrial society. Like Star Wars did for space opera, it eschewed the antiseptic speculative fiction of the 1960s and 1970s (see Star Trek: the Motion Picture for an example) for a gritty, lived-in look. The throwback in style to the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s also captured audiences (note that Sean Young's shoulder pads and tailored suits would be at home in either the 1940s or 1980s).

    Solid performances by Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, the question of what it means to be human, and a genuine sense of suspense during the fight scenes have led to many imitators, including The Matrix.

    Although I feel that filmmakers have relied too heavily on Philip K. Dick's work rather than expand to other authors (such as Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, or Neal Stephenson), his influence on anime, cyberpunk, and genre film can't be understated, IMHO.

  2. Ken Gagne adds:

    Thanks, Gene! I've found that many films I didn't "get" in my teens make more sense now, perhaps because I've a vaster experience from which to draw and help me understand other films.

    The video game podcast Xbox Live's Major Nelson recently interviewed Ridley Scott about the anniversary of Blade Runner. It runs from time indices 48:33 to 52:48 in the above MP3.

  3. GeneD5 adds:

    Here's part of a series looking at seminal years in science fiction (including 1939, 1968, and 1977): http://io9.com/5549491/the-best-year-in-science-fiction-1982?skyline=true&s=i